Ski fashion: Rainbow of color headed down slopes

12/23/2013 7:05 AM

12/23/2013 7:06 AM

Bright is the new black when it comes to colors and styles for snow bunnies to look their best on the slopes.

The move to color in winter-sport outerwear follows a trend seen in clothing for other active pursuits, such as running, rock climbing and cycling.

Part of the color revolution is driven by safety since it’s easier to spot a bright color in dim winter light, and there’s a fashion factor, too, but there’s also a little flamboyance and fun at play, say experts.

“On the ski slopes, there’s a chance to be a little wild and crazy,” said Nancy Taylor, Athleta’s senior director of design. “It’s a lighter atmosphere than your everyday life. Color takes any seriousness out of it.”

Liz Braund, the product director for outdoor apparel at The North Face, sees the rainbow as a sign of the times. “The hunger for color right now is showing that the economy is picking up. People are less inclined to stick to buying staples – and the black jacket is a staple.”

The SnowSports Industries America trade group doesn’t have much that could be called basic on its list of outerwear fashion trends for the season. Instead it touts primary colors, neon, electric florals and colorblocking, among others.

Men’s best-sellers at North Face include royal blue and an acid yellow that’s particularly popular for lining and trim. Women are into clashing brights, like turquoise paired with a yellow-tinted green, Braund reports. At Athleta, coral pink and mint green are outpacing the more traditional red and green.

Bold hues play off the white background of snow, making them look even better than they might elsewhere, Taylor adds.

And, once you’ve had bright, Braund says, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll go back to boring. It’s something North Face has had to adapt to. “We had been known for an array of black jackets, black jackets in every shade of black,” she said with a laugh. “But the fabric we’re using now takes color so beautifully, it’s an example of where we are breaking out of that black jacket mold ourselves.”

There are 37 colors included in this year’s fall-winter North Face collection – and 187 planned for 2014.

This trend isn’t limited to jackets. It’s the under layers and the hard gear, as well.

Brooks Running makes a lot of base-layer garments, and Gabriel Maricich, the brand’s men’s and accessories product-line manager, says bright colors have been oozing into the category for the last five years or so. But he noticed a real shift to fluorescents last fall, coinciding with a very 1980s fashion moment. It’s evolving into a more sophisticated but even more saturated color story.

The colors need to work for the winter athletes who like to go out and socialize at the end of the day, or have errands to run. “You don’t say, ‘Oh, let me go home and change,’” he said. “People are wearing it all day.”

Arnette’s Aloha goggles translate a Hawaiian shirt into protective eyewear. “What’s more fun than a tropical print on the slopes?” asked Joe Freitag, Arnette Eyewear’s global brand director. “People want to put their personality everywhere and into everything.”

The company’s older customers might be buying bright colors to match skis or boots, while the younger ones are buying into their own image as fun-loving, laid-back athletes, but, regardless, they’re all making a statement, he said.

And aren’t you more likely to compliment someone on mint green snowpants than on black ones? “It starts conversation,” said Athleta’s Taylor. “You spend so much time in line or on the lift, that a great color leaves the door open for human interaction.”

She says she’ll be sporting a mint-colored helmet this season, and feel free to come over and chat.

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