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Ripton & Co.’s technical jorts are the best thing to happen to Aspen, and skiing, since the twister-spreadie-twister.
Cut off jean shorts, “jorts” to those in the know, have somehow managed to tow the line between extremely trendy fashion and the ware of extremely goofy, smile-inducing ironic humor. How can a piece of clothing be touted in the pages of Cosmo and Vogue while simultaneously worn by a sparsely mustached, mulleted, thick quaded twenty-something screaming “Free Bird!” while playing tetherball in the backyard? They’re a fashion enigma. And now, they’re coming to the bike trails and slush bumps near you.
Aspen, Colorad-based Ripton & Co. has created the world’s first technical jorts; ultralight, four-way stretchy denim cut offs that are ready for every activity known to ski bums. Yard games, skiing, mountain biking, karate kick parties, dance offs; you name it, these jorts can do it. Pro skier Rachael Burks is an unabashed technical jort lover. “I haven’t taken them off since they arrived in the mail,” Burks says. “I’ve even worn them on dates. Sexy to sweaty, dates to all-day activities.” Burks describes the cut offs as comfy with a wicked high performance. “They really listened, like to real active and athletic women, when they were creating the dimensions. Sometimes you put on a pair of jeans and you’re like, ‘Yeah, not even in fucking fifth grade could I have worn these!’ Ripton is making some badass, comfy jorts.”
Skier, mountain biker and professional creativity athlete Joey Schusler is also a Ripton & Co. supporter. “I love the jorts,” Schusler dotes. “They make me ride faster. I primarily wear them for yard chores and gravel biking, but they are versatile enough for just about anything you can dream up. I have yet to ski in them, but I think they’ll preform exceptionally well. I’m excited for deep powder days and spring corn harvests alike in my trusty pair of jorts. The world certainly needs more jorts.”
The company and product was brought to life by a 33-year-old rugged bike and ski fanatic turned entrepreneur from Vermont who escaped the rat race of PR jobs in San Francisco for a return to a jorted mountain town life. Ladies and gentleman, meet Elliot Wilkinson-Ray and Ripton & Co.
How the hell did this thing become a reality, and who helped?
Wikinson-Ray: My brother, coworkers from past jobs, other apparel folks at Outdoor Retailer, all encouraged me and helped connect me to the right people to make production come to life. I met a great graphic designer at art school in London who did the logo and all of the brand art. My brother has helped with PR and shot a lot of content. Friends and riders in the Roaring Fork Valley have been testing technical denim for over a year now. And we just brought on an apparel designer in Washington who is bringing a ton of experience in technical ski apparel to the sports jorts game.
Why is the Ripton HQ in the Skier Chalet?
The Chalet is the last cheap place to live in Aspen, a town that used to have a counter-culture, where hippies and drop outs once moved. Just like San Francisco, that dream is no longer. You need more than a trust fund to live here, you need a hedge fund. But, for now, we’re here cooking out of a microwave, eating tourists’ leftover pizza at the Sundeck. Life is a series of trade-offs and priorities. And moving next to a spinning ski lift has always meant sacrifice. There’s little chance that we will ever be able to afford a retail space in Aspen—they go for $20,000-plus a month. That’s how much revenue we did in our first six months. So the evolution of selling online and the support from a range of small town bike and gear shops is enough to get our foot in the door. I dreamed of living here when I first came for a party in 2014 but never thought I’d [live in] a building that was considered the most coveted skiing fraternity house in the country. It’s very poetic and perfect. My girlfriend doesn’t love the boxes and boxes of denim in my room, but I do. It’s such a fun journey, to just try something, to build something from nothing.
What are Ripton & Co.’s mission and goals?
Oh man, I’m a dreamer and I have a lot of big ideas. I want to address the inequalities in the U.S. that are so stark and dramatic. The sports that have defined me, skiing and mountain biking, are so out of this world inaccessible and only trending further in that way. I want to find ways to get kids into them and excel on skis and bikes, kids that come from low income families.
From a design standpoint we are building classic shapes into modern forms. Denim is from the 1800s and we’re giving it a cutting edge twist, so we don’t lose that shape, that worn-in story. We’re making it comfortable and high performance. We will build other products that meet those standards and are great, timeless, modern updates.
Soooo, like… what is a technical jort anyways?
A short that’s really thin, really stretchy, and holds up over time. We wanted to make something new, so we aimed far away from your favorite cut off Levi’s, which are 10 to 12-ounce denim. We started with an 8-ounce denim that’s incredibly thin and stretchy. The most common feedback we get from people is that they get lots of compliments on the trail for their spunky style but also that they just never take them off.
Lululemon sparked the rise of “athleisure,” which forced old industries like denim to adapt. People learned that they wanted both comfort and style. [In response to this] we mostly got tons of brands copying Lulu and providing the same urban, upscale, “going to the gym” look. As a dirt bag skier and mountain biker, I don’t want to look like I’m on my way to Equinox.
Jorts are great, but isn’t there a chaffing and breathability issue with denim? How do I go skinning or biking and not end up with a raw undercarriage and a huge amount of swass?
All biking shorts are basically spandex, a road racing bib or a Patagucci mountain bike short is just spandex with a loose outer short on top. Our jorts are more breathable than a thick cycling bib. They are super thin and the non-cotton elements help with breathability. They won’t be as lightweight as a pair of soccer shorts, but they’ll still look cooler. The Ripton crew started off riding these over our road biking shorts and bibs but over time that felt restrictive. We wear them commando a lot now. We really don’t have any issues, technically speaking.
Why make jorts, who are they for?
We wanted to make the iconic jorts for the rider, the skier, the dirt bag, the climber, the river guide. There are big mainstream brands, like Levi’s, and there are lots of shorts made from petroleum products, like some from Rapha, Patagonia or Arc’teryx. They all make super similar oil-based synthetic shorts that lack personality.
Just like other iconic products, you’ll go around town and people will say ‘sick jorts’ especially if you’re playing on your local soft ball team, riding your bike or ripping around at Mount Hood. It’s a strong statement. It’s beyond casual; it’s so casual, it’s fashionable. It’s performance denim.”
Jorts kind of signal “I’m doing something serious but I don’t take myself seriously.” Ski towns with status-driven culture need a little more humor and goofiness, and less seriousness. Is that how Ripton & Co. feels?
Skiing and biking in jeans is just saying you don’t need to do something the way it seems like you’re supposed to. It’s a way of looking at things differently. I don’t want it to be confined to “Gaper Day” or 4th of July. It’s not a costume where you feel stoked one day a year; it’s more than that. Once you feel more like yourself, and less like everyone else, you don’t go back. Ripton won’t be able to provide the perfect article for everyone out there, but yes, the general questioning of how something is done, and if it needs to be done that way, is a very powerful framework for everything we do in life.
What do you say to the skeptic, the naysayer, the I take my shit serious supercharger Strava bro who says, “No jorts allowed!”?
I think we will wear them down. I remember when Chuck Mumford first started wearing Pit Vipers in the Alta lift line or at the Tram Deck at Snowbird. He got a lot of headshakes. It wasn’t until Smith and Oakley copied the retro PV shape that people were like, “Holy shit, that guy redefined an industry.” There are some really serious pros that shake their heads, and say “I don’t get it. I don’t get jorts.” It makes sense because they are paid to be really serious and talk about all their new fancy NASA-based gear that helps them be the best. To me, they are irrelevant. I like people like the great Shane McConkey, who live within that ecosystem but recognize its absurdity. You know Shane would’ve sent some cliffs in sports jorts.
To do serious shit, but with a sense of humor and fashion, and proudly flaunting your Rocky Mountain Thigh, do life in jorts. Shop the entire collection at https://riptonco.com/.