A Brief History of "tactical" Pants & Clothing

I told myself I'd write about tac pants and their origins 3 or 4 years ago after hearing and seeing, without fail, multiple times a year, people explain to others what this is, what that does, and where it came from. I, of course, have inside information working for Mission Ready Equipment. So here goes.



Royal Robbins at age 15. I guess someone forgot to tell him he needed high speed gear



Tactical (God I hate that word) pants came about from climbing pants that were originally made by Royal Robbins. For those non-climbers- Royal Robbins (yes, his real name) was one of the innovators, and best climbers of his generation (more on that later). For those that have been in this business long enough, and actually have some of the original Royal Robbins 5.11s, there is a significant difference between what 5.11s are now and what they were then.




Royal nowadays. Guarantee he'll smoke your ass on any climb right now.



The Strap Thing - I hate to burst every one's tactical dream, but it ain't got nothing to do with holsters, radios, or handcuffs. Royal originally intended it to be an accessory storage area for carabiners, runners, and small nuts (this is all climbing gear for the non-vertical still reading this).

Double Stitching "for my clip knife" - First off, folders are just broken fixed blades with a pin in them, I digress... but, no, The double stitching in the corner of the pockets came aboutDan Costa bought the 5.11 entity from Royal Robbins. So what's it for? Originally, it was for racking the slide when shooting one-handed- no shit. Since then though, the clip name rumor has run wild, and that's what you'll mostly find there.

Double stitched knees for kneeling position- No...how about so when your 3000ft up on El Cap after a couple days your pants don't have holes in them from scraping granite all day.

"Spare Magazine Pocket"- Sorry, wrong again. On the original RR's and the very first 5.11s that pocket was all on the right thigh. Wouldn't work very well for about 90% of the right handed population?

Slanted Rear Pockets for quickly stowing partial mags- Are you fucking kidding me? Again, big negative. The real reason for slanted pockets was so you could actually access them while wearing a climbing harness.

5.11 is a police code for...- Ehh,,,,no. In a big way, no. 5.11 was, at the time Royal invented the pants the highest grade (meaning toughest) for a climbing route using the Yosemite Decimal System. Nowadays the super climbers are knocking out 5.14s and 5.15s.

So how the hell did the shooting/tactical/gov/mil/LE world get these damn things?- Well, rumor has it that some Colorado FBI dudes wore them on the range and it spread to D.C. After that, more LE saw what the boys in blue were wearing (and it made sense, since they lasted so damn long) and followed suit. Then the rest was history. Dan Costa bought the 5.11 piece (pant design only ) from Royal and literally changed the clothing game for this industry. Everyone had to come up with some sort of tactical something just to keep up.

I personally find great humor in the fact that so many people don't know, or make up the history of this product. The reason is that alot of shooting types view the climbing types as hippies or liberals. Of course, some of the climbing types view the shooting types as far right, war mongers. In reality, they both have a lot in common, and the Special Ops community (myself included) are happily stuck right in the middle.

Can't talk about modern tactical clothing without mentioning two other names. And I whole heartedly promise you'd be a cold, wet, and miserable person if it weren't for these two cats;




Yvon Chouinard not only started Patagonia, but Black Diamond too.



Yvon Chouinard was a climbing partner of Royal Robbins (making sense yet?). What he did at first was make pitons for use in aid climbing. After he and his buddies saw the damage that hard placed pro causes, he started making removable nuts, and later cams. Both of these made it so that climbing was less abusive to the environment. From this company, originally called Chouinard Equipment Company later came Black Diamond.

As Royal was making some pants that would stand up to climbing, Yvon started to import, and manufacturer other tough, outdoor clothing. In fact, and I'm not kidding here, Yvon was the person who brought Ruby shirts to the U.S. from Great Britain. Of course this venture was to become the clothing company Patagonia. If you think Patty is all recycle this, recycle that, and nothing else, you'd be surprised to know that they have supplied ALL OF USSOCOM with base layers and fleece for years.




Doug Tompkins founded The North Face and later became one of the most prolific conservationists in the world.

Doug Tompkins founded The North Face. Chances are everyone reading this has something from TNF. Doug was a climbing and rafting partner of Royal Robbins, and Yvon Chouinard- if it ain't making sense yet, I can't help you. If you're old enough, and your lady is too, he also founded a little company called ESPIRIT.

So that's tac clothing 101.