As I have said before, I consider fashion to be a trick played by good looking people on the ugly. Hordes of fat, frizzy-haired wannabees spend a fortune each year in high street stores desperately trying to emulate the taller, musclier, more cheekboned special people. All they end up doing is wearing dumb shit that makes them look uglier, whilst the hotties strut around looking incredible, despite wearing bin bags.
In snowboarding terms, the trick is being played by the elite shredders on the tindy-grabbing masses, and I think this year we reached peak “emperor’s new clothes" as sideways snow steez went full douchebag.
If you scan back through time, there have been a number of questionable fashions in snowboarding. The early pioneers in neon looked pretty dumb, the extremities of grungy bagginess in the mid-nineties were beyond ridiculous, and the pattern / pattern combos that puked onto the scene in the noughties were a low point.
But the difference between ill-informed fashions of the past, and those of today, is that snowboarders were at least trying to look cool. What has amazed me over the last couple of years, is that snowboarders have lustily embraced fashions which actively make them look more like kooks and beginners.
It all started with mitts...
Now, there was a time when wearing a pair of mitts was deeply uncool. Mitts were worn by 6 year old kids in ski lessons, or streaky teenagers who had just hired a board for the day with rubber bits on the end. The bigger and puffier the mitts, the more dorky.
Then, probably about 6 or 7 years ago, some people who could actually do tail grabs and land frontside 360s without reverting started wearing mitts.
There is a well-trodden pattern whereby creative people who pursued their dreams and thus haven’t got much money are forced to buy whatever is cheap / live wherever it is cheap. Because these people are cool, other people who are not cool copy them. And thus before you know it, you have bankers living in Dalston and riding on bikes with no gears.
I suspect that a similar economic necessity forced a group of Californian sofa-surfing committed shredders to raid the bargain bin at the end of the season, and they will have found that they could keep their hands warm for a fraction of the price if they were willing to wear the big puffy over-the-wrist mitts that would have hitherto only been seen on douchebags / skiers / their granddad.
The moment they hit the park, and started landing back lips and doubles, their skills immediately endorsed the mitt as a legitimate hand-warming form-factor. Several years later, anyone who is anyone is now rocking mitts, thereby reversing billions of years of evolution which found that fingers are actually quite useful, provided they are not all stuck together like seal fins.
Perhaps emboldened by the subsequent adoption of their douchebag chic by the everyman snowboarder, these very same shredders decided to push the boundaries of what they could get away with, by embracing all things dork in their sartorial choices (and thus saving a fortune in the process). As a consequence, snowboarding fashion has now mutated full circle to make beginners look like style icons.
Next up: Sunglasses being worn with helmets.
Sunglasses with Helmets
This was at one time the ultimate punter Mom-look. On holiday during half term, concerned about head injuries having read something about Liam Neeson’s wife in the Daily Mail, Mum buys helmet and dons it in conjunction with the shades she normally wears sailing. Now, in fact, a legit look in the spring-time park.
Highly practical, and as a consequence chosen by parents for their infants and skiing septogenarians who are concerned about “getting a chill" the world over. They keep the snow from going down your crack, have lots of pockets to keep things in (such as your mother’s telephone number, or cream for your piles), and can easily be slipped off when you need to go for a poo.
Because of their proximity to dungarees, they are the fashion equivalent of a kids TV presenter doing a double thumbs up before jumping onto a brightly coloured bean bag and therefore have, for many years, been undoubtedly the single most most dorky thing you could wear on the slopes. Perversely, now adopted by elite snowboarders around the globe as the central component of the douchebag-chic look. The bargain bin must have been completely bare in the spring of 2013.
Trousers rolled up over boots.
Yes, just like the kid on an Easter school trip who has borrowed his dad’s old gear, only to find that the legs of his all-in-one are too narrow to fit over the rental ski boots - snowboarders have resorted to rolling up their "pants" so they sit atop the boot. This is perfect if you want cold shins, or are keen to get snow into your boots. Or look like one of the planet’s best rail slayers.
I am still completely baffled by this, but I suspect it has mutated from the skinny-jean wearing aesthetic of the park rat (such jeans being impossible to get over your boots, but are highly aerodynamic and show clearly if you dress to the left or right). It is perhaps the piece de resistance of the douchebag-chic look, as it is also still very much the steez for first-timer kids in ski lessons.
Again, the stomp pad was once the preserve of the punter who was worried about looking like a dick on drag lifts and couldn’t trust his rear foot to stay on the board during the ascent.
A stomp pad was also the kind of thing that your gran might buy you for Christmas when your mum told her that you were a snowboarder, and she looked in the Snow and Rock catalogue for “snowboarder gifts for under £15". Meanwhile, proper snowboarders sniggered in the lift queue.
Stomp pads are now all over shreds’ boards, and have gone walkabout all the way to the rails, nose and tail so that your hand doesn’t slip off mid 1080. Punters are now looking very confused as they see proper snowboarders getting onto drag lifts, expecting the cool kids to be putting their rear foot right at the back of their board.
Only total dicknoses still think you need actually need a leash to be allowed on the hill, as they have been reading the “Top 10 essentials for ‘boarding" listicle that was actually written in 1991, when it was still normal to ride in hardboots with release-able bindings.
Airblaster, the fun-time brand (Travis Parker is a hero of mine), went early and hard with douchebag chic when they created the "ironic leash / leg pouch" a few years back. It fitted perfectly with their "we don't give a crap about being cool, we just want to have fun" positioning, but there is now a 113% correlation between people wearing leashes and salopettes. The douchebag double-up now actually makes them look like they are trying really hard to be cool.
I just want to re-iterate that I am all for fashion and the youth fucking up the status quo to drive the sport forwards. Without people a lot younger than me constantly innovating and tearing up the templates for what is cool, there would no snowboard industry and we would all still be wearing neon. I am not anti-steez...because whilst thug rugs, tie-dye coats and fishing/bucket hats could be considered pretty daft, they are worn with the laudable ambition of looking different from punters, which is entirely normal behaviour. Every subset of humanity from rockabillies to ramblers wants to create its own visual identity, and set itself apart from the rest of us. So I get it...but I can’t quite understand why the cutting edge of shred fashion has suddenly spurted off in the direction of the beginner slopes?
So if this trend continues apace, what next?
Bum bags. Not yet properly “back", but just a matter of time. Useful for keeping your keys and wallet in if you are wearing super tight pants.
Having your bindings pointing inwards. Surprisingly common mistake amongst idiots on the slopes. How long before shreds start proving their mad skills by riding with their legs buckling together like Forrest Gump?
Jester hats. The zenith / nadir of douchebag chic. I am pretty certain I have seen a web clip where a proper snowboarder was rocking this look (doing laybacks into slushy snow and riding over corrugated pipes). Just the one though.
Integrated helmet and goggle combos. Good snowboarders could instantly look like Russian tourists if they wanted to. Trouble is these are massively expensive, so won’t be in the bargain bin any time soon. Unless the oil price collapses even further and properly bankrupts the Russian economy.
Falling over a lot. I think this might have actually already been adopted by the Helgasons.