If you ever happen to find yourself in Tokyo and you’re looking to buy snowboard gear you will end up in the district of Kanda, because every single snowboard shop in Tokyo is in that district. In fact every single snowboard shop in Tokyo can be found in a small area of Kanda called Jinbocho, all one on a single street called Yasukuni Dori. Go there and you’ll find 40 snowboard stores all right next to each other, all selling snowboard gear at exactly the same, suspiciously high prices.
The one other thing all these stores have in common is that they all stock the same snowboard gear that you’ll find if you walk into any snowboard shop anywhere in the world, a selection of US and European brands dominated by Burton. Great news for the established brands but not so good for diversity, and as a result if you run into a snowboarder from any country in the world they might look different, talk oddly and eat very strange food, but they will be wearing and riding pretty much the same stuff as you.
There is however one country that does things different, a country that has a whole array of snowboarding brands producing some pretty unique gear that you’re not going to find anywhere else...South Korea
Here are some of the brands we found after blindly stumbling around the Korean language internet...
Massive hoodies, massive jackets and massive pants, basically they aim to satisfy all your massive apparel needs.
Another purveyor of colourful oversized hoodies.
Oddly Acefuzz have sponsored a team of riders in Banff Canada called the Hoodshit Crew...
And you’re probably sensing the start of a trend here, Bubblegum produce oversize colourful hoodies, including some nifty asymmetric cuts.
Now we’re really going niche in the world of massive clothing. Gfrog provides exclusively for folks with dodgy tashes that like biting girl’s arses.
So clearly Korea is not short on companies selling t-shirt and hoodies, but if you are looking for other types of colourful snowboarding gear you are also in luck because there are a number of bigger brands out there who are happy to help including...
One of the bigger South Korean brands producing clothing and hardgoods for men, women and children. It’s all pretty colourful stuff, but our favourite is the rainbow-leopard jacket.
Sugapoint offer a wide range of clothing and to help the fashion conscious Korean snowboarder out they've even provided a handy style guide to help people dress themselves.
Another of the bigger brands and their main standout is that they employ some of the finest Korean posers.
And if you are looking to finish off your outfit there are few companies specialising in colourful accessories...
These guys concentrate on colourful underwear and accessories including these huge shoelace belts.
Masters of ass protection
Like every possible sales opportunity in Asia the Hello Kitty marketing behemoth gets in on the snowboarding action, producing these goggles.
A Quick Guide to Korean Snowboard Fashion Trends
Do you also want to look like a Korean snowboarder? Here’s five things you need to do:
It pretty much goes without saying that this is the major trend in Korean snowboarding. Find the brightest coloured garments and gear you can and rock them all at once in one blazing multicoloured ensemble.
Another huge trend you might think, but in fact the photos are a bit misleading, the trend is for ordinary sized clothes and the South Korean snowboarders are just very tiny people.
Ineffective Snowboarding Clothing
In Korea they don’t limit themselves to wearing practical snowboard gear like anyone else in the world would, so don’t let yourself be limited by stuffy convention. Feel free to wear anything as long as it’s vaguely snowboard themed.
No one protects their asses quite as much as the Koreans. Get some. This is an advert is for a "Women-only cute protector".
If you are going to wear some fly gear, get your pose on. This is something done in the rest of the snowboarding world but the Koreans are true masters of the art.
Seriously, What’s Going On?
Thanks to the power of protectionism it’s very hard work to import foreign goods into Korea. As a result there is an opportunity for local businesses to supply the market with cheaper equivalents and that’s why there are so many Korean snowboard brands. Japan by comparison, the world’s second largest economy and the country with the most ski resorts per person in the world, has no significant home-grown snowboard brands.
Great idea you might think, but unfortunately because these companies grow up without international competition their stuff usually ends up being overpriced, a bit shonky and as we’ve seen here a bit too specialised to the local market. Despite their advantage at home, when Korean firms try to export to other countries they often struggle, so don’t expect to see any of this stuff round your local store anytime soon.
Lastly, a few other interesting things we found on our virtual travels
If Korean Vogue is anything to go by, Korean snowboarding fashion should get even stranger in the future.
And if the snowboarders look strange then the skiers are even stranger. Here’s a picture we found as we were trawling the Korean internet that was simply titled “Miss Bongpyeong and penis-showing"
A bunch of other Korean brands that are just as colourful that we didn’t cover...
- Ydooh Jungle
- Smile Baba
This feature first appeared on the excellent blog Illicit Snowboarding. If you haven't checked it out before, you really should!