Forty years ago, Ulrich Dausien, a resourceful student in Frankfurt, founded what would become one of Europe’s largest outdoor brands in his room in a shared flat. To mark this occasion, Jack Wolfskin has reissued some of its product icons as part of an anniversary collection.
Jack Wolfskin’s beginnings were very inventive, if not even adventurous. In the late 1970s, Ulrich, a former boy scout, scraped together the start-up capital for his company by selling Palestinian scarves at the flea market. A key event took place in 1981 – while sitting around a campfire in Canada, he came up with the idea of using a wolf’s paw logo for his new then-named “Outdoor Equipment, Ltd.” company. It is difficult to say what exactly made this small business eventually a leading global brand. In fact, it was the interplay of various exciting factors, but the fundamental feature was indeed the courage to do something new.
According to Gerold Ringsdorf, veteran product developer with Jack Wolfskin, the brand’s early success can mainly be attributed to its introduction of a multifunctional jacket concept. The idea stemmed from the then omnipresent German army parka. A removable inner lining allowed the jacket to be worn in three different ways. The military archetype, however, was made from heavy cotton, and unbuttoning the teddy lining was very tedious.
Jack Wolfskin adopted the concept, introduced a practical zip-in system, and employed modern, lightweight, functional materials. The 3-in-1 jacket quickly became a bestseller and the very epitome of the brand.
THUNDER & LIGHTNING becomes THUNDERBLAZE
The 3-in-1concept was a feature in a number of jacket models, but it was the THUNDER & LIGHTNING jacket, introduced in 1990, some seven years after the zip-in system first appeared on the market, that sold exceptionally well. Pointy, color-contrasting triangles were strewn like a flash of lightning across the front of the jacket. The design evidently struck a chord with the fashion sensibilities of the 90s and THUNDER & LIGHTNING quickly turned into a classic. This popular model was continuously on offer until 2007.
To mark the brand’s anniversary, Jack Wolfskin is offering a new interpretation of this style with the 356 THUNDERBLAZE JACKET. The fit and details were modernized in the design process and transposed to 2021. Still, the tapered triangles on the chest and the eye-catching color combination of the new jacket reflect the striking character of the original.
ACS and Future Dye
Another innovation that proved tremendously successful for the company was the comfortable ACS (Air Control System) backpack carrying system, which ensures maximum air circulation for backpack wearers. In the early 1990s, similar systems with metal frames were already on the market, but Jack Wolfskin optimized the basic idea and chose a frame made of plastic mesh, which, along with the shoulder and hip straps, featured air holes for even more comfort. At first, critics compared the look to Swiss cheese. Jack Wolfskin’s confident response to the comparison was to introduce a model with yellow perforated foam.
In 2021, Jack Wolfskin celebrates this legendary carrying system with its latest ACS backpack model, the CROSSTRAIL 24L. This lightweight and ventilated hiking backpack with ergonomically designed features offers ample storage space, distributes weight evenly, and sits pressure-free on the wearer’s back. It is manufactured using the innovative Future Dye dyeing process, which reduces water consumption, chemicals, and energy consumption by up to 70%.
Over the years, ACS made the trekking tours of countless outdoor enthusiasts easier and more comfortable. So it’s time to wear its features proudly on your chest with this anniversary T-shirt.
The wolf’s paw as a cult logo
One particularly serendipitous product story solidified the wolf’s paw in customers’ minds and is a testament to Ulrich Dausien’s creativity and pragmatism. During a vacation in the Philippines in 1987, he organized a regatta on the spur of the moment – the Jack Wolfskin Cup. He quickly set about having shirts printed with the wolf’s paw for crew uniforms. As it turned out, the local printer only had tank tops available. Thus, the LOGO TANK TOP was born. It was subsequently included in the Jack Wolfskin product line and immediately became a hit. Over the years, various versions of this classic were launched, such as the more discreet Outline Paw (1995) and the TRACKER TANK TOP (1996) with paw and logotype on the backside.
In 2021, the logo shirt has been relaunched with the TATZE 2.0 T, but featuring short sleeves and made of supple organic cotton.
You can find additional products in the anniversary collection here.