ACG means All Conditions Gear and all conditions means all conditions. It’s the self-explanatory tagline for Nike’s All Conditions Gear range. Originally, the phrase was encouragement for fitness practitioners to shed the indoor confines of exercise, like treadmill running, stationary biking and aerobics studios, and explore the outdoors. The original impulse driving ACG was to bring the cutting edge, youthful style that took Nike from a niche running company to global pop cultural icon status, to the extremely specialized world of functional outdoors gear. Introducing modern, technical fabrics, and the bold aesthetic of the late 1980s to a field that had barely seen any updates since Grizzly Adams, was nothing short of revolutionary. The visual novelty and bold design made early ACG silhouettes like the Son of Lava Dome/Lava High, Wildwood, Air Mowabb a hit with the new breed of outdoor adventurers and instant classics in the sneaker collecting subculture.
While new products continued to be launched under the ACG banner into the 21st century, the early ACG collections developed a serious cult following in streetwear circles. When Nike relaunched the ACG range in 2014, with a renewed focus on the late 80s/early 90s designs, there was general rejoicing throughout the sneaker world, but something was lost in all those years of fashion icon status, the all conditions means all conditions mantra. Scarcity led people to treat ACG pieces like collector’s items, and as a general rule, people don’t take collector’s items out into the woods and splash them with mud.
The gear that inspired an explosion of outdoor adventurism is the last place that the fear of using items for their intended purpose should take hold, but thanks to Nike’s renewed focus on the ACG range, the indispensable, classic style that made ACG indispensable, is readily available once again. All conditions means all conditions.
The designs may possess a distinct, retro sensibility, but the return of ACG as an every day concern isn’t meant to be a historical recreationist society. Thirty years on from the release of the first ACG collection, the scope of all conditions has broadened significantly. If the original mission of ACG was to get as many people as possible out of artificial environments, ACG, in the contemporary fashion landscape is about getting people out from behind artificial barriers.
Maybe you live somewhere where the only expanse of green you can access on a regular basis is a neighborhood park. Maybe the ratio of insects to humans in the forest is unnerving to you, maybe that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine’s boyfriend falls off a cliff because of George put you off of rock climbing back in 1995. The specifics don’t matter so much. If the traditional pursuits associated with ACG aren’t your thing, they still aren’t “all” conditions.
A commute that takes you through three different subway lines, 5am runs, out of the way skate spots; assuming that you leave your place of residence at all during an average day, which most people do, you are likely to encounter the kind of inclement conditions that necessitate the use of ACG’s various performance technologies. If you’re caught in the rain, being on a downtown street corner isn’t any better than being on a hiking trail; wet is wet.
More than any one, particular specialty field, ACG is about adventurism and spontaneity, things that aren’t defined by geographical boundaries. All conditions. It’s that simple.