Gore are best (and often only) known for inventing GORE-TEX® waterproof fabrics, and highly effective ‘guaranteed to keep you dry’ waterproof fabrics at that. But the brand’s special powers don’t stop there! With a little research and digging, it quickly becomes clear that there’s more to this brand than meets the eye. Starting with a repertoire much greater than rainwear.
This article explores Gore’s lesser-known history and goes someway to showing how through adopting a unique culture and way of being, the Gore enterprise has created a workplace environment that promotes and paves the way for continuous innovation and the creation of products that improve lives.
W.L. Gore & Associates
Specialist sportswear brand GORE® Wear, is a younger sub brand of parent brand W.L. Gore & Associates, an American manufacturing and technology company founded by Wilbert L (Bill) and Genevieve Gore in 1958 in Newark, Delaware. The Gore family were pioneers in the use and application of polytetrafluorethylen (PTFE): a polymer with exceptional properties like high tensile strength, UV resistance and more.
W.L. Gore made its name manufacturing cutting edge products for a broad spectrum of different industries including healthcare, aviation, aerospace, music, telecoms, sportswear and footwear. From rain jackets to parts of space suits, medical implants to sealants, cables to guitar strings. You name it. W.L. Gore make it.
In 1969, the possibilities for PTFE in clothing and sportswear widened with Bob Gore’s (Bill Gore’s son's) discovery of expanded PTFE, or ePTFE. When he found that rapidly stretching PTFE under the right conditions created a very strong, microporous material, which could be produced in in multiple forms or membranes.
"Thin, lightweight, durable GORE™ membranes are the critical component of the performance of GORE® fabrics." – GORE (Goreprotectivefabrics.com, 2019)
Bob Gore and his team discovered that by bonding these microporous ePTFE membranes to textile and lining materials, they could create finished laminates intended for different end uses, with an ability to tailor and fine tune the properties of the laminate. Examples of this fine tuning include increasing or decreasing the levels of water protection, wind protection, breathability, static dissipation, abrasion-resistance etc. as desired, to ensure that the finished product meets expectations, in terms of its intended performance and use.
And so, Gore began manufacturing garments that would cement its reputation as a market leader in performance clothing for outdoor sports. Creations included:
- The famous 'GIRO' jacket released in 1985 (the first waterproof and windproof GORE-TEX® cycle jacket) which set the foundation for the establishment of the GORE BIKE WEAR® brand in 1990.
- The introduction of WINDSTOPPER® technology, as well as jerseys and tights in the early 1990s.
- The establishment of GORE RUNNING WEAR® in 1997 with the release of a small range of highly functional apparel for runners under the collection name ‘CONCURVE’.
Kept for many years as separate entities, Gore’s two clothing brands: GORE BIKE WEAR® and GORE RUNNING WEAR® combined in 2018 to form one brand: GORE® Wear, in response to changing consumer behaviour and demands.
"GORE® Wear, reflects changing consumer behaviour more accurately, from pure running or cycling specialists to all-around athletes." – GORE (Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, 2019)
GORE® Wear has since pushed forward as one brand driven by the ‘Always Evolve’ mantra, retaining its status as a world leader in the field of fabric technology.
GORE® Wear invent, design and produce best in class products for high aerobic activities to make athletes lives better no matter the weather. The brand offers customers a consolidated and clearly structured product range – tailored to specific needs and end uses.
Product Range Structure
All products in the GORE® Wear range are assigned a letter based on end use and a number based on level.
- End Use: ‘R’ for Running. ‘C’ for Cycling. ‘M’ for Multi-Sport use.
- Level: 7 for Expert. 5 for Advanced. 3 for Active.
The number scale from 7 being Expert, to 3 being Active, denotes the extent to which a product’s features, shape, form and fit designed for sport specific use, to deliver at the point of maximum need.
R7 products tend to be close fitting, whilst R3 products offer a more relaxed, versatile fit.
A cut above the rest
As you explore the current GORE® Wear range on our website, you will notice the products come at a premium price. This is a reflection of the technology, quality of materials and care that go into the making of a GORE® Wear product, as well as the customer satisfaction guarantee. GORE® fabrics feel different on. Soft to the touch, without scratchy or rough seams and without static charge. Fully waterproof fabrics that are breathable, without any bulk. Try the clothing and feel the difference!
Having a few select GORE® Wear pieces in your running wardrobe will enhance your running experience and give you extra protection and peace of mind, especially when heading out in changeable or cold, bleak, biting weather.
GORE® Wear have three key fabric technologies that go into their products:
GORE-TEX® "guaranteed to keep you dry" technology – ideal for extreme wet weather. Look for the black diamond symbol.
The GORE-TEX® guarantee means GORE® Wear will repair or replace a product, if a customer is not completely satisfied with the waterproofness, windproofness or breathability of a product (provided the product is properly cared for and used as intended).
- Brand new GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ technology – versatile, water resistant and windproof products that put a focus on comfort and performance over waterproofness. Look for the white diamond symbol.
- GORE® WINDSTOPPER® products – ideal for dry, windy days. Look for the red symbol.
In the past there has been a tendency to associate Gore with GORE-TEX® and nothing else. But the brand has much more to offer. The non-waterproof GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ products range builds on the quality and performance of the original GORE-TEX products range. It is not a technology on its own but hosts a variety of established and new product technologies that provide you with versatile aspects of comfort and protection. The GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ range includes GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ garments with WINDSTOPPER® product technology.
The R5 GTX Infinium Insulated Jacket
The R5 Partial GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ Insulated Jacket is a great option for runners who want maximum protection without a lot of extra layers. This jacket offers super lightweight protection from wind and cold with a breathable, quick drying Polartec Alpha insulation layer.
Transparent fabric on the outside with a WINDSTOPPER® liner gives an eye-catching look, fluid feel and negates the need for a mid-layer. Ideal for runners wanting a superlight jacket for cold days and runs in the dark.
"I run in all weathers all year round. This jersey makes me feel as free and light on a winter run as I do in summer but it still keeps the rain and wind off. The more comfortable I feel the further I run." – Thea Heim, GORE® Wear athlete, Germany
The GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ product range is an embodiment of the brand’s commitment to ‘Always Evolve’ and innovate – as it ventures into a new class of functional products that aim to offer athletes versatile comfort and all-round performance.
Fostering a culture of continuous innovation
In an article written for the Financial Times, Simon Caulkin describes how Gore as company succeeds where others fail, in its adoption of an unusual and atypical working and corporate culture. A culture that’s conducive to blue-sky thinking, which is critical to innovation. Indeed, Caulkin goes so far as to say “Gore’s most significant innovation may not be a particular product, but rather the unique non-hierarchical management model that enables the new products to emerge.” (Ft.com, 2019)
Caulkin describes how founders Bill and Vieve Gore set out “to build an organisation where inventive people could 'have fun and make money'” (Ft.com, 2019). But do so in a way that had a “meaningful impact on society” (Ft.com, 2019). Thus, they built a human organisation founded on “management practices designed to foster trust, initiative and enable the emergence of natural leaders” (Ft.com, 2019) inspired by the work of experts in the field of management and motivational theory and social psychology.
This ethos and the four founding principles are still upheld today. These are: freedom, fairness, commitment and 'waterline' i.e. consulting other knowledgeable Associates before taking actions that might be ‘below the waterline’, causing serious damage to the enterprise.
Flat management structure
W.L. Gore continues to reject traditional management structure, in favour of a flat, ‘lattice-like’ structure that fosters personal initiative, where everyone shares the same title of ‘Associate’ and ‘Leaders’ replace bosses. In practice this means, rather than having set chains of command and channels of communication, Gore lets its associates choose to follow leaders whom they respect and trust (rather than have bosses assigned to them).
"Gore encourages knowledge-based decision making, based on relationship building (so you know where the knowledge resides) and face-to-face communication, on the basis of which teams self-organise around the best ideas for new products or market opportunities.
Associates emerge as leaders by virtue of attracting followership, the only way of demonstrating leadership credentials — your business record is not sufficient. “If you call a meeting and people turn up, you’re a leader,” as one associate has put it." – Simon Caulkin (Ft.com, 2019)
Gore’s unique management appears to have held the company in good stead over the past six decades.
As a GORE® Wear stockist and advocate of GORE® technologies and products, all of us here at Run4It are extremely excited to see what the GORE® Wear brand, who strive to constantly push the boundaries of fabric technology, will come up with in seasons and decades to come!
- Ft.com. (2019). WL Gore: the company others try and fail to imitate | Financial Times.
Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/aee67fe0-ac63-11e9-b3e2-4fdf846f48f5 .
- Gore.com. (2019). Gore Technologies.
Available at: https://www.gore.com/about/technologies .
- Gorewear.com. (2019). Our History | GORE® WEAR | GB.
Available at: https://www.gorewear.com/uk/en-uk/about-us/about-gore-wear/our-history/ .
- Gorewear.com. (2019). GORE® Expert, Advanced, Active Level Performance Wear | GORE® WEAR | US.
Available at: https://www.gorewear.com/us/en-us/cs-collection-structure.html .
- Goreprotectivefabrics.com. (2019).
Available at: https://www.goreprotectivefabrics.com/sites/g/files/ypyipe916/files/uploads/tof/tof-support/pdf/Gore%2BFabrics%2BEnvironmental%2BStatement%2Br2.pdf .
- Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. (2019). Gore Bike Wear and Gore Running Wear brands to combine as 'GORE wear'.
Available at: https://www.bicycleretailer.com/north-america/2017/05/23/gore-bike-wear-and-gore-running-wear-combine-gore-wear .