Baggy boarders need a Maria Bogner |

Baggy boarders need a Maria Bogner

Debonaire ski duds for 1940s men. (Willoughby Collection)

Why is snowboard fashion so boring? Unisex clothing is not sexy. Drab, colorless and shapeless oversized gear resembles military fatigues more than the colorful couture that ski fashion splashes across the slopes.

What’s with the grays and tans? My guess is that all snowboard clothing-designers reside in L.A. and think what’s good for skateboarders is great for boarders, just warmer. I am sure these designers have never seen snow. Anyone who studied color theory would know how great primary colors look against a white background. One would have to conclude that, unlike the ski fashion tradition of extroverts’ colorful clothing, boarders must prefer blending in a bland world.

A few daring dudes try to board in pants with a knee-high crotch. If you can’t walk in them, how can you board in them? Perhaps you get more exercise standing at the bottom of the lift, yanking your waistline so your pants don’t fall off altogether.

Maybe this is all a retro-fashion trend, a back-to-baggy basics movement. Male ski fashion in the 1930s and ’40s was not fashionable, just functional. Being athletic in winter called for warm and roomy duds. Oversized wool garments worked well. Today’s Gore-Tex and similar fabrics emulate wicking wool.

Ski boots of the 1940s rose barely above the ankle. Pants did not have to flare out at the bottom to stretch over those small boots. Instead pants tapered from baggy at the top to narrow at the bottom. Skiers could improvise a suitable ski outfit from clothing hanging in the closet. Pants were not “ski pants,” they were warm pants used for skiing. The first innovation to “ski” pants was the addition of a stirrup at the bottom to keep the pants from riding up when you bent your knees.

If you had money and wanted to make a splash on the slopes, you could buy clothing made for skiing, but choices in the 1930s and ’40s were few. Slalom Ski Wear from Newport, Vt., was a popular choice. The company advertised “trail-tested designs and fabrics,” meaning they were water-repellent. The dominant brand was White Stag’s “ski togs,” featuring water-repellent poplin pants. “White Stags are designed by skier-stylists for complete ski-worthiness,” the Oregon manufacturer claimed.

Every skier had at least one aunt or grandmother who knitted. Thick wool socks, sweaters and mittens multiplied in skier’s dressers. Owning more than one pair of mittens meant you could trade them when one got wet. Canvas and leather mitten covers kept hands from getting wet, but most important they provided more friction for the rope-tow grip. Wool for skiers seemed to come in only a few colors: primary, black or white. The snowflake and reindeer pattern, white on red, was the most popular sweater style.

Maria Bogner rescued men from decades of drabness. In 1950 she and her husband, Willy, opened a plant in an old sauerkraut factory in Munich to make gabardine ski pants. Maria introduced red, beige, royal blue and brown colors to spice up the traditional black, navy and gray. In 1952 the Bogners revolutionized ski fashion by introducing stretch pants, an innovation first used by racers to avoid the aerodynamic drag of flapping, baggy clothing.

Imagine colorful, sexy snowboarder clothing. That could boost the sport in the same way stretch pants, quilted parkas and Moriarty hats of all possible colors catapulted skiing in the 1960s.

Where are the Willy and Maria Bogners of the snowboard universe?

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