The Evolution of Ski Fashion: From Skins To Spandex

by Travis McCullough | January 2, 2024

It could be argued that the terms ski and fashion don’t mix, like oil and water. What skiers wear on the mountain has always taken a queue from what was considered fashionable at the time, only with a little more flare or creativity thrown into the mix. From the outside looking in, it probably looks like a mish-mash of whatever was lying on the floor that morning, but this simply isn’t true. Let’s take a look at some of the most memorable moments in the storied history that is ski fashion.

The Turn Of The 20th Century

Early 1900s ski fashion looks like what you would expect from the sport all those years ago. The turn of the century could be accurately described as the era of the sheep. Skiers were known for rocking wool clothing from head to toe. 

Skiers, 19th century.

Men’s style (in the loosest sense of the term) was akin to something you might find in a Sherlock Holmes novel. Long wool jackets with thick woolen trousers were par for the course in those days. The only real difference between them and the fictional detective is a tobacco pipe hanging from their lips and an affinity for solving crimes. Remember, up until this point skiing was dominated by wealthy men, so making a flamboyant statement on the slopes wasn’t exactly the definition of a status symbol.

This was also right around the time that more women were taking up the sport. Queue the gigantic scarves, long skirts, and extravagant Sunday church crowns! Compared to what came before, this fashion was on the cutting edge. Today we still rely on wool blends to keep our feet warm, but how many times have you seen an ankle-length skirt made of wool on the lift?

The Times They Are A Changing

As the sport progressed through World War 1 and the great depression, ski attire continued to break social norms and incorporate top-tier technology. The era of the sheep was over, and the age of the goose had just begun. Goose-down jackets, clothing with zippers, and – brace yourself for this one folks – women’s ski pants! Now this may all sound incredibly underwhelming considering we walk around with a high-powered computer in our pockets every day, but at the time these things were unheard of.

Young Women enjoying skiing together in the mountains. European Alps, 1935.

Post WW2 ski fashion was still a far cry from what we see today, but this is when it really starts to make a little more sense than peacoats and skirts. Waterproofing, elastics, and polyester become the norm in most ski clothing. We are talking about plaid, flannels, and beanies as far as the eye can see. Think Kurt Cobain and the Seattle grunge scene of the 90s minus the good music.

The Neon Age

1980s neon ski onesie

Up until this point, ski clothing has been pretty baggy and dull in the color department, the 60s mark the beginning of brighter colors and tighter fits. Based on the social movements of the decade you might expect everyone to be covered in tye dye and have flowers in their hair, but not so much. It was the dawning of plastic boots and stretchy pants because nothing says aerodynamic like stretchy pants right?

The next few decades can be summed up by outfits that all but glowed in the dark. Onesies, neon jackets, and blue jeans were all the rage during this time, and this trend raged on through the nineties. Disco may have died but the neon fit lived on.

Modern Day Fit

Whereas ski fashion went from baggy to tight and aerodynamic as the 20th century progressed, the early 2000s looked like a snapshot from the past in certain respects. How baggy is too baggy you ask? Try jerseys and tall tees. If your top didn’t drape below your knees then it was entirely too tight, but at least the onesie was laid to rest except for special occasions like closing day.

Modern ski attire

Nowadays it’s not uncommon to find blindingly bright colors scattered across the slopes, but it’s not exactly like the psychedelic smattering of get-ups that it once was. In the information age ski fashion tends to favor function.

Final Thoughts

History tends to repeat itself, so it only makes sense that ski fashion will do the same. Will we see the return of loose-fitting and dull-colored clothing in 2030? Probably not, but we will just have to wait to see.

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