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Vietnam’s Next Top Model Pioneers Innovative Climbing Fashion

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It’s no secret that climbing has entered the fashion landscape. We all saw Jimmy Chin’s photoshoot with Jared Leto and Gucci last week (sponsored by The North Face, to boot). The real question is… can fashionistas teach us a thing or two about how we should dress for our gym and crag sessions?

A series of models from the hit TV show Vietnam’s Next Top Model took to the plastic walls a while back for a stunning vertical photoshoot. The fact that this took place several years ago (2015) is just another indicator of how far behind we’re lagging here in the USA. Japan is already crushing us in comp bouldering, now Vietnam has the lead on climbing fashion, too?

So let’s break down a few of these photos and see what we can learn…

The Tracksuit Scientist

By Thanh An, sourced from

Here we have solid form (look at that heel hook!) coupled with a mesh top and purple lab coat. LIke many of the other models, this guy is sporting an orange visor, although his seems too high to do much to block the sun. I’m mot too keen on the lab coat, but the mesh top on its own looks extremely breathable. Definitely a great piece of attire for hot summer days at the gym or crag. The shoes? Well, they could be worse… They could be EBs (the first rock-jock shoes on the market). 

Rating: 7/10

The Wearable Crash Pad

By Hong Van, sourced from

Obviously, there’s a lot going on here. The visor would be great for sunny days, but I also see it getting in the way quite a bit, particularly on overhung lines. Also, for some reason the rope is going inside her dress… I’m assuming she’s wearing a harness under there? All that aside, we have an extremely innovative piece of pro here: her padded buttocks/17th century duchess style dress (apparently they call this a “bustle”). Has this model discovered a portable bouldering pad? Can she take a 15-foot whipper and simply land on her padded hump butt and bounce away like nothing happened? I’m intrigued…

Rating: 9/10

The Spider-Man

By K’Broi, sourced from

It doesn’t get wonkier than this, folks. I’m ranking this one fairly low, simply because he’s hanging upside down in a waist harness. Not only that, but it’s tucked inside of his pants, so if his harness slips off it’ll pull his pants off, too. No one wants to hit the deck naked. I dig the interesting Spider-Man technique he’s using to hang on the rope with his feet, but the dude’s facial expression looks like something out of a horror movie (or worse, The Weeknd with plastic surgery). High socks and cuffed pants are perhaps the only good thing about this photo. No one enjoys stepping on their pant leg while climbing!

Rating: 3/10

The Parachute

By Kim Phuong, sourced from

I like the dynamic posing here, and she’s incorporating some great toe-work on that hold. The back leg splayed out like that can’t be great for balance, of course, and the electrical tape around the hands is a bit strange. At first glance, her dress is simply way too baggy to be practical. Will it inflate like a parachute if she falls, however? Something to consider. Maybe she’s already thinking ahead…

Rating: 5/10

Cape ‘n Leathers

By Anh Tu, sourced from

This is my favorite entry in the series. Nothing too fancy, but we also have it all here. Stellar footwork with that high toe hook, an elegant cape/trench coat to catch the wind, and a very clean leather-tracksuit style. Add that to his form, and this guy is perfectly poised for a clean, tailbone-shattering fall. There’s something we can all learn from here. Catch me at your local gym in my polka dot cape and leathers, everyone!

Rating: 10/10

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Owen Clarke is a writer currently based in a barn in Tennessee. He is a columnist for Rock & Ice, Gym Climber, and The Outdoor Journal. He also writes for Atlas Devices and BAÏST. He enjoys Southern sandstone and fish tacos, and is afraid of heights.

Follow him on Instagram at @opops13.