A Technical Wear Original Takes on Ski Style

If you believe that a brand can sell more than just products, but a lifestyle and an attitude, then 686 is the brand for you. 686 Technical Apparel is one of the last remaining independently-operated outerwear brands, getting its bones in the Southern California skate and snow scene and earning its reputation as a true original in the industry. All 686 clothing products are created with the goal of pushing current boundaries of design, construction and interaction, a formula they look to bring with them on their charge into the ski apparel market.

686 Brand History

From the first time 686 Founder Michael Akira West stepped on a skateboard as a kid during the budding skate scene of southern California in the early eighties, it became an addiction and inspiration for him. Something about the freedom of the sport called to him, inspiring him to seek that same expressiveness in all avenues of his life.

Throughout the following years, West transitioned from skateboarding to snowboarding, working and riding in Big Bear, CA. Continually gathering and exploring new ideas, West studied the unique apparel that was popping up around the southern California snowboard scene.

In 1992, Mike officially launched his own brand: Jib 686 Enterprises, a small collection of denim, technical outerwear and accessories. What began as a class project during his time at the University of Southern California was now a reality.

As Mike began to travel to larger mountains and encountered a scene and riding conditions vastly different from and far larger than the jib scene of his local resort, he changed the named the name to simply 686 Enterprises. There have been a number of rumors about the meaning of 686, but the number stems from personal dates and numbers in West’s life that all merged together at the perfect time. However personal as it started, the number has now become synonymous with providing innovative, forward thinking outerwear and technical apparel inspired by the outdoors and mountain culture.

Over the years, 686 has showcased their ingenuity with the conception of outwear that breaks the mold of what came before it. The year 1995 saw the birth of the 686 SMARTY 3-in-1 Cargo Pant. The SMARTY 3-in-1 purposeful proposition later spawned other intelligent products such as the Original Toolbelt and Thermagraph Body Mapping System that are still celebrated pieces in the 686 collection today.

686 has become the manifestation of that original pursuit of self-expression, a company that prides itself on creativity and ingenuity in all its doings.

What’s Next for 686?

For 25 years, 686 has created their own unique blend of performance and aesthetic to keep you warm and dry, while also looking good. Traditionally, 686 has focused their efforts on technical snowboard apparel, but in recent years they have used their experience to drive their way into the ski apparel market as well.

The brand now has full snow lines for men, women and children, boasting jackets, pants and gloves that are every bit as “technical” as their technical apparel. Here are some of the key features that are incorporated into their ski apparel:


GORE-TEX: Gore-Tex is the most effective ski jacket material on the market, guaranteed to stay dry and warm in any environment. The GORE-TEX membrane is created through a series of pores that are too small for outside water to penetrate it but big enough to allow moisture and perspiration to escape. The 686 GLCR GORE-TEX GT Jacket uses GORE-TEX to achieve its extreme ratings in waterproofness and breathability (25k/25k).

Thermagraph Body Mapping Insulation System: The Thermagraph technology made its way into much of 686’s ski apparel, placing strategic zones of insulation throughout the jacket or pants to create an ultra-lightweight warmth and breathability. You can find the use of Thermagraph in the GLCR Hydra Thermagraph Jacket and the GLCR Quantum Thermagraph Pants.

686 Geo Jacket
686 Geo Jacket

InfiDRY Technical Fabric: InfiDRY is a waterproof and breathable fabric that fuses specifically-engineered signature fabrics with multiple levels of elemental protection, perfect for daily use in a wide range of conditions. InfiDRY is used on most 686 ski gear, including the Geo Jacket, Raw Insulated Pants and Patron Womens Insulated Pants.

Freedom Through Expression

Designed to push your experience beyond what you thought possible, 686 products reflect the lifestyle they lead. They don’t stop there however; 686 does works to help others experience this lifestyle among members of their communities, both locally and in the ski and snowboard scene at large.

One of their initiatives is called the Compton Surf Club, a Compton, CA-based group that exposes local youth to surfing, skateboarding, art, snowboarding and mountain culture; the things that inspired 686 to build their lifestyles and their brand. The idea behind the project is simple: use board sports and art to teach new skills, build self-esteem and keep at-risk youth off the streets.

The unique challenge of turning down a mountain, standing up on a wave or riding atop a skateboard under your own balance and power while your best friends are right there cheering you on is an experience unique to board sports culture. Having conquered something new that their friends have never tried provides club members a platform to stand up on and be proud.

686 works with the Compton Snow Club on a weekly basis, exposing them to new realms of art, skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding and design to broaden their perspective on the world. To show them that success does not have to wear a suit and tie, 686 brings them to their headquarters, hoping to inspire them to stay on the right track and go after their goals.

Another unique program is The GLCR Project, a standing open call for explorers and testers for 686’s GLCR products. Committed to creating the most technical products, the GLCR Project gathers feedback and ideas through the people who are constantly living the adventure. GLCR Advocates have the opportunity to test GLCR products on their toughest adventures, longest trips and in the harshest elements, shaping the future of 686 products via their experiences. The GLCR Project is open to application to any adventurer interested.

More than just a brand, 686 is about community, innovation, expression and so much more. They believe that board sports can impact us in positive ways, helping people to learn life lesson and develop life-long skills. As 686 continues to grow and expand their offerings, you can be sure that they will embody these ideals in everything they do.