Photo courtesy Roark

I Travel for a Living, and This Company's Shirts and Pants Go Everywhere I Do

Technology + Gear
by Tim Wenger Apr 4, 2024

Roark is a brand that owns its place in the surf and adventure travel space as one of the segment’s only identifiably unique clothing options. You know a Roark shirt when you see it in the wild, and if you find yourself surrounded by them that’s a sign you’re doing something, or traveling somewhere, awesome. No brand speaks more directly to my needs as a traveler who spends the bulk of his non-laptop time outside. But what I really love about Roark – and the reason why its seasonal catalog resonates so deeply – is that this is the only men’s clothing option multifaceted enough that its button-down shirts and khaki shorts are both professional-looking and adventure-ready at the same time. This means I feel presentable even after a day on the trail, and can travel with a light pack, to boot.

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Putting Roark’s travel clothes to the test

At the confluence of the Salmon and Snake Rivers in Idaho. Photo: Tim Wenger
Most Turkish nightclubs double as hookah bars. Photo: Tim Wenger

In November of last year, I traveled to Mexico City for a work retreat. 60 Matador colleagues gathered at a posh hotel in Condesa for five days of excursions, meetings, and revelry. The itinerary included cultural sightseeing, nights out, quarterly and annual planning, and meals ranging from high-end (lunch at Contramar) to budget (tortas from the street vendor outside the hotel). I flew in a few days early to embark on a trek of the Nevado de Toluca volcano, about two hours outside the city. I also played the digital nomad card by staying after the retreat – I moved across town to the Selina coworking hostel in Centro Historico to post up and write.

All I brought on the trip was a carry-on backpack with light outdoor and work gear, boots of both the dressy and trail variety, and a few days’ worth of clothes. This was possible not because of some secret travel hack I’d uncovered. Nor did it require me to slum it in inappropriate attire for certain functions. Quite the opposite, rather – I felt properly dressed throughout the journey. That’s because over the past several years I’ve whittled my wardrobe down to the point where most everything I wear for day-to-day life comes from Roark. As a Matador editor, I regularly travel the world with a laptop and a snowboard, and no other clothing brand keeps me presentable no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

Case in point. In the first photo above, I’m in a Roark breathable button-down on a Salmon River expedition. The next photo is the same shirt, out at a nightclub in central Turkey, also wearing Roark’s Highway 128 jeans. In the photos below, I’m in Roark’s Well Worn Midnight Organic t-shirt inside the Nevado de Toluca volcano crater. In the following, I’m in the same shirt – nearly a week later, at the Teotihuacan pyramids. I’m also wearing Roark’s Highway 133 slim-fit jeans. The breathability and sweat-absorbing properties of the tops allow for multiple wears without the need for a wash.

No lake of fire awaited us inside this volcano. Photo: Rulo Luna Ramos
Amazed by the Teotihuacan pyramids. Photo: Tim Wenger

Why Roark stands apart as the best travel clothing brand

Roark’s roots are in the surf and adventure travel spaces, both quite casual by nature. Founder Ryan Hitzel grew up surfing in Laguna Beach and drew inspiration for the company through his adventures traveling and working for Volcom. Surf style reigns supreme – the Highway 133 slim-fit jeans fit comfortably under the brand’s eccentric and often beach-inspired t-shirt designs. Still, these aren’t lounge clothes. They’re built to be worn hard – Roark focuses intently on breathable materials that allow for movement, and typically include features like water resistance or quick-dry capability. You can sweat into your shirt on the trail without feeling gross at the bar afterward. The brand also uses organic cotton wherever possible.

The designs are inspired by a variety of adventure sports, so they can transition from hiking to sightseeing without feeling out of place. I’ve also come to love Roark’s travel-friendly features: Many Roark pieces include hidden pockets or convertible styles, making them ideal for packing light and staying organized. Each season sees a line of clothing inspired by the Roark team, known as Revivalists, and their adventures in a specific location around the globe. I tend to pick up one or two items from each release. This spring I opted for the Gonzo Camp Collar Shirt in Sarda Almond and the Journey Shirt in Tahiti Nui black. The Journey Shirt, in particular, is the type of item that draws me to Roark because it’s a statement piece that looks good in settings as formal as I tend to find myself in. I’d wear it to an interview with a story subject or on a Sunday bike ride with my daughter without thinking twice.

Roark’s button-downs are the ultimate shirt for looking cool in a meeting. I always get comments on them. Some button-downs, including the Bless Up Breatheable Stretch line, are made with moisture-wicking or quick-drying materials, which can be key in hot or humid climates. They also offer a range of fits, from classic to slimmer cuts, so you can find one that suits your body type and preference. The company also recently launched a women’s line.

Clothes built for travel days

roark layover pants

Roark Layover Utility pants. Photo courtesy Roark

Roark’s iconic Layover Pant is the company’s best take on airplane clothes. I’ve owned two pairs over the years and admittedly was not a fan of the older pair. They were baggy and I could never get the drawstring to stay tight enough. But the brand took the concept back to the drawing board and released an updated version last fall that includes a Utility option and a Traveler option, with insulated legs perfect for flying to mountain destinations in the winter. The drawstring is tighter this time around, too.

I wear Roark’s Well Worn long-sleeve t-shirt on travel days frequently and will also take it on the trail for hikes or bike rides to avoid burning my arms if I know I will be spending hours in the sun. Many of my colleagues appear to feel the same way, as several others sported Roark shirts for our team dinners and the day trip to the Teotihuacán pyramids.

With its commitment to quality, comfort, and versatility, Roark garments are built to withstand the rigors of the road while remaining stylish enough for any urban adventure. Think of them as an investment in your nomadic spirit – and then get out there and put them to use.

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