Swifter. Higher. Hipper?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 04:36 PM

Halfway into the first week of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, some athletes have already taken issue with the judging. But at these games, there is no discordant French judge at the center of the controversy. Instead, it’s the style police stirring things up.

Figure skater Johnny Weir has provoked two fashion-related confrontations. The first was between Weir and animal rights activists protesting fox fur in his costume. The second was between his fox fur costume and good taste. But at least Weir’s threads show ambition – unlike Kevin Van der Perren of Belgium, whose sparkly skeleton outfit looked like a four-year-old's Halloween costume from the 1980s.

Canadian American national hockey team goaltender Ryan Miller has also drawn ire – not for his play, but for the artwork on his helmet. During last night’s game between Canada and Switzerland, Miller was forced to cover the “Miller Time” logo on the back of his helmet with a large, white piece of tape. International Olympic Committee rules forbid “advertising, demonstrations, and propaganda,” and the question of whether Miller was promoting ice-cold refreshment or his own on-ice performance was too murky to resolve before Canada’s victory over the Swiss.

But perhaps the biggest style uproar of the 2010 Olympics is about the “anti-uniform” – the plaid jacket and faux-denim jeans worn by the U.S. Snowboarding Team. Designed by snowboard manufacturer Burton, the ensemble has raised some questions about the appropriateness of wearing jeans to a formal event, such as an Olympics medal ceremony. Burton defends the faded and torn look – the pants are actually made with waterproof Gore-Tex fabric – as representative of the snowboarder ethic, but at the same time thoroughly American.

Leaving aside the question of how true to snowboarder culture a mass-produced 'distressed' line of high-tech athletic wear may or may not be…I think the anti-uniform just looks cool. Snowboarding invigorated the Winter Olympics when it debuted as a medal sport four years ago in Torino in 1998 in Nagano. Now Snowboard Cross is one of the most exciting and most popular events of the games. The snowboarders are clearly doing something right. They probably deserve the benefit of the doubt – and a little room to experiment - in both sport and fashion.

- Mike Guerriero


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Comments [17]


It was not the fur that bothered me on Weir's outfit--it was the outfit itself. But it was preferable to Van der Perren's, by far.

I loved the U.S snowboard team's look. Fun and totally functional. I am looking forward to seeing how this look will affect street fashion next winter.

Feb. 19 2010 09:28 AM
Grays On Trays

Correction: Snowboarding made its Olympic debut at the 1998 games, not 2002 (first commentator) or 2006 (as the original post says). See, for example, this article from SI: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/olympics/events/1998/nagano/sports/oly_snowboarding.html

Before I became a snowboarder (at age 40), I too, took the cynical view of snowboarding as something the Americans invented so they could win Olympic medals. But actually, many snowboarders were initially AGAINST it being in the Olympics.

As for the uniforms, I'm in two minds on it. Yes, they look distinctly American. And they're in bad taste.

Feb. 19 2010 08:43 AM

I say, get that redneck out, and put someone unbigoted in. Geez man. They put as much power and precision into their sport as anyone else. Choosing to channel it expressively does not detract from the amount of skill they are showing. Why does a man who figure skates get called sissy and a woman who snowboards doesn't get called butch? Different sports will appeal to different crowds, but they all take astounding strength and dedication, and they all deserve respect for that.

Feb. 19 2010 12:16 AM

Thanks for the catches, cattyluvv and Grays On Trays!

Feb. 18 2010 11:45 PM

Tiny correction: Miller, a native of my hometown in Michigan, and alumnus of my alma mater, plays for team USA. Consider this nit picked. :-)

But otherwise... yes, the snowboarding pants rock, and that skeleton costume is lame. I could make something better on half a day's notice.

Feb. 18 2010 11:39 PM

I didn't realise the fur person was a dude until I noticed the fur and related it to the article, lolz. anyways the practise shouldn't be banned. funny stuff should never be banned.

Feb. 18 2010 08:46 PM

A TV host in Australia got in trouble for his comments on Johnny Weir's outfit.

Here's a quote:
Molloy - "They don't leave anything in the locker room those blokes."
McGuire - "They don't leave anything in the closet either, do they?"


Feb. 18 2010 08:24 PM

Johnny Weir is an attention whore for all the wrong reasons ... he used to be someone who lived his life out loud (which we all applauded), but now he just seems to scream with distaste. I'm over him as I think most people are.

Feb. 18 2010 07:37 PM

I love the Burton uniforms! Makes me wish Canada Snowboarding would get a little more creative with their drab black/white suits. The Olympics have always had a little bit of an issue attracting a younger demographic so I'm sure these stylish little touches can only help.

Feb. 18 2010 05:10 PM

loved it.
cool stuff!

Feb. 18 2010 03:23 PM

@ Johnny Weir... Is that really fur?? lol

Feb. 18 2010 01:47 PM

Ah, Olympiad fashion. Were I the head Olympic commissioner, everyone would wear a toga.

Even curling would look cool in togas. Figure skating would look like the Haunted Mansion. Ski jumping would look like angels launched out a cannon. Oh, man, and the summer games? Women's swimming would get a whole lot more popular once those sheets got wet, that's certain. The high dive would be more about trying to break the surface of the water without drowning than anything else.

Petition, people. Let's make this happen.


Feb. 18 2010 01:32 PM

I was confused by the "blue jeans" when I saw them the other night. nice to know they really are designed for snowboarding. and I have spent a lot of time laughing at the outfits on the ice skaters!
nice post!

Feb. 18 2010 01:12 PM
Jessica Rozitis

And let's not forget the Norwegian curlers pants from http://www.loudmouthgolf.com/

Feb. 18 2010 01:09 PM

Interesting post! I love the photos.
It seems this Olympics has been embroiled in more controversy and negativity than usual. I admit I have not been watching. This is due in part to my busy schedule, and part to my lack of enthusiasm ever since the terrible luge tragedy. In light of the serious life-long sacrifices these athletes make to train, compete and arrive at the games, it seems that raising a rukus over a few fashion choices is just plain pettiness. If all these athletes are "guilty" of is a little harmless self-expression and creativity, more power to 'em!

Feb. 18 2010 12:03 PM

GO For it!

Feb. 18 2010 11:46 AM
Harry elliott

I hear ya. Snowboarding culture is the hippest
and the coolest, and most American event by far.

A European immigrant remarked to me in 2002,
the first year that snowboarding became a medal
sport how that because the Americans couldn't
win skiing or other medals they invented snowboarding.
That says it all.

I collect a pension and social security and snowboard
too. Those Olympics inspired me to take the sport up
eight years ago. Now I belong to that club for
Seniors that shred "Grays on Trays."

As far as the men's figure skating, I think that
this is a sport that women appreciate,
and manly men don't want to have annything to do with.
I say, "get those sissy boys off, and put some
hockey on.

Last nights performance by Shaun White was
just effin sick. That 1260 McTwist was something
from the Matrix.

"Bones heal, but glory is forever."

Feb. 18 2010 10:32 AM

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