Thugged Out and Fluoro: Snowboarding Style Gone Mad?
Doo-rag or not doo-rag? That is not the question. Whilst style stands the passage of time, fashions quickly fade. Being in or out of fashion does not necessarily equate to looking good or bad. The passing of time does little to change this. So what makes snowboarders think that all of a sudden, matching jacket and pant combos which very closely resemble one piece ski suits and for three decades have been the prime target of snowboarders' mockery towards skiers, is now suddenly acceptable attire?
For years, snowboarding magazines have been gloating over the fashion disasters of "sad skiers" with their all in one, often brightly coloured suits. Several major snowboarding magazines run ongoing columns in which snowboarders send in pictures of skiers to be mocked with a tone of smug superiority by their readers. Well, now the fickle world of fashion has dictated to its followers that it's suddenly ok to wear matching top and bottoms, one piece suits and fluoro.
Hello? McFly, is there anybody in there? News flash: you can't slag off items of clothing for twenty years, proclaiming them to be fashion disasters, then turn around and say they suddenly look good. If they looked 'sad' then, then surely they look 'sad' now? They will also continue to look 'sad' in future. Wake up guys - the emperor wears no clothes.
The fact that skiing and snowboarding are expensive sports largely practiced by people who are financially comfortable, a million miles away from "urban ghetto" culture makes it laughable to see "thugged out" snowboarders, with a doo-rag flapping in the wind and a bandanna pulled up around their faces, as they side slip down a blue run. Perhaps ski magazines should be running pictures of snowboarders and mocking them for dressing like some sort of wannabe snowboarding gangsters, whilst daddy forks out for their lift pass and will be back in the SUV to pick them up later.
It amuses me to see some young grommets, dressed up in the newest gear money can buy, brand new board fresh from the Burton factory, a sticker job which has taken hours of time and considerable effort to complete, who can't even link turns. If you are going to dress like a thugged out gangsta fool on the slopes, you'd better be able to ride well enough to pull it off. My advice? Learn the basics before treating the piste like a catwalk.
Now, I'm all for new people taking up the sport. We all have to learn and I am a long way from being anywhere near the greatest top million snowboarders to have ever strapped into bindings. But I do wonder why some people seem to spend more time and money on the snowboarder look, than they do actually snowboarding. If you're taking up snowboarding just for the image - bad luck, you're about twenty years too late; that bandwagon left base station a long time ago.
Snowboarding is no longer the cool, underground and extreme sport it once was. It's still extremely fun, exhilarating and incredibly satisfying, and I would implore everybody to try it, but when cigarette, car and computer corporations use something to sell their product, can that thing still be considered underground?
I realise that by writing about "the kids these days" I am showing my age and risk sounding like a very uncool, somewhat grumpy old fart. Maybe I should just accept that the nature of fashion is to continually re-invent and re-style old trends and that fashion cannot stand still. As you may have gathered, you won't find me browsing the latest copy of Vogue very often. In fact, from the tone of this article you'd be forgiven for thinking that I cruise the slopes on a Snurfer whilst puffing on a pipe of Old Holborn, wearing boots that look suspiciously like slippers and tipping my top hat to the ladies I pass. Well, to that I simply say: "Tally Ho! Must dash - off for a spot of apres-ski Pimms! Toodle pip!".
In reality, my snowboarding attire is fairly nondescript. My kit looks perfectly ok, and it does the job of keeping me warm and dry, even in the most harsh conditions (it's been well tested - I've been snowboarding in Scotland!). However, I'm sure my threads would not impress the judges of a teenage panel - after all, I don't own a bandanna or a doo-rag. I don't wear matching top and bottoms or have any florescent clothing in my wardrobe. When on my head, my goggles are positioned pointing directly forward, rather than slightly off to one side. I dislike peaked beanies and I prefer my snowboarding trousers (yes, I call them trousers not pants) to actually cover my rump, rather than expose my ass crack to the masses.
To me, the coolest guys I see on the slopes are the ones that don't care much for the winter's latest looks. Their gear may be battered and bruised from years of abuse, but it's still going strong. Their clothes do the job perfectly well, but their true style is spoken with their riding. I recently saw an old silver haired skier who must have been in his 60s, yet still getting out to the mountains and carving up the snow, dressed in a woolly jumper and a moth eaten bobble hat. To me, that is cool.
In this writer's unfashionable opinion, fashion exists purely to sell product. Where would clothing companies be if we all suddenly decided that we didn't care about what was "in" this season? They generate a false sense of divide between skiers and snowboarders - dictating that there is a specific look to either sport and that we must dress like our kin, or face ridicule. In reality, both skiers and snowboarders just need functional clothes to keep the elements at bay.
This fashion madness is summed up perfectly in one of my favourite stories by Dr Seuss - the star bellied Sneetches. The story tells of two groups of creatures, identical to each other in every way except some have a star on their belly, and some don't. Those with stars are part of the 'in' crowd, thinking of themselves as superior to 'plain bellied Sneetches', who are shunned. Then one day, a man called Mr. Sylvester McMonkey McBean shows up in town with his 'quick star dream machine'.
For just three dollars, the machine can print a star on your belly, and you too can be part of the fashionable star bellied crowd. This infuriates the original star belled creatures, until the man shows them his 'star removal machine' - which for $10 can rid you of your star. And so ensues a period of heavy spending, with stars coming off and going on until the Sneetches are penniless, some with no stars, some with one, some with more, and McBean packs up his machines, and leaves a rich man.
The story draws obvious parallels to the cycle of fashion and how snobbery can make consumers victims of fashion. Stars on bellies, then no stars on bellies. One piece ski suits and flouro on skiers, then matching jackets and pants on snowboarders…spot any common themes here?
Those younger snowboarders who are getting into the sport seem to be extremely conscious of getting the right look, terrified of making a snowboarding fashion faux-pas. Should I lace up my boots or have the tongues hanging out? Should my trouser legs go over my binding high backs or inside them? Should my ass crack be visible from space or are drain pipes back in yet?
For me, snowboarding is not about fashion. It's about having fun with your friends, seeing new places and being amongst stunning natural terrain. For the sake of this article it's also about style. And style can only come from your riding, not your clothing. If you can ride well and can do so without a pretentious attitude - you've got my respect, whether you're a "thugged out gangsta" snowboarder, or an old school euro-carver in a flouro one piece suit.
Wear what you want, but don't fall victim to fashion, which is here today, gone next season. Instead - speak with your snowboarding.
Sam Baldwin is the editor and founder of SnowSphere Magazine. He also writes for Snowboard UK, White Lines, The World Snowboard Guide, Fall Line Skiing and Tribe Magazine. View Sam Baldwin's portfolio here.
FOLLOW UP: This article generated a lot of talk on various snowboarding forums, read what they had to say here: Snowboard Fashion article gets UK talking
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Baptism By Blizzard; Snowboarding Glenshee, Scotland