Gentlemen of Athleisure: Name review of Hill City
San Francisco-based apparel giant Gap Inc. recently launched Hill City, a men’s luxury activewear brand. The new brand is essentially a men’s Athleta (another Gap-owned apparel maker, known for yoga pants, leggings, sweaters, and other day-to-night activewear for women). Both companies serve consumers who are looking to own fewer and better clothes (and don’t mind paying a premium for them), and both are B corps, striving to integrate sustainability as well as innovation into their business plan.
So what do yoga pants for men look like? Before you avert your eyes, read on.
Hill City offers comfortable, fitness-focused apparel made from high-performance, responsibly sourced materials. Shorts, t-shirts, pants, jackets, underwear, sweatshirts, everything you might need from workout to work to weekend. The look is clean and minimal. The colors are mostly neutral.
Hill City aims to redefine the idea of “high-performance,” expanding it from serious athletes to every man passionate about living an active life, however that may be expressed. As loathe as I am to use the term, this is truly “athleisure” apparel.
Currently, Hill City is an online business with sample garments displayed at select Athleta stores. Eventually the company may have stand-alone stores like its sister brand. Given that Gap is considering shutting hundreds of its namesake stores, building a new online brand in the growing athleisure space is a smart move.
But you’re here for a name review.
According to their website, the name Hill City was “inspired by the hybrid nature of our San Francisco roots – the smooth transitions between city and outdoors, the fusion of form and function.”
The colloquial nature of the name suggests a youthful, spirited customer. San Francisco, with a blanket of Millennial energy and angst laid across seven tourist hills, is well-represented.
City connotes sophistication, rubbing against the outdoorsy Hill and the casual attire. Contrast creates interest and suggests story, in this case, the bridging of the gap (see what I did there?) between comfort and high-performance.
Both Hill and City are basic vocabulary, easily understood by an international audience. By choosing these generic words, however, the name sacrifices some memorability and immersiveness. (As we learned in Creative Writing 101, the specific is easier to remember, and more compelling, than the general.) This tendency to the bland is really the only flaw in the name.
Graphically, the two words of equal length offer a nice balance, and its length makes it an easy fit on packaging and signage. Plus, the slash that follows the name in the logo does some nice supporting work, suggesting the hills of San Francisco and, more broadly, ascent of body (exercise) and spirit (aspiration).
(By the way, the slash is explained on the site this way: “From above, San Francisco is an organized grid. On the ground, it is much more complex, with unexpected hills, turns, and twists. Our logo signifies the versatility of our brand — its ability to shape-shift and transition. The forward slash, or ‘flash,’ signals the pursuit of continuous improvement. As a brand built on community, our mark is open-ended, representing an invitation to collaborate and progress.” Um, OK.)
Although Hill City may find it an uphill climb to gain share from market leader Lululemon Athletica and compete with Target’s cheaper men’s athleisure wear as well as the emergence of other online brands (hello, Amazon), its name fits the brand like a $78 pair of sustainably produced, moisture wicking, quick-dry, odor-resistant, UV protection running tights.
Contrast creates interest and suggests story, in this case, the bridging of the gap (see what we did there?) between comfort and high-performance.
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