Why Snowboarding Style Is Making A Comeback
Mr Craig Kelly, 1992. Photograph by Mr Rod Walker
Why the rad and radical attitude of the counterculture sport still influences us today.
Snowboarding as we know it exploded into the American subconscious in the 1960s and 1970s thanks to pioneers like Messrs Sherman Poppen and Tom Sims, who wanted to surf and skate, respectively, on snow. But the evolution of the culture was not an easy ride.
Throughout the 1980s, snowboarders fought fiercely for their right to ride in the mountains. They were banned from most ski resorts and ostracised from other snowsports communities. Usually from surf and skate backgrounds, these ragtag trailblazers often came to the mountains with no proper cold-weather gear, opting instead to ride in their regular jeans and jumpers, which only alienated them more. It got so bad, pro-snowboarder Mr Tom Burt once told Huck Magazine, that snowboarders would actually be told to sit at the back of the bus on the way up to the slopes.
Then in the mid-1980s, in the film A View To A Kill, James Bond (played by Mr Roger Moore) uses a ski from a blown-up snowmobile to snowboard away on. It was a milestone for the sport, helping to take it to the masses. In 1990, the International Snowboard Federation was formed to protect and promote snowboarding as a legitimate sport, and its popularity soared. Snowboarders had won the fight for acceptance, maybe, but a deep sense of independence – a need to innovate and experiment, and a resentment for authority and a fierce camaraderie – was very meaningfully ingrained into broader 1990s pop culture.
Left: Mr Jeff Brushie, 1992. Photograph by Mr Trevor Graves. Right: Ms Janna Meyen, 1992. Photograph by Mr Jon Foster
This is the era of style (1986-1996) focused on in a new photo book, Snow Beach, curated by New York-based creative director Mr Alex Dymond – who lived through the movement himself. Leafing through the pages of bright, obnoxious colours, bleached hair, subverted brands, baggy cuts and awkward crops, it’s easy to see how the aesthetic – pure rebellion with a tribal crew mentality – has influenced wider fashion and culture ever since.
Today, as we continue to obsess over all things 1990s – with the imminent return of Trainspotting, and every third shoe on the pavement an adidas Gazelle – the Snow Beach style has never looked more contemporary. It could be the newest Vetements campaign or Mr Gosha Rubchinskiy lookbook. A Moschino-clad Mr Jeremy Scott wouldn’t look out of place in the background of a shot.
“[Back then it was] less about the brands and more about the punk DIY mentality of the outcast snowboarders,” says Mr Dymond. “For example, things like wearing McDonald’s beanies, or trucker hats from Domino’s Pizza, paired with Yankee jerseys and then bringing all of this on to the hill… The logo appropriations that were so popular back then is something you still see a lot of in modern-day skate/street culture. Right now, people are pretty 1990s obsessed, so I think pretty much all of it has endured...”
After the 1990s, snowboarding became a victim of its own success and the commercialisation of the sport killed take-up rates to a crisis point. But that downturn provoked some soul-searching within the culture, and now it’s happily reconnecting with its Snow Beach-era roots. Although Mr Dymond acknowledges there was a pre-internet rawness and urgency to the culture back then that would be hard to achieve now – “that sort of purity comes with a certain uniqueness that isn’t always easily replicated” – the spirit and cool of 1990s snowboarding is continuing to inspire and influence more than ever.
So how would Mr Dymond sum it up in three words? Easy, he concludes: “Your. Own. Rules.”