As the saying goes, “men are often just big boys”, and it’s just a fact that boys often go running to their mothers for help when certain incidents happen at the playground. After all, Mummy is always there, and she knows what to do. Clothing tips from Mum are often unappreciated, but nonetheless they influence practically every generation in their own special way. So it’s no wonder that even big boys often seek advice from these free, ever-changing offline encyclopaedias. When it comes to choosing the right underwear, that’s certainly a little weird, but Northern Playground’s story shows how it can lead to real success.
But what exactly is Northern Playground? It has nothing at all to do with a playground in Trondheim, Oslo, or Stockholm; it’s an up-and-coming manufacturer of innovative and functional outdoor clothing. What exactly it all has to do with (little) boys and their mothers will be explained in this article.
So let’s get started by asking the question:
Who or what is Northern Playground?
Northern Playground is a relatively young company that was founded in 2012 in Oslo, Norway. The story of the company’s founding is as logical as it is weird. Founder Jo Tobiassen has been an outdoor sports enthusiast for as long as he can remember. He’s particularly fond of ski touring and mountaineering, but it was important to him not to miss out on experiencing nature and enjoying a certain amount of comfort in the process. However, as we all know, this can be difficult when you’re sitting in sweaty clothes at the summit of a mountain, unable to enjoy the view or your lunch because you’re freezing your socks off. This problem – and its solution – is basically the company’s core competence and its founding myth in one.
That’s because Jo’s path took him from the cold, wet experience in the mountains straight home to his telephone. He needed his mum’s advice! And look at that! After a brief stint at the sewing machine, they had designed a piece of clothing that looked like a cross between one-piece pyjamas and a super-hero costume without a cape. Even if the designer piece looked a little unusual, it still laid the foundation for a new type of outdoor clothing: base layers that can be taken off on the move without having to take off your jumper, shoes, or even your overtrousers.
They quickly found a suitable partner: Magnus Aasrum, who – staying true to the motto “bare it all” – was intrigued by the idea of innovative outdoor undergarments. After a little self-experimentation with sewing clothes and wearing women’s undergarments, they were finally ready. Northern Playground launched its first collection in 2012.
OK, so we’ve cleared that up. But…
What makes Northern Playground different from other brands?
What sets them apart are the products that started it all: long underwear with zips on the sides designed for skiing, which Northern Playground refers to as Ziplongs. The thought behind it is as easy as it is simple: If you work up a sweat when trudging up a long, steep ascent, some of your clothing is bound to get wet. And, the breathability and quick-drying properties of even the best functional fabrics can fail in such situations, depending on how they are combined with other clothing and how much the wearer sweats. In the worst-case scenario, you could find yourself hanging out at the summit in wet clothes, only to be freezing moments later. Imagine trying to take in the panoramic view or enjoy your lunch or even the peace and quiet in that condition. Impossible!
This is exactly where the Zip Wear Collection comes in. These are basically long johns with a zip on the side. “Boring”, some of you are probably thinking. But the idea behind it is just as clever as it is simple: sweat helps regulate the body’s temperature by allowing water to evaporate off the skin. When we exert ourselves, our body temperature should theoretically increase; we get warm. We sweat to regulate our temperature. Ideally, sweat should be free to evaporate so that the resulting cooling effect can bring the body temperature down or keep it constant. When you’re naked, that works perfectly.
But in combination with (functional) clothing, things get trickier. When other factors such as sunlight, wind and precipitation come into play, the interplay of individual layers – and, subsequently, their breathability – can suffer considerably. The result: sweat gathers in certain areas of the clothing, if not in all of it, and continues to evaporate even after the cooling effect is no longer needed.
A simple solution: The wet clothes have to come off. And that’s exactly where the Zip Wear Collection from Northern Playground comes in. These are essentially long johns that have a zip on the side. That makes it possible for you to take off even something as seemingly inconvenient as long johns whilst you’re adventuring without having to completely strip.
And the material leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. With everything from synthetic fibres to merino wool, Northern Playground uses all the right fabrics to create comfortable and functional outdoor clothing.
But now… drop your trousers! In the truest sense, because…
But how sustainable is Northern Playground?
According to their own 12-point system, Northern Playground describes their sustainability concept as follows:
- Northern Playground is based in Norway. To keep production as close to the sales market as possible while keeping production costs low, the garments are manufactured in Lithuania.
- Recycled materials are used whenever possible.
- All articles of clothing are packaged in cardboard boxes; no plastic is used.
- The products are produced with no “expiration date” or any “predetermined breaking points” and can be used for a long time.
- The high quality of the clothing and the materials used ensure a long usage life. This isn’t about “fast fashion” – it’s about products that the wearer should enjoy for a long time to come.
- The wool they use is produced without using mulesing or superwash.
- There are various collections with organic wool and organic silk.
- Select products are produced right in Toyen, Oslo .
- Northern Playground is also politically active in the field of environmental protection in industry. For example, the company is calling for the introduction of an environmental tax in Norway.
- Utenos in Lithuania is the most important producer for their collections. The majority of Northern Playground products are manufactured there. Utenos is very aware of its responsibility towards the environment and fulfils strict requirements.
- To think and work “green” is one of Northern Playground’s most important guiding principles.
- Honesty and openness are its defining values, so it’s not at all uncommon for them to give customers a look behind the scenes.
Basically, everything at Northern Playground has something to do with sustainability, environmental protection and openness. This also includes their cooperation with the Norwegian development fund “Utviklingsfondet”, which is active in development and environmental work. Among other things, they are attempting to compensate for the company’s carbon footprint as much as possible with tree-planting projects in Africa.
But that’s enough about environmental activism for today!
So what about their products?
Northern Playground’s product line can be roughly divided into two main areas: “The Zip Wear Collection”, which is mostly (ski) undergarments with strategically placed zips, and “The Organic Collection”, which consists of clothes made from organic wool and organic silk.
The Zip Wear Collection
We’ve already described the idea behind the clothing with side zips above. Now, we’d like to go into more detail about the products they actually have.
Thermal bottoms in various lengths
The most innovative products from Northern Playground are the thermal bottoms with side zips. They are available in long, short and three-quarter length, so they can be used for a wide variety of activities. They also offer bottoms with a padded seat.
Jumper with front zip
Jumpers with a half-length zip are absolute basics, so it’ll come as no surprise that Northern Playground has some in its collection. The material used for these garments is a blend of wool and synthetic fibres, which combines functionality and comfort to perfection.
The Zipbody is a practical one-piece with long sleeves and short legs. This makes it particularly well-suited for (ski) tours and other alpine activities. A long zip around the back means it can be taken off easily on the go without needing to completely strip down.
What is there to say about underwear, really? It’s just underpants und sports bras. The difference here is that these garments have a strategically placed zip that allows them to be taken off quickly when you’re on the move.
The Organic Collection
A second major category is the organic collection. According to the manufacturer, only high-quality natural materials are used. Let’s take a look:
From long johns to bras, Northern Playground offers everything that belongs in a respectable underwear collection. What makes their products stand apart from the rest is the material. All garments are made from a blend of organic wool and organic silk that is very comfortable to wear.
The second major part of the collection is the t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts. These are also made of a blend of wool and silk. What makes them special? The long-sleeved shirts are also available with a button placket and as hoodies.
Aside from the two major product lines, Northern Playground also has some pretty cool accessories. From tube scarfs to ski socks, they offer a variety of products that are comfortable, practical and stylish.
What else is there to say about Northern Playground?
The products from Northern Playground are rather unique not just because of their excellent quality and comfortable materials. The modern design and clever concepts behind the individual pieces make them a must-have for the great outdoors. Ziplongs, long-sleeved shirts, etc. are just the ticket for anyone who spends a great deal of time outdoors and would rather not freeze. The company’s philosophy of transparency and their active contributions to sustainability add the finishing touches to Northern Playground’s image and make the brand one of the small but mighty clothing manufacturers of the far north.