In the run-up to the Winter Olympics, You might have noticed a lot of pro snowboarders bigging up their sponsors, mostly on the same day. This was due to the so-called ‘Olympic blackout’; a period of time during which only official sponsors of the five-ringed circus can be celebrated (or even mentioned) by the athletes competing.
Snowboard manufacturers have it easy, relatively speaking; they may not get a mention in interviews or social media posts when their rider takes the gold, but when a base graphic is essentially a flying billboard pointed at the eyeballs of several million people, it’s not such a big deal.
For outerwear brands, on the other hand, it’s a pisser. The rider they’ve supported through thick and thin for an entire career may end up standing on the top step of the podium in someone else’s togs. We’re talking, of course, about national uniforms; most countries competing at the games provide a standardised get-up for their snowboard team.
"Here’s our take on each country’s efforts, ranked from 'shit' to 'actually, that's not bad'"
Often it’s tied in heavily with what the rest of the country’s representatives - be they bobsledders, curlers or short-track speed skaters - are wearing, with mixed results to say the least.
In some cases, countries have at least taken some consideration into the fact that snowboarding is not the same as figure skating or downhill skiing - or even freestyle skiing, for that matter - and provided something a bit more in tune with the roots of the sport. That’s the theory, anyway...
So what works, and what doesn’t? Now that we’ve seen the slopestyle riders, here’s our take on each country’s efforts, ranked from 'shit' to 'actually, that's not bad'.
While most nations have provided their athletes with a full wardrobe, covering everything from ‘Olympic village loungewear’ to ‘opening ceremony uniforms’, we’ll be focusing on what the riders are actually wearing on the hill.
Here’s the good, the bad and the abominable of Pyeongcheng 2018 so far - check back for updates as events progress.
8th - USA
The Americans were first out the blocks, dropping their latest get-up back in November.
It’s an evolution of sorts; we dubbed their Sochi look - scruffy, patchwork-quilted, Old-Glory-emblazoned - the ‘hobo astronaut’, and it appears that Team USA and Burton have responded with “we can go one better".
The pairing of the Big B with the Stars & Stripes has traditionally been in for some flak - there were the white pinstripes of 2006, and the luberjack-shirt-with-jeans look of 2010 - but this is the first time they’ve embraced a fully novelty look. A word of advice for the powers that be: not many people have their best ideas whilst browsing a fancy dress shop...
Don’t be surprised if the commentators can’t help mentioning it during the halfpipe. If you hear the words ‘blasting off’, ‘sending it to the Moon’, and ‘going into orbit’, then that’s a bingo!
7th - AUSTRALIA
It may not be quite as bad as what the Americans are in, but surely halfpipe medal contender Scotty James was pretty non-plussed when he saw the ski-instructor-esque get-up his countrymen had laid on for him.
Interestingly, Kent Callister and Emily Arthur opted for a different colour of pants, but Scotty went for the full matching suit. It is pretty on-trend these days, but we'd have recommended grabbing a different pair out the board bag.
6th - SOUTH KOREA
Another one-colour combo, and again, not a pretty one. The South Koreans were a pleasant surprise in the men's pipe qualifier, making the most of their home advantage, but it wasn't enough to distract from their Smurf suits.
Kappa, a brand we hadn't seem much of since the shopping centres of the late 1990s, are the culprits here.
5th - CANADA
In a lot of cases, national teams have revealed their Olympic outfits for press appearances, the opening ceremony and the like, without showing us what the riders will actually be wearing on the hill.
That's what we thought we were looking at when the Canadians debuted their latest five-rings gear. 'Yes, those wooly jumpers look cosy, but what's the outerwear going to look like?' As it turns out, this was the outerwear...
This year, as well as kitting out Team USA, Burton have taken the job for their neighbours to the north, and gone with a knitted look that attempts to pay homage to First Nations culture, but ends up reminiscent of a naff Christmas jumper.
Given how bastard cold it is in Pyeongchang right now, riders from other countries are probably really jealous.
4th - GREAT BRITAIN
adidas once again did the honours for Team GB, and while there is a dark blue jacket that may make an appearance in the Big Air, all three slopestyle riders in the men's event opted to just rock the red hoody.
It's not bad in itself, although the Union Jack on the arm does give it a bit of a 'Last Night Of The Proms' vibe...
3rd - JAPAN
White jackets are hard to pull off, but if you're as good as the Japanese team then you get a pass. Still, with the blue pants and that odd choice of font for the 'Japan' logo, it almost out-NASAs the USA team.
We're not sure about the flag-on-helmet approach, either. It looks like his GoPro mount has fallen off.
2nd - NEW ZEALAND
Perhaps it was the power of the All Blacks approach that did it for him? The fern on the leg is a bit much though.
1st - FINLAND
OK, on the face of it this is pretty boring - all black except white gloves, and a subtle Finnish flag on the arm.
However, it had the desired effect, even making even Rene Rinnekangas look vaguely intimidating. We've also awarded extra points for coach Antti Koskinen and his knitting needles, just because.
We'll have more Olympic uniforms after the women's slopestyle, and again after the halfpipe and Big Air events. Stay tuned.