Under Armour, Camo, and Willie Robertson Descend on Chicago
March 13, 2015
North Michigan Avenue, Chicago — also known as the Magnificent Mile. Other than Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive or New York's 5th Avenue, this street is about as upscale and exclusive as retail real estate gets in the United States.
The Magnificent Mile is everything one would expect. High priced. Exclusive. Trendy. A stroll down the sidewalk reveals Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Armani and Gucci. It's a world of martinis, chop houses, suited executives, impeccably dressed women, hipsters and'¦camo. That's right, camo — in the form of technical hunting clothing in Under Armour's newest and largest Brand House located in the heart of Michigan Avenue.
Occupying 30,000 square feet and spanning two floors, the Chicago Brand House is the largest of its kind and only the fifth Under Armour specialty retail store in North America.
The Brand House pays tribute to Chicago's outdoor active lifestyle with a Wrigley Field inspired ivy-covered wall, and special themed areas for Notre Dame, Northwestern and the Cubs. It also has special sections for golf, training, running and most importantly (for me), the UA Hunt and Fish sections — the first Under Armour store to feature either line.
Why does a hunt/fish section in a swanky Chicago shopping district matter? It matters to me because it says Under Armour is not shy about its passion for hunting. There are other companies that serve both "mainstream" and hunting markets that go to great lengths to hide the fact that they also offer hunting supplies.
With Under Armour, the Hunting and Fishing sections are upstairs; front and center. And Brand House's Hunt/Fish offerings is not just token lip service — the three foot letters that spells out "HUNT" doesn't masquerade the intent of the section. Nor does the impressive shoulder-mounted mule deer — which for the record is not an old mount bought at auction for decor purposes. It was taken by the man standing next to me; Bryan Offutt, who also happens to be Under Armour's Vice President, Sale and Marketing, Hunt, Fish and Tactical.
"When I started at Under Armour in 2001 there were 30 of us, now there are over 9,000 employees worldwide. Hunting has been one of our passions from the start. Back in the early days we had simple dreams — we were making this cool base layer and some us wanted to get it in camo for hunting. That's it, just a camo base layer.
"When we did we were happy. When we finally made a hoodie in camo we were ecstatic. Who knew it would evolve into something this expansive and technical," Offutt said motioning to the entire hunting line of base layer, waterproof and technical outerwear, insulating layers and footwear.
And technical it is. From the outside in, the clothing is in Ridge Reaper camo, which utilizes "coincidental disruption technology and an innovative 'no background' color algorithm." Layman's terms? Remember the shadowy form in the Predator movies? Wear Ridge Reaper and that's all an animal will see, essentially making hunters invisible regardless of terrain.
From there the garments incorporate UA Storm, which is a DWR finish to repel water, but still remain breathable — necessary for active hunters. The garments also feature four way stretch material, strategic placement of PrimaLoft Silver insulation and an overall quiet construction to decrease noise. When it comes to hunting clothing Under Armour is not a "me too" player, but a true leader and innovator that understands what hunters need through hard-earned knowledge gained through personal use in the field.
"We are doing more than making incredibly technical clothing though, we are also making a statement with the HUNT/FISH section in this store. We want consumers to know we support hunters and anglers, and that we are passionate about these sports ourselves. In fact, check this out, you will enjoy this," Offutt said as we walked toward the themed dressing rooms.
I pushed the door open and was greeted with a floor to ceiling photo of Louisiana flooded timber with the Robertson clan — long-time Under Armour users — standing front and center. I smiled and thought to myself: Yes, hunters are well represented in downtown Chicago now.
About that time, the door open behind me and the longhaired, bandana-clad Duck Dynasty front man, Willie Robertson, stepped in seeing the room for the first time as well. A big grin spread across his bearded face. Turning to me he offhandedly said, "Pretty cool, huh?"
Yep, pretty cool, I thought, pretty cool. I never thought I would see camo clothes, a mounted mule deer, a scene of a flooded swamp or run into Willie Robertson on the Magnificent Mile'¦ I now felt a little more at home.
Located at 600 N. Michigan Avenue, the Chicago Under Armour Brand House is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. For more details visit: UA.com