Ski wear through the years

Words: John Rakic
Photo credit: Getty Images/ Christoph Jorda

100 years of the best and worst celebrity fashion on the mountains

With winter beckoning and powder already beginning to settle, the time to hit the slopes and dust off the sticks is drawing ever nearer. Better yet, coupled with snow season is that rare oddity in the human social standard where one simply does away with his or her inhibitions, and willingly forgets everything about their well-crafted public image to don the most obscure of outfits.

It’s effectively casual Friday at its most extreme, skiers - more so than snowboarders - scouring the internet and stores alike for just the right mix of colour and flare to transform themselves into a human lure for a carefree couple of days. It’s a real chance for personality to shine, and with Ebay, Craigslist and now Facebook Market, it’s never been easier to match your taste to your retro stylings of choice.

Not that it’s always been that way, up until the 1970s there was a real sense of class to skiing attire. Though looking through the catalogue below, and by each decade’s respective standards, the ski wear was somewhat out-there by comparison. Even celebrities weren’t immune.

So as you ponder what look to rock this winter at your mountain of choice, take a gander through the gallery below and you might just find what you’re looking for.

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The spring of 1927, Switzerland. Only three types of people visit Switzerland during the colder months - thrill-seeking adventurers, movie villains and or celebrities looking to road-test their offshore banking accounts. We can’t say for sure that Ernest Hemingway wasn’t an investor, but one thing’s for certain he had a penchant for adventure. And he didn’t care what folk thought of him, brazenly wearing a high-waisted back support belt for performance. All that standing and writing must have taken its toll.


© Courtesy of: Pinterest/silverbluestar

The 1930s were the height of couture, pleats and embroidery taking ski fashion to new heights. And actress Sonja Henie captured it all in this still from the F. Scott Fitzgerald film, Everything Happens at Night. It was form over function.


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We can only assume it was a bluebird day, Norma Jean donning a high-neck sweater and cut-off bib as a 19-year-old in 1945. It was certainly a little out-there by early 1940s standards in a world consumed by war. Perhaps fabric shortages were responsible for the look. Either way, it was tame by the standard’s of Norma’s alter ego, Marilyn Monroe.


Post-war, the shackles came off the fashion industry and with the introduction of fast-drying nylon technology, stretchier material and brighter colours, ski wear began to become truly functional for the first time. The high performance garment industry was in its infancy. And like the comedy business with the addition of Lucille Ball, the accents got plenty more flare to them.


© Courtesy of: Flickr/Jordan Smith (The Pie Shops)

With the impending rise of counterculture, 1960s ski fashion went the whole scope of the spectrum from Princess Grace of Monaco’s cable knit sweater style of the early 1960s to the introduction of the matching mod couple - confirmation that mountain style was to become a law unto itself. It wasn’t a setback for performance wear, but fashion was more important than first.

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© Courtesy of: Pinterest via Katie LaBree

Thanks to the introduction of spandex in 1969, aerodynamics and performance wear took a big leap forward in the 1970s, with the invention of the mid-layer fleece a point of note. But it was a decade of experimentation with anything from a sleek Robert Redford to Abba in 1979. It was a sign of “brighter” things to come…


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And then the 1980s happened, when novelty became the norm and the form-fitting one-piece took hold. No one took to it better than Princess Di.

And even back then, president elect Donald Trump played the villain.

© Alpha Press

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Turns out, Lady Di was a serial offender. And Charles, Will and Harry weren’t spared. Check out those reflective Bolle lenses.

Even the late and great snowboard pioneer Craig Kelly wasn’t immune from fluoro.

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The new millennium saw the rise of the internet, video phones and celebrity culture, meaning to be seen on the slopes was to be seen looking like a futuristic coming together of cowboy and fly. Suffice to say, Victoria Beckham’s leather Chanel attire wasn’t built for performance.


© Getty Images/ Ryan J Lane

Be it Steve Jobs’ influence of subtlety by design - talking iPhone not turtleneck - or a big trend of designers borrowing from the past, this decade has been fairly subtle for the most part, function taking more precedence than ever.

But then this happened… God help us all.

© Greg Sirc

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