Best Cheap Techwear Items and Brands in 2019
Techwear has been getting so much hype in the fashion industry in these few years.
You're probably as confused as me when you first heard of the term techwear. Isn't it just outdoor wear or sportswear or whatever wear with some sort of functionality?
Most of the cheap techwear items recommended here sold out extremely fast in a span of one to two days, especially if they are on sale. I will try my best to keep it up to date, and if you find some of the items out of stock, please let me know by leaving a comment.
What is techwear?
Techware takes a minimalist approach to outdoor wear, making it fashionable with enhanced functionality.
It uses high-tech fabric and production techniques with a focus on functional details, and therefore, as you may expect, usually comes with a high price tag.
For clothing to be qualified as techwear, it should:
- Be light and comfortable with high mobility;
- Use fabric with functional properties like water repellency to cope with different weather conditions;
While it may give you the impression that it's something you wear for hiking or sports, it is just as alluring to city dwellers as everyday wear.
Techwear clothing tends to be in black, gray and white color with a futuristic flair. You may have come across some techwear outfits that look like a cyberpunk or SWAT team member, but techwear can be minimalistic and look clean as well.
Techwear items explained
The techwear garments you find on the market are typically jackets, mid layers, base layers, pants, shoes, and accessories.
Techwear jacket - Techwear jacket falls into one of two categories: hardshell and softshell.
Hardshell is what most people think of with technical clothing. It is usually lightweight, windproof, waterproof, and durable to give you the highest level of protection against extreme conditions.
Softshell, on the other hand, is not as bulletproof as hardshell but still gives you a certain amount of protection. It is designed with a focus on comfortability and style, and comes with a mix of the following properties: breathability, water repellency, wind resistance, and stretchability.
It generally comes with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating on it, but its waterproof ability can hardly be compared to a hardshell.
Techwear mid layers - A techwear mid layer is anything which designed to keep you warm under a techwear jacket. It ranges from hoodies and sweatshirts to fleeces and down jackets.
Techwear base layers - A techwear base layer provides moisture-wicking function and is usually limited to undershirts, shirts, underwear, and socks.
Techwear pants - Techewear pants usually feature stretchability, water repellency, and odor resistance. Some of them will go one up with totally water repellency using fabric and construction similar to a hardshell jacket.
Techwear shoes - Companies like Nike and Adidas continue to release new techwear shoes with an urban aesthetic, offering a wide range of features from sock liners to waterproof zip closure.
However, most techwear enthusiasts opt for comfort and style over function.
Techwear accessories - Accessories are usually bags, pouches, and belts and are often overlooked. A techwear bag is usually waterproof or comes with a removable waterproof hardshell. Check out my top backpack recommendations if you're looking for some ideas.
Cheap techwear buying guide
When you choose your items, consider your level of activity and the elements you'll be facing.
For example, if you a mass transit commuter who isn’t in the rain for more than 5 minutes at a time? A softshell works better than a hardshell for you as it will breathe better in cramped spaces.
Do you bike or walk a lot? Given the amount of time you spend outdoors, a softshell might get totally soaked; you should look for something waterproof, well-vented, and light.
When you read garment descriptions, you’re going to see a lot of trademark logos (®, ™) next to futuristic, made-up words.
Many companies put a lot of effort into creating the fabrics and treatments that go into techwear and trademark the subsequent creation. And a lot of companies also just license a fabric or treatment technology and rebrand it.
So you’ll see a lot of trademarked names from brands that you might not see anywhere else. Look around the product maker’s website to see what their major claims for the product are.
Cheap techwear jacket
ArkAir Ridgeback Cotton Parka (
Descente Allterrain Creas Hard Shell Jacket ($459)
Techwear hardshell jacket is the centerpiece of your look and is the most expensive piece of your techwear outfit. It is common to see the price of a techwear hardshell jacket goes above $1000.
And if you are not put off by the high price tag, I would suggest you choose your jacket first and then build your pieces around it.
Most techwear hardshells are light, thin, and kind of plastic in feel and sound. The term “shell” usually signals waterproof, windproof, and overall the greatest level of protection from the elements.
But that impermeability has costs. Regardless of how breathable a shell is advertised, moderate activity can make it very hot in warm weather and clammy in cooler weather. This can be mitigated with venting zips, but usually only outdoors companies include those.
The synthetic nature of shells means you’ll get that distinctive plastic-like “crunching” and swishing noises with movement. And the synthetic composition of a shell also makes it more difficult to repair than common canvas or denim jackets.
A hardshell is designed to be durable, and its durability mainly depends on its surface material and construction. A nylon shell of the same thickness/weight/weave as a denim jacket would be far more durable than its cotton counterpart.
All shells will advertise their waterproof membrane, a synthetic skin that allows water vapor to escape (aka breathability) while keeping outside moisture droplets out. There are many membranes, some of which are just companies licensing out a common membrane and rebranding it.
You may ask: which membrane is the best?
The truth is, while there are some differences in the membranes themselves, those differences are not noticeable to an average person.
There are many factors determining the quality of membrane, like how it operates as a laminate, the type of face fabric chosen, the effectiveness of the backer, how they all interact, how the garment is cut and constructed.
There is a wide range of waterproof fabric membrane on the market. GORE-TEX is the membrane granddaddy. An undeniably high-quality product that, due to required rigorous testing and construction standards monitored by Gore itself, raised the bar for all shells that reached the consumer, but limited interesting designs. Other major players include eVent and Neoshell.
For a minimal design with affordable price, I recommend ArkAir Ridgeback Cotton Parka and Descente Allterrain Creas Hard Shell Jacket.
Cheap techwear shirts
Nanamica Coolmax Loopwheel Tee (
You might already have some sort of tech shirt like a moisture-wicking shirt made of synthetic fabric for working out.
Most techwear beginners avoid techwear brand shirt due to the cost. Merino wool t-shirts run $60-$100+. Synthetic and nylon underwear easily breaks $25-$60 a pair.
But if you’re willing to deal with the cost, many people swear by the moisture wicking and odor resistance of their base layers in the summer, and heat regulation in the winter. Some people find tech base layers are a good way to minimize odor and pack a little lighter for travel or hiking.
The buzzwords you’ll hear with base layers are Merino wool and a lot of trademarked synthetics.
Merino wool is soft, stretchy and has advertised properties of moisture wicking, heat regulation in hot and cold situations, high heat to weight ratio, and anti-odor properties due to it being naturally antimicrobial.
Synthetics will be stretchier, wick moisture faster, be more durable, and may be cheaper. Many people note that certain synthetics do wick better but will smell like death if not regularly laundered, a concern shared by dirtbags and travelers alike.
And it’s easier to wear a Merino wool shirt around casually. Smartwool is a Merino/Synthetic blend that claims to be the greatest thing under the sun. Many brands use it and the general consensus seems to find it to be a fine fabric. 100% Merino is fragile, so poly blends are common, but compromise some of the antimicrobial and thermal properties of the wool.
REI has a good guide for choosing base layers. Patagonia also has a nice guide for deciding if you want Merino wool or other synthetics.
If you are looking for a light, odor-resistant, moisture-wicking with fast dry time, my recommendations would be Nanamica Coolmax Loopwheel Tee.
Cheap techwear pants
Teton Bros Scrambling Cotton Trousers (
Highly functional techwear pants won't be cheap. If you buy pants that are made of a basic fabric like cotton or denim with DWR on top, it will provide slight protection, then soak and take a long time to dry out.
If you are looking for cost-effective techwear pants with a more outdoor oriented design, I would recommend Teton Bros Scrambling Cotton Trouserss.
Cheap techwear shoes
Reebok Instapump Fury OG (
Nike Air Huarache Triple Black ($119)
Very few athletic shoe and hiking boot companies make models that look decent fully functional yet stylish. The very nature of footwear makes it incredibly difficult to design.
Shoes are constantly exposed to the elements and infrequently removed, so it is a constant battle between staying dry from the elements, but not soaking through with sweat since there's no breathability or air flow.
For fashion without much function, there’s a lot of design freedom in athletic shoes which is why you’ll see so many cyberpunk in Nikes, regardless of its lack of actual tech functionality. Many of Acronym's lookbooks show the models in Nikes and, unexpectedly, Dr. Martens.
If you don't need all those features and techwear style is the only thing you are after, feel free to look outside the techwear shoes. Reebok Pump Supreme Mono Sneakers and Nike Air Huarache Triple Black would be an affordable choice that goes well with techwear outfit.
Cheap techwear brands
Adidas Terrex is an outdoor collection introduced by Adidas in 2011. With access to innovative waterproof and moisture wicking technologies, Adidas Terrex offers high-performance yet stylish techwear garments to urban dwellers for easy everyday use.
Spun off from Arktis who have been making tactical gear for military units, UK label ArkAir offers urban techwear garments with military-inspired designs. Each ArkAir garment is constructed of Arktis's advanced fabric with quality and durability in mind.
ArkAir's collaborations with various brands from Palace Skateboard to Junya Watanabe perfectly demonstrates its design ethos and earns high regard in the contemporary fashion industry.
Launched in 2012 as a sublabel by the Japan-based outwear label Descente, Descente ALLTERRAIN offers techwear garments with a focus on functionality over everything else. All jackets and pants from the label are constructed with unique sewing and Motion 3D design techniques for enhanced comfort and mobility.
Other techwear brands you should know
Founded in 1994 by Michaela Sachenbacher and Errolson Hugh, ACRONYM offers design and consulting service to larger firms when it first started. Since then the company has grown and now become the biggest name in techwear.
Errolson Hugh is arguably the godfather of techware. He exerted his influence on the techware industry through collaborations with other brands and injected his concept of techware design into the products. Every new brand he creatively directed, like NikeLab ACG and Stone Island Shadow Project, has become a hit.
The original Nike ACG (All Conditions Gear) line is Nike's offering of outdoor wears.
Ever since Nike collaborated with ACRONYM's founder Errolson Hugh in 2014, NikeLab ACG has become one of the most sought-after techwere brands.
However, Errolson Hugh's collaboration with NikeLab ACG will end at the end of 2018 and NikeLab ACG 18F/W collection is going to be his final collaboration with NikeLab ACG.
So seize the last opportunity to shop now before it's too late.
Stone Island Shadow Project
Stone Island's strength lies in their innovative capabilities on materials and production techniques. Founded by Massimo Osti in 1982, this Italian techwear brand has gained a lot of attention in the techwear industry.
The year 2008 is an important milestone for Stone Island. Not only was 2008 the year Carlo Rivetti took over the design of their products, but it was also the year that Stone Island Shadow Project was born.
Being a sub-label under Stone Island, Stone Island Shadow Project have received so much praise in the last decade. Most of their success can be attributed to their creative director Errolson Hugh - the founder of Acronym.
In the last 5 years, Stone Island Shadow Project has been focusing their research efforts into knitwear. Their forward-thinking designs and unique production techniques demonstrated in their products are all second to none in the techwear industry.