The North Face is a giant American company that specializes in outdoor clothing and equipment, including a good range range of ski-wear. The brand has become so big, and so popular, that it has reached the point where it's now probably even more popular on the high street than it is in the mountains.
The company was initially just a rental store in San Francisco back in 1968. The store was given the name The North Face and started selling its own range of clothing and equipment. Ski clothing was introduced in the 1980's, and whilst it's well respected and a decent seller, it's the mass-market appeal of items such as fleeces and backpacks that has made this one of the world's most popular outdoor brands (for example, The North Face, along with sister company JanSport produce more than half of all the backpacks sold in the USA).
The company's name is taken from the north face of a mountain, which in the northern hemisphere is often the coldest, iciest, and therefore usually the hardest route of the mountain to climb. The famous logo is the company's interpretation of a rock formation in Yosemite National Park called the Half Dome.
The North Face is now owned by VF Corporation, a giant US corporation that also owns brands such as Wrangler, Lee, Reef, Vans, Napapijri and Nautica.
Sales of the brand rocketed in the 1990's as some outdoor brands achieved fashionable status (think of Liam Gallagher giving it some Wonderwall in his Berghaus jacket) and 'Wilderness Chic' became a widely used term in fashion mags. So as North Face gear started to be sold in sport-shops and fashion retailers, far removed from the specialized outdoor shops that were its previous domain, so its popularity exploded.
The popularity of The North Face amongst many of the brand's wearers may be down to its image on the high street rather than how it performs in the mountains, but for those of us who also need to wear jackets for their functionality, The North Face still has a decent reputation for keeping out the elements. The company has made so much money in recent years that it can afford to invest it plenty of it in new technologies and materials, keeping it at the leading edge of outdoor clothing manufacturers.
The North Face have such a range of jackets that there's a range of prices to suit most mid-range budgets, anywhere from around 150 to 500 pounds.