Ski clothes are officially in style again
Why ski style is soaring
Words— Marc Richardson
Photography— James Rosen
For a long time, skiing was somewhat antiquated. Snowboarding emerged as the “cool” winter pastime — the powdered equivalent of skateboarding. It was relaxed, whereas skiing seemed uptight; maybe that’s because when I was growing up, those who still skied did so über-competitively. As I grew older, though, it also became obvious that the clothes so often associated with skiing were mocked. At Igloofest, people made a point of unearthing the most kitschy ski outfits possible — toques with pompoms, bright neon one-piece snowsuits, goggles — in one of the very first instances of ironic dressing. It wasn’t considered fashionable per se, but rather an act of self-aware self-deprecation of our past selves and our parents.
As things stand right now, though, skiing is making an actual, honest to god, not entirely ironic comeback. If you’ve read those words with apprehension, fret not, it’s okay. The resurgence of skiing has gone somewhat unnoticed to most — perhaps that’s because it started during the warmer months, when people weren’t thinking about strapping their skis on and barrelling down perfectly powdered slopes or, more probably, because it has slowly seeped into many realms at once.
On the style front, there have been some rather obvious examples of skiing suddenly being cool. Consider the emergence of Salomon as the fashion world’s favourite footwear purveyor. At its roots, Salomon is a brand intricately linked to skiing and then, extreme hiking. Many of the boots and trail sneakers that have become insanely popular may not be directly linked to skiing, but, in an indirect way, they are. It’s cool to wear ski brands, suddenly.
That’s also true of The North Face which, on the whole, has enjoyed a resurgence in recent seasons. But, of particular interest has been the excitement surrounding some of the California-based brand’s Steep Tech line, which is considered by most to be one the most fashionable ski-specific collections of all time. Recent pieces on the history and cultural importance of The North Face have touched on Steep Tech’s legacy and a collaboration with Supreme has also helped boost the notoriety of TNF’s ski-focused wear.
More importantly, though, the influence of slope style — not to be confused with the Olympic Slopestyle event — has penetrated the wider fashion landscape, outside of core skiing brands like The North Face and Salomon. When you think about skiing, you might think about oversized jackets, matching pants, hats with fuzzy little balls attached to the top, or neon. Regardless of what specific detail comes to mind, there is an undeniable aesthetic that ties them all together. And elements of that aesthetic have been permeating throughout the industry in recent months.
Consider the revival of Prada’s vaunted Linea Rossa line, something of interest mainly to those who can justify — and afford! — spending thousands of actual dollars on a jacket. The line is, in theory, inspired by sailing, but, in practice, the Autumn/Winter 2018 collection is chock full of skiing staples: neon orange and volt green, matching jackets and swishy pants, slightly oversized fits.
From streetwear to the high fashion runways, the relics of ski culture are everywhere — though, admittedly, unwittingly so at times. The prototypical skiing colour palette, for example, appears to be the detail most popular at the moment. Purples and neon greens are, seemingly, everywhere — just like they were at ski resorts in the ‘90s and ‘00s.
Of course, this is particularly true in the colder months as the skiing aesthetic doesn’t really lend itself to much besides outerwear, knitwear and the occasional cold weather accessory.
But what gives? What has made it so that skiing, of all things, is suddenly enjoying a renaissance?
Well, for one, skiing is closer to hiking and mountaineering than snowboarding and, as we’ve outlined before, hiking has been enjoying something of a moment as of late. In that respect, perhaps skiing is benefitting from hiking’s popularity.
More importantly, though, is the simple issue of demographics — those who took up snowboarding in the early aughts have largely outgrown the sport. It was a novelty of sorts, representing a radical new way to tackle mountains, but that generation of snowboarders has since gone into full-fledged adulthood and left their dual-bound boards behind.
Skiing, on the other hand, is much more representative of the predominant millennial psychology that increasingly values experiences and the outdoors. Skiing — particularly backcountry skiing — allows people to discover parts of the world they wouldn’t otherwise be able to, even if they’re on a snowboard. There is a freedom that comes with having two independent skis, rather than a single board. Being outside is cool and refreshing. And, perhaps most surprisingly, today’s industry-shaping millennials are actually quite risk-averse and skiing is, on the surface, a much less risky endeavour than snowboarding is made out to be.
In some ways, then, it appears that skiing is representative of the millennial zeitgeist. A statement that would have seemed foolhardy and unlikely but a year or so ago.
Taken as a whole, skiing is cool because everything has peaked at the right moment. Ironic fashion is fashionable, rather than just being self-deprecating, which should open up a world of opportunities for those looking to channel their parents’ après-ski looks. Outdoor-inspired garments are all the rage, whether technical or nostalgic. And, on that last point, our current obsessions with archival fashions has meant the return of previously forgotten gems, like The North Face’s Steep Tech — or that off-brand colour-blocked skiing parka in your parents’ basement.