When Did Style Become Substance?

This morning we were sent a sample from Boing, a new trader selling “bands made from authentic, amazing coloured sailing and climbing rope, connected by a high quality tactile German engineered and Swiss finished clasp.” That’s bracelets to you and me. They retail at £20-£40 (yes, that’s right), and come in a whole range of colours and sizes, and if you want to go a step further and wear what looks like a hangman’s noose while you shred then you can get a neckband (necklace) for around £70.

Boing seem to be a part of a new trend that we’re noticing at the moment, probably best described as useless action-tat. A lot of the sport is about equipment, of course, and a lot of what we cover is to do with equipment, exactly because it has the potential to effect your snowboarding experience. First of all you want bindings, boots and a board that’ll stand up to the task. Then, if you have a bit more money you’ll probably want some decent clothing that isn’t trashed after one season, and going one step further you might want a GoPro or an ABS backpack. But the thing you notice about all of this kit is that you use it whilst actually snowboarding. Looking at the Boing press pack  they seem very keen to emphasise that it can withstand every element, including snow and ice, they don’t really bother to explain why you would want it to, or need it to. Of course I want a sturdy board, but I’m not that fussed about how hard I can shred before my bracelet packs in.

It looks like the only thing it does is identify you with the sport, a sort of talisman you can wear so you look like a hardcore backcountry powderhound while you work your day job, stocking the muffin section at Tesco. Now there’s always been a tradition like this in snowboarding, which is pretty similar to all action sports, and that’s clothing. Because sports like this are also lifestyles, companies have always been keen to sell the style as a part of the life. And they can get away with it when their products are built to purpose, or even when they just have a basic function: it can be as simple as a Quicksilver shirt that covers you up. When they fall down is if they start to take the piss and market stuff that does nothing at all and still tries to be a part of a culture based on actually doing something.

So now Boing and bunch of other brands have tried to find a way to sell the culture without the actual sport. They’ve made a durable piece of kit that does bugger all.

When did being conscious about style turn us into gullible targets for action-tat? And why are action sports so prone to this kind of marketing? Leave your comments below…


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