Ski Fashion Through the Decades
Fashion isn’t just something that one needs to worry about when at the office or out for a night on the town. Fashion is everywhere, including the mountains. In fact, different outdoorsy activities have their own sets of rules in terms of what is fashionable and what isn’t and we want to focus on ski fashion through the decades.
One of the areas of mountain adventure that tends to care more about looks than the others is snow sports, where those who fail to abide by the rules of style may be labeled one of the unflattering terms of “Jerry” or “Gaper.” To avoid being seen as not just a noob, but a noob who doesn’t know the rules of the hill, one must carefully cultivate a look that reflects their ability level along with modern trends. In the ski industry, style trends are constantly shifting though, and what was cool back in the day will cause you to get side-eyes in the park today.
In this article, we recount all the style trends in skiing that have dominated the mountain over the last decade. Here you will find the good, the bad, and the truly ugly. A short synopsis of today’s styles are also laid out, to help those new to snow sports look good even as they struggle to perfect their parallel turns on skis and heel edge turns on board.
Ski Fashion in The 1900s – 1940s
Lumping these five decades together skips a lot of the nuance of ski fashion that each has to offer. However, there is a simple reason why this can be done, which is that during the first half of the 20th-century ski fashion continued to rely on non-synthetic cloths such as wool, fur, and the densely threaded textile Burberry gabardine. Furthermore, the ski clothes of this period were not waterproofed for the simple reason that effective waterproofing technologies had not been invented yet.
It should be noted that over this 50 year time period that actual style and function of ski clothes did change dramatically. Just after the turn of the century women began to ski more frequently, and at first, were required to wear full-length skirts while hitting the slopes. By the 1910s women were wearing knee-length skirts, and by the 1920s it was acceptable to see them wearing trousers, although off the slopes this was still considered quite scandalous. Ski fashion continued to evolve over through the 20s, 30s, and 40s so that by the end of the first half of the century two-piece suits that placed emphasis on function and warmth had become the norm.
This decade saw a huge boom for the ski industry, as travel improved and the sport became more accessible to a wider segment of society. Polyester was invented in the 1950s, which became the fabric of choice for those hitting the slopes. Sweaters made of this material became quite popular. Today these sweaters would probably fall under the category of “ugly Christmas sweater”, but at the time they were the epitome of slope-side high fashion. This decade also saw the phasing in of goggles, and consequently the rise of goggle tans as well.
In the 1960s ski fashion became more streamlined and stylish. Spandex was invented during this decade, and slope-side clothing became much less bulky. Some see this decade as the epitome of high fashion within the ski industry. With looks that easily translate to modern day mountain style, this may very well be true.
During the 1970s ski wear got funky. Brightly colored outfits made of newly invented synthetic materials ruled the slopes and experimentation in clothes that had funky features like capes and zip-off sleeves became the norm. Although many of these trends have been dropped, this decade did give us some tried and true classics in ski wear, including the fleece mid-layer and the nylon jacket.
What’s better than brightly colored ski attire? Brightly colored ski attire in the form of a onesie of course! At least that was the mindset during the 1980s when geometric designs and animal prints also began to dominate. Today people love to hate the fashions of this decade, which can often be spotted as brightly colored blurs of irony heading down the mountain.
In the 1990s the ski fashions of the previous decade were tamed in some ways and in other ways… not so much. The loud neon colors remained, while the animal prints and legwarmers were kicked to the curb. Snowboarding and street fashion also started to execute more influence on the styles of the slopes.
During this decade ski wear generally began to become tamer. Furthermore, apparel technology had seriously leveled up by this point, so that weatherproofing and insulation did not mean one had to sacrifice style. The real standout looks of the 2010s came from the boom in park skiing and snowboarding. This was the decade of the long-tee and excessively baggy clothes.
Modern ski fashion has moved away from the baggy looks of the turn of the 21st century. Instead, the last nine years have seen a rise in super skinny pants that reflect the modern day obsession with skinny jeans. Speaking of jeans, snow pants styled to look like denim have become popular, although one should still never, ever be caught skiing in actual jeans. Camo and subdued colors are other modern looks that you might want to try out. Within snowboard culture, those at the top of their game are taking a lack of color to a whole new level and wearing nothing but black. This style trend is commonly referred to as being “murdered out.”
Generally speaking, modern skiers and snowboarders tend to have slightly different style preferences that reflect the distinct cultures of the sports. These style differences also reflect the differences in how one moves on skis vs. a snowboard, with skiers wanting a greater range of forwarding and backward movement, and snowboarders wanting longer jackets to protect their bums when they fall. As we approach the next decade these modern trends give insight into what the next iteration in ski fashion might be.