Forget Daisy Dukes. In Colorado, jorts are now performance-enhancing gear. Because, of course.

The same thought goes through my head every time I get to a trailhead and see people wearing cutoff denim shorts, aka “jorts”: Seriously? They’re not wearing a technical garment that’s breathable, sweat-wicking, waterproof, and does the job for me? What a ruby.

But then, if (when?) they leave my talks-the-talk-but-don’t-walk-the-reverse in their dust, I quickly recalibrate. What benefits!? I tell myself. They can shred wearing denim? Hat !

Boulder resident Elliot Wilkinson-Ray also enjoys the mix of irony, history, and downright badassery built into the art of wearing denim cutouts while biking, hiking trails, or just after that. I don’t mess around. around way. After all, Wilkinson-Ray founded the world’s first performance jort brand, Ripton & Co., in 2019. Since the fledgling brand – which uses denim that’s lighter than standard jeans, and blends it with polyester and spandex – has amassed over 15,000 customers from around the world, many more are also enjoying the appeal of jorts to wear with a snap. The brand has even caught the eye of country music megastar and loyal Ripton customer, Dierks Bentley, who has been known to tag the Colorado brand in his social media posts. Here, Wilkinson-Ray gives us her take on the long-standing appeal of denim and the beauty of taking life’s adventures a little less seriously.

Photo courtesy of Ripton & Co.

On the appeal of denim

The nature of denim is very tactical, very visceral. It gives you an emotional feel, the way the indigo threads intertwine with the white threads and create this crazy patina story, just like the way a vinyl record gives music another level of emotion, sound and noise . Denim has such a cool, rugged richness to it. And that means something different to everyone, from the Hollywood celebrity who identifies with the Canadian tuxedo to a bunch of Colorado cowboys who go to the Wednesday night rodeo.

Why the world needs a high-performance denim brand

American culture understands denim and its classic, timeless appeal, but no one has taken that appeal and gone crazy over the category. It’s always been a niche, and we felt like it could be bigger. So we’re the ones designing the denim to be a little more turbocharged, a little more out-there. We wanted to solve the problem of [there not being] a really cool denim jort designed for active people.

On what Ripton is

I think of us as a kind of bootstrap, duct tape, rebel alliance. Not that there’s an evil empire to defeat, but we’re a ragtag, brutal team that does things in a unique way. In today’s outdoor industry, most businesses are owned by a holding company that is owned by a holding company. I’ve worked for publicly traded outdoor brands, and you can make a difference when a company is run by someone who is truly passionate about what they do. There’s a different kind of rawness and realism that I think people are looking for. We feel like Ripton solves problems differently. It should feel like a breath of fresh air.

On what people like about these jorts

Someone might say you should just buy denim jeans from the thrift store and cut them up to make jorts, but that denim probably weighs 12 ounces. On the other hand, some of our jorts weigh 7.5 ounces, but they are still sturdy and durable, much better for adventurous things. We get a lot of reviews where people say, “I haven’t stopped wearing these for a week!” They like our jorts to be super comfy and look super cool – and they look cooler the dirtier they get.

On the je ne sais quoi of Ripton

I have an ’86 [VW] Westfalia van, and it looks really cool, and it’s cool, but it’s slow. We go for the vibe of the old van – classic and timeless – with the performance of something modern. When you’re an adult, you probably don’t bike, ski, or hike to get any specific outcome other than maybe fitness and having fun with your friends. The fact that all the equipment is performance-oriented seems pretty retrograde to me. We don’t tell people to summit Everest in our jorts. We build things with a little wink. For us, it’s not about being the highest tech product; it’s about creating something that makes people feel good.

About Selena J. Killeen

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