We’re racking our brains trying to think of another sport which has so sartorially declined as much as skiing has. We're not pointing any fingers, but since the 1970s, the equipment – and consequentially the fashions – of the slopes have evolved beyond all recognition, thanks in part to a cultural shift towards a professionalisation of sports apparel, leading to the broad adoption of hi-tech synthetic fabrics by Olympians and weekend schussers alike. But in recent seasons, we've seen a wave of nostalgia carve a new line in skiwear. Brands like Alps & Meters, who take their cue from the traditional use of wool on the early twentieth century slopes, and the retro-inspired Fusalp both nod to the days when one could ski straight into the Gstaad Palace in your slope garb and not look out of place at the bar. We look back at the origins of some of the familiar ski style trends that are beginning to influence slopes styles today.
The Origins of Ski Style
We could go way back, of course. Back two thousand years, when our distant ancestors strapped bits of wood to his, or her, feet and took a chance down the mountain. But the ski styles upon which we look back fondly on, and which flourished more across the Alps than in the United States, began in the early twentieth century and hit their peak by the mid-century, spearheaded by a flourishing jet set. Male skiers of those early years could not have imagined Gore-Tex and flurovisors as they padded themselves with knitwear and fur. The likes of Cary Grant and Errol Flynn would have worn wool (and more wool), layering sweaters and scarfs and then tucking them into trousers. Wool socks were then stuffed into leather hiking boots, ready for a trek up the Dolomites once the piste hit a dead end. Flat caps were fashionable in the 1920s. For American gentlemen, vintage ski-styles were based on rustic Old West aesthetics (this style came to an abrupt hockey stop in 1936, with the introduction of the first quilted goose-down jacket). After the war, it was the Europeans - hailing from centres of haute couture - who brought with them the slim-fitting roll necks, woolly hats, and scarves that made skiing every bit a showman’s sport.