Getting Inspiration from Vintage Ski Attire

For quite a long time, I’ve been finding inspiration from modern sources, say from Drake’s or Bryceland’s.  In this article, we go back to the past for some ideas and style cues.

It’s been a while!

Just a note: I started writing this right before LA was hit with COVID-19 quarantine policies.

Introduction

I thought that I had gathered nearly everything I wanted from vintage inspiration, at least in terms of tailoring.  For real life imagery, I sourced pictures of Jimmy Stewart, Fred Astaire, and other Golden Era men; I even looked at casual photography thanks to Florian of Golden Era Suits(the best tumblr for this type of inspiration).  Then for everything else, I saved Apparel Arts illustrations and old advertisements, since they usually gave something a bit special that wasn’t always photographed.

Then I got into workwear and milsurp, so then the sourcing began again. This time, it involved a lot more modern guys (like Brycelands) due to the fact that I didn’t want to go too far into LARP territory. The fact remains that I still love tailoring and like to add in those cues whenever possible. So I might have a picture of Japanese guy wearing selevedge denims and a workvest with a sack-jacket next to a old 1940’s guy wearing a leather jacket and a fedora with huge boots.  Eventually I simply just moved onto sourcing contemporary guys/brands for my archives and thought that my days of Googling and Tumblring vintage pics was done.

That was until I realized that there was one aspect of vintage wear that I hadn’t really dived into: ski/alpine wear.  This isn’t really all that new, as I’ve always a few of the looks in my head, but this is the first time I decided to dive deep into it.

So as a guy who likes tailoring with a bit of milsurp/workwear vibes, vintage ski wear (specifically from the 1930s-1940s) is perfect. It literally combines the rugged outerwear fascination of workwear with the refinement of some pieces from classic tailoring, becoming almost similar to how students approached ivy-style (or at least the casual variation of it).

It’s crazy that I haven’t talked about this before, outside of a few references, but I think that’s because skiing wasn’t really much of an American thing. The few times that I did see vintage photographs or illustrations come up, they were mainly posted by European enthusiasts, where casual cross country skiing was a hobby. Whenever I think of American skiwear, I tend to think of vibrant nylon jumpsuits and puffer jackets. I’m not sure what eventually made me decide to look more into it recently, but after seeing one or two odd pictures, I decided to say fuck it and see where the Google algorithm took me. And it was glorious.

Obviously, the main reason why everyone looks so “dressed up” with button up shirts, sweaters, and pleated wool trousers (some wore ties!), it’s because there really wasn’t the concept of “sportswear”. To the people in the Golden Era, sportswear was simply clothes that weren’t formal or business wear. Ergo, sweaters, odd trousers and blazers, and fun shirts were all for casual use, though some jackets (like gab or leather ones) were meant for “sporting use”.

There are a lot of things to love about the style. Firstly, in the overall proportions, with the high waist and wide leg, pleated trouser.  This was the gold standard of the Golden Era and something we see analogies to today; it also contrasts against the slimmer aesthetic of ivy, which has captured my attention the past year. It’s nice to return to the roots.

In fact, I think the whole look emphasizes the high position of the waist due to the heavy use of short jackets.  Unlike many casual jackets today, everything back in those days was meant to end near or very-slightly past the natural waist.  The result of a loose top coming in at the waist then going back out through pleats is a very slimming aesthetic that makes the attire look elegant, despite being casual “sportswear”.

Even the design of the jackets are cool. Some follow traditional leather jacket designs, with a point collar and generous ribbing, while others were a bit more . You could see peacoat-esque designs with layers of buttons or even anoraks with hoods and a multitude of pockets. I think the reason why I love it so much is that these were designed before the milsurp craze of the 1950s-60s, so they aren’t too far into military or even workwear vibes. It was its own thing!

And no, I don’t think barbours work for this. But maybe a mackinaw!

Another aspect of this was the generous use of tucking, especially in regards to sweaters. I’ve always preferred to tuck in my shirts, not just because it looks more “formal” but because I love to emphasize the high waist of a classic trouser.  It (again) makes the wearer look more slim and streamlined.  In addition to the style cues, the tuck also provides some practical uses like keeping you warm and ensuring your skin doesn’t touch the snow or get exposed to the sun when frolicking around. Both men and women did it, resulting in a very androgynous look that I quite enjoy.

I also love the generous use of runaway collars but done over sweaters (both V-neck and crew) which give us a delightful period affectation. While some guys did like wearing knit/wool ties, sometimes you can’t just beat the casual louchness of an long soft collar running wild. There’s also heavy use of the menswear beret and a love of vibrant colors for fun.

Overall, it really just was a nice way to be casual without defaulting to milsurp or workwear, but keeping slightly tailored at the same time; again there’s the connotations to ivy-trad creep up. It really mixes that ski-lodge/camping attire mixed with exploration and utilitarian fashion, to make something new: that’s the cool thing about this Golden Era ski/alpine wear.  It’s uniqueness to me could (again) simply be due to the fact that this was a more of a European affectation rather than an American one (let’s not forget that even Europeanleather jackets were more interesting than American ones). It’s casual and sharp vintage style without defaulting to the typical Rockabilly clothing.

Great variety of jackets and knitwear here!

Gurkha shorts? Yes!

Again, great variety of sweaters and jackets.

DAMN.

European ads had the best style.

Short jackets, pleated high rise trousers, berets.  So good.

TUCKED.

Great anorak.

Colors are great!

Superb jacketing. See how they’re not technically a work jacket or a peacoat?

Belted outerwear and sweaters are good.

Can’t forget the use of fun sweaters!

Bout time we had some vintage Asian inspo!

Anoraks and longsleeve knits!

Yellow is quite popular, huh?

That belted middle jacket is bonkers.

Wide ribbing and a wide point collar!

Checked spearpoints are a must.

I’m not sure which one is better: the tucked anorak or the plaid short jacket with the military-esque fastening.

Simple, but cool.

Adapting The Look

With all style cues, it’s not about simply getting all the pieces and recreating the look exactly, but rather to find out what you can gather from it and apply it to your own style.  I wasn’t about to start collecting random ski attire; it’s rare and I live in LA, so I would never have the ability to wear it. Sure, I may have gotten a few new pieces, but because my wardrobe is pretty much classic menswear, it was bound to come together.

The result was a few looks that I think approximate the 1930s ski/alpine look and creates a vintage casual vibe that isn’t too rockabilly, isn’t milsurp, and isn’t workwear.  And upon sourcing pictures, I even found that I had done similar looks in the past (which you can tell from being beardless-Ethan).

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So one of the clearest ways I was able to do the vibe was by simply wearing a vintage short-jacket with some high rise corduroy trousers. If this were worn with denim, it would definitely be a different look, but the use of something a bit more tailored provides a new, slightly dressier context that works for the ski vibe I’m looking for. The navy is also a natural pair for the orange jacket.  Chukka boots were picked because I liked the minimal silhouette compared to my Alden tankers, but any boot other than a chelsea was fine.

The orange jacket really is the star of the show here. I got it from a seller at Zebulon for $40 and it’s an oddity! Most noticeably, it’s incredibly short and ends exactly where my high rise trousers begin. There wasn’t any ribbing, but the sleeves utilize an elastic to stay in place while the hem relies on a literal drawstring. I love the wide collar points, raglan sleeves, and the side patch pockets, though I am unable to #pocketfist. There are no tags or material labels, but it feels like made of cotton!

Based on simple aesthetics, it looks like the jacket was from the 1930s or 1940s. Based on how short it is, it could be that the jacket was meant for the woman, but because it’s definitely a full cut, you could make the case that it was a man’s piece.  When I talked to the other people at the flea market, they assumed it could be a ski-wear piece or at least made in that style, which further intrigued me (and later put me on the path to this blog post). It’s tricky to wear, but thats what makes it perfect for vintage ski-inspired casual attire.

I feel like all I was missing was some gloves, a pair of skis, and maybe a beanie or beret?

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A jaunty scarf helps give it that rakish relaxation vibe that we saw from many of the old photographs. It also makes the look a bit more interesting!

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This one was born out of that iconic picture of a guy wearing a white anorak tucked into some green pants. Instead of those pieces, I wore a 1950’s white pullover sweatshirt (a new favorite of mine) and tucked it into my trusty M43 Army pants; my tanker boots made a return.

I know this one leans more military than ski/alpine, but I hoped the vibes were there! The tucked pullover to me echoes the white anorak as well as the count sweater and knitwear options worn in the photographs.  The striped tee approximates the boldly patterned shirts and scarves.   The pants with their giant cargo pockets and wide fit helps bridge the gap between utilitarian clothing and the clean lines of tailored wool pants.  So even if the original vibe isn’t there, the pieces help make it something interesting that isn’t really milsurp (even if it sorta slides that way).

This is probably one of my favorite looks from the bunch! I’m looking forward to doing more with the pullover.

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A short jacket with a turtleneck under a checked flannel gives off that cool ski vibe (as well as being a bit ivy).

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Now even if you don’t lean fully into the casual with cargo pants, anoraks, and short jackets, you can still get the same vibe with regular tailoring  by simply adhering to the tucked knit. I find that it works best with crewnecks due to it’s more “closed up” nature that is good for cold weather, though a nice v-neck is equally as interesting and good for a vintage look. Bonus points for letting long collar points (on a spearpoint or sport shirt) peak out instead of stay in; when they’re left in, they feel too much like a dad look.

The tucking also helps that since most of my long sleeves are modern and therefore are a bit long, so a tuck helps keep it from looking sloppy! Almost all my crewnecks are cable knit (made of cotton though), so the visual texture they provide again lends itself to be used in ski/alpine inspired attire.  I also tend to prefer vibrant sweaters, since they look wonderfully whimsical with a touch of ivy-prep.

Couldn’t you just see the outfit above being worn by some dude casually trudging the slopes in the 1930s?

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An oldie, but a goodie!

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Chunky split toes help give it that rugged aesthetic while still being tailored.

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Sweater vest tucked in with a fairly dark outfit.

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Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the anorak.  I got this from my friend Doug who is one of the best vintage pickers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing; it was too big for him so he passed sold it to me. I honestly haven’t worn it much, since I prefer wearing a coat in more inclement weather, but it’s nice to break out every once in a while!

I don’t know much other than it’s Swedish from around the 1950’s, but I’m in love with the details. The hood, button placket, big chest pockets, and draw string waist are all super cool that make the piece interesting; the off white color is also perfect.  Now obviously it’s great to wear with an OCBD and chinos/loafers for an ivy look, but I’m much more intrigued by how it works with a turtleneck or with fuller cut trousers in order to make it more “ski chic”.

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Short jacket, short V-neck sweater, tie, and beret? Very vintage ski/alpine.

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Another simple look with the orange short jacket.

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MJ gets it.

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Not tucked, but the color palette and shirt choice are definitely inspired!

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So this is an old piece which you’ve probably seen before on the blog, but it’s worth mentioning here because I firmly believe I bought this to dabble into ski/alpine look years ago! It’s a Levi’s belted corduroy coat that looks basically like a safari, but because of the material, has a different nature to it.  To me, it’s more rustic than a safari but not as rugged to be a workwear coat; it fits the vibe of this article very well.

I’ve worn this jacket with a couple of different things, whether it’s with a sportshirt and solid cream scarf to a oxford spearpoint and fun tie.  For some reason, a beret seems the most appropriate to me, since it gives the outfit (regardless of the pieces) a European flair, which wouldn’t be possible with a knit cap, at least in my eyes. I haven’t worn this piece as much as my anorak in recent memory, but it’s still nice to bring about.

Overall, it really just goes to show that there’s something special about belted outerwear.  It’s casual and slouchy, but can be messed around to give a fun vibe.  Personally, I think it’s great for this ski/alpine vibe, especially when it’s made of cord or something fun and checked like a mackinaw; no need for Barbours here!

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Casual “suit”? (worn during isolation)

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The ski-style may not be Daniel’s first thought, but I think it fits right in here.

Conclusion

In this little niche of classic and vintage menswear, I’ve found that men tend do default into certain things. When they like to dress up, it’s Italian or Golden Era inspired. And when they dress down, they like workwear, milsurp, or ivy.  And while I’ve definitely fallen into that “trap” (if you like it, go for it), I still felt like I wasn’t being true to myself. After all, even when I’ve been casual, I’ve been more dressed up than Spencer, who has firmly planted himself in the workwear/casual camp. Was there a source of inspiration that I could take from that worked for me?

Enter in the ski/alpine style from the 1930s-1940s (not the crazy jumpsuits or puffer jackets of the 70s-90s).  It’s tailored yet rugged, which is perfect for me.  I especially like the fact that it stems from specifically designed pieces rather than repurposing of workwear or militaria, which helped me form it’s own space in my mind.  To me, it’s got elements of ivy-prep as well as utility and a bit of European styling all in the mix.  It also has a fair bit of vintage explorer vibes without looking too much like Indiana Jones.

Obviously I’m not going to be wearing this on the slopes or hiking in the mountains, but it’s nice to take some of the styling cues to my everyday wear! For example, I like using short jackets (that aren’t too workwear focused) to be worn with tailored odd trousers to emphasize the high waist.  I like wearing vibrant pullover, close fitting sweaters and tucking them into my pants, allowing my collar points to peak over (a period look).  I love the use an anorak or a belted jacket to be worn outside of ivy style and a louche safari look, respectively. Checked spearpoint shirts and jaunty scarves are right in my wheel house. And you know I love a good beret.

So hopefully you gain some inspiration from everything in this post! The vintage ski/alpine style has been one of my small obsessions as of late, and I’m glad I finally took to dive deep and write about my love for it.  It may not be something I’ll wear every time I’m not in a suit or in ivy, but the vibe will certainly be in my mind proper!

Always a pleasure,

@EthanMWong

7 comments

  1. Steve Hunter · March 29

    Immense labor. Much appreciated even if I’ll never tuck in a sweater or wear a beret in mylofe!

    Like

  2. M.B. · March 29

    I noticed you used pictures from the Adventures of Tintin in this article and reference the topic during your podcast occasionally. In the future, you should an write an article (and/or podcast) about the menswear in Tintin. Keep up the new content, I always love reading it.

    Like

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