Oakley Frogskins, Columbia Bugaboo jacket, neon green boot gaiters, backwards baseball cap, and Levi’s jeans. These are the genuine articles that comprise the uniform of a true 90’s east coast ski bum.
Before there were moisture wicking, synthetic thermo tops and bottoms, there was cotton…magnificent, frozen cotton. The clothing alternative for a skier back in the late 80’s and early 90’s was pretty slim; puffy, cotton-insulated bib overall snow pants or spongy, synthetic Spyder brand nut-huggers, mainly used by men presenting themselves as ski racers in their local NASTAR competition. You could see skiers miles away, as they swiveled their hips down the slope in dayglow windbreakers. If you chose skiing over the soon-to-be juggernaut snowboarding, you had subjected yourself to a sport that was tragically unhip for most of its existence. The irony? Most thought they looked awesome. Completely awesome.
Before the X Games and halfpipe competitions, skiers would pull off Daffys. Glorious, glorious Daffys. Once you mastered that epic move, you could impress the ski lift passengers with your repertoire of Helicopters, Backscratchers, and Spread Eagles. How did a young skier learn these tricks? The same way anyone learns anything…movies. Films such as "Hot Dog," "Ski School," "Ski Patrol," "Better Off Dead," and the holy grail: "Aspen Extreme." Some call them cult classics; I call them staples of life.
Many enjoyed the cheesy quality of these movies, such as the clichéd tagline of psychotic skiing villain Suicide in "Ski Patrol," who would repeat, “Taste death. Live life.” before embarking on his ridiculous downhill antics. But any avid skier of this era would agree Aspen Extreme reached the paramount of ski movie lore. Co-star Dexter Ructecki not only represented the classic dim-witted loyal sidekick and I-don’t-give-a-damn ski bum attitude, but he also epitomized the day's hot dog ski fashion. A backwards ball cap and goggles became standard after this movie was released in 1993, but what Dex really did was validate what most of us really wanted to do, or were already doing: skiing in jeans.
While alpha male star TJ Burke was bedding all the women, Dex was keeping it real by developing a drug habit and tearing shit up in his 501’s and boot gaiters. Don’t know what gaiters are? Google it. You’ll be wearing them to work tomorrow.
Those of you who don’t ski or have taken it up since the reshaping of equipment and subsequent rebirth of the sport are surely asking yourself, “Why would anyone want to experience such discomfort, and possible hypothermia, by wearing a heavy cotton product and no ear protection in a sport based on frozen water and gravity?” BECAUSE YOU LOOK FREAKIN’ AWESOME. That’s why.
Or at least I thought I did.
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