February 19, 2010

Figureskaters v. Halfpipers

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:

The sportswear of Olympic events range from Fabulousity Uber Alles (figure skating) to revealingly narcissistic (diving) to trimly functional (gymnastics) to overtly Lebowskian (halfpipe snowboarding).

To a man from Mars, figure skating and the halfpipe wouldn’t seem all that different—in both, competitors are primarily judged on gracefully executing aerial rotations—but their clothes demonstrate that they are wildly different in what kind of young Americans they appeal to.

Although Fred Astaire demonstrated that a man can dance perfectly well while well-dressed, male figure skaters typically pursue sparkliness over taste and even sanity.

In contrast, the 2010 American snowboard team espoused a uniform carefully designed to look like they found their clothes at the bottom of a trunk in Kurt Cobain’s mom’s attic: hooded flannel shirts and torn baggy jeans.

The snowboarder uniforms are actually made out of Gore-Tex with the slacker designs (including the rips in the supposed denim) merely printed on them. But neither authenticity nor aerodynamism is the point. The point is that they are not tight-fitting like the figure skaters’ outfits.

Read the rest there and comment upon it here.

Correction: My reference to an "opera aria" in a video I linked to of Vitaly Scherbo and another gymnast was inaccurate. A reader points out:
The piece in question is not actually from an opera. It is the "Panis Angelicus": the text is an ancient Catholic Latin hymn of praise to Christ present in the Eucharist. The text's opening words are "Panis Angelicus, fit panis hominum," which means "Bread of Angels, become the bread of men". The musical setting is that by Cesar Franck, who was one of the great composers of organ works and other sacred music in the late 19th century.

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

Half-pipers seem to use pipes for smoking stuff too.

This is where winter olympics has gone Jeff Spicoli or California. It's surfing on the snow, dude.

David Davenport said...

Steve, snowboarding got really popular roughly twenty years ago, when Mr. Cobain was still alive and saggy pants was the new teenage fashion. That look has gotten stuck as the snowboarding look.

In addition to non-gayness, snowboarders want to set themsaelves apart from old-school two planks and two poles skiers clsd in tight stretchy pants -- from Baby Boomers and even older generations, in other words.

If your parents want to ski on two skis and wear bouttique ski outfits, you want to snowboard in ripped up old clothes. It's that kind of attitude.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty obvious from watching the women snowboarders last night that most of the American don't think the Olympics are that special and they don't much care about the result. I predict that will change when the Chinese start dominating competitions.

RobertHume said...

I think the same thing happened in basketball when blacks started to dominate. They didn't like the gay look of the short pants uniform, so they went long and baggy. From there to the street. Same thing happened in competitive swimming.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. What about NBC claiming that the reason why the USA-Canada hockey game wasn't televised in lieu of figure skating is because the Olympic audience is heavily female?

Really? I don't believe it. American Idol beat the Olympics in ratings: who was watching Idol? Men? Presumably while the womenfolk watched sports? Really?

Simon said...

I always hated tight swimtrunks - thanks for the baggies, American blacks! :)

"But how long will men’s figure skating last even in Russia as anything other than a gay ghetto?"

Hmm, I think you may be somewhat overestimating the continuing influence of American culture. Esp the gay stuff.

Whiskey said...

Steve, even in the men's finals of figure skating, the straight Russian dude adopted very, VERY gay mannerisms (wiggles, blowing kisses, etc.) when he was on the ice. The crowd, mostly female, loved it. The crowd LOVED their little gay boy Johnny Weir, and booed his low scores.

The contrast between the on-ice (very gay) and off-ice (very Russian) behavior of the Russian silver medalist was striking.

Rather than class-race differences dominating, you could argue that women (wanting twirly gay guys instead of threatening masculine presence) and gay domination of choreography means that the sport, much like pop music, has become very, very gay.

This guy Weir has his own (female-skewing) reality show on the Sundance channel. Women like that stuff.

Anonymous said...

Although Fred Astaire demonstrated that a man can dance perfectly well while well-dressed, male figure skaters typically pursue sparkliness over taste and even sanity.



Yeah. And female figure skaters can dance perfectly well while well-dressed also, but they typically pursue a look more like this.

Anonymous said...

I think the same thing happened in basketball when blacks started to dominate. They didn't like the gay look of the short pants uniform



Nothing to do with blacks. Men across the world wore normal sized shorts both when playing sports and otherwise. The idea of "shorts" that come down nearly to your ankles is just one of the random changes in fashion, like bell-bottom jeans. And hopefully it will go the way of bell-bottom jeans real soon.

OneSTDV said...

"I think the same thing happened in basketball when blacks started to dominate. They didn't like the gay look of the short pants uniform, so they went long and baggy."

Not sure about that. Blacks were dominating well before baggy pants became the style (for the NBA at least). I believe Jordan was the first to loosen his shorts and that was probably around the late 80's.

Ray Sawhill said...

Great piece. "Galaiest" is really funny.

Anonymous said...

I still remember skiiers in the late 1980s scoffing at snowboarding as a "fad" that would go away eventually.

Dahlia said...

Steve,
You were not thinking of us ladies when you illustrated your piece with two pictures of the gay Weir, but none of Shaun White (halfpipers' outfits were bad, too).

So wrong!

Anonymous said...

The men can't dress like Fred Astaire, because the women don't dress like Ginger Rodgers. It would look absurd and incongruous to have the male half of the team dressed in a tux while the female half was dressed in six ounces of lycra and lace. The women swimmers wear more than the figure skaters.

It must be damn chilly out there on the ice, but that's the look the audience wants to see.

Mitch said...

I don't think you need to go back to Fred Astaire to "prove" that men could dance in normal clothes. Male figure skaters were doing just that until the 70s. Take a look at the winners throughout the 50s and 60s--more specifically, their outfits. They were suits and ties.

I don't know how many of the early skaters were gay--Dick Button is almost certainly gay--but whether gay or not, they were closeted.

Obviously, all of this changed in the 70s. Check out the Czech Olympic winner in 1972 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ondrej_Nepela), a gay man (died of AIDS related disease) but still in a suit and tie. Check out John Curry and Toller Cranston just four years later. Those two, both openly gay, were credited for bringing "artistry" (aka sequins and fuss) to the sport. Here's Curry getting his gold (http://z.about.com/d/figureskating/1/0/B/F/-/-/johncurry.jpg) and Cranston at that time, although I don't know if this is from the Olympics (http://z.about.com/d/figureskating/1/0/B/F/-/-/johncurry.jpg).

That's when the sport became more flamboyant--although in addition to Hamilton, I'm pretty sure Robin Cousins is straight, and quite a few of the medallers and top eight each year are straight. Both the Brians are gay, of course, but in 1992 all three of the medallists were straight, or at least doing a lot to pass as such (all three are married with kids). Looking at the 1994 and 1998 medal winners, it appears a lot of them are straight (or passing) as well.

So while it's a disproportionately gay sport, there's still quite a few straights. THe "flamboyance" that now characterizes the events began in the 70s, and was definitely started by gay men.

Mr. Hand said...

Shaun White is Spicoli. Everytime I see him, he seems like a total pothead trying to play it straight in front of the camera like it's Mr. Hand.

I get the impression most of the US snowboarders are potheads, (trust) fundies and/or mostly goofballs (eg Jacobelli).

How long before the no-nonsense, well-disciplined and hyper-competitive Chinese come to dominate this sport?

Anonymous said...

Male figure skaters were doing just that until the 70s. Take a look at the winners throughout the 50s and 60s--more specifically, their outfits. They were suits and ties.



And what were the women wearing back then?

agnostic said...

How times have changed. It used to be that guys who wore figure skater type clothes were macho lead singers or guitar players who weren't overly emotive and who slept around with supermodels.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEalg62F8Zg

Anonymous said...

the baggy low-hung pants mimic the pants issued in prison. prisoners aren't given belts so their pants hang low.

prison fashion: from the ghetto to you....

DYork said...

The 20 Funniest Figure Skating Faces

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid in the sixties, I dreamed of skiing. I never even saw it snow until I was 21, even after I had been been on the slopes a few times before that.

What appealed to me a great deal as a kid were the clothes of skiers--those tight ski pants with stirrups, the wide elastic bands inserted in the sides, their stripe running down the side of the pant leg. The wonderful knit or mohair sweaters, the great parkas, all of these were very classically beautiful and functional clothes.

Watching the Olympic ski teams in such clothes which bore their national colors was always great. Now even the ski uniforms are so multicolored that one cannot guess the nation the athletes are from.

All in all, I am not impressed with the attire of the Olympians.

Maybe the only thing worse than the snowboarders' clothes are the utterly unflattering uniforms of college and NBA basketball players. There are a lot of men with very attractive physiques who look just plain old sloppy and unappealing in those baggythings. sloppy things. While I wouldn't like their shorts to be as short as in the day of Kareem or Barry, a nice compromise seems in order. These guys have great thighs--why not let us women see a little of them?

OneSTDV said...

"I get the impression most of the US snowboarders are potheads, (trust) fundies and/or mostly goofballs (eg Jacobelli). "

Oh they're all potheads. But they sure can spin around on that wooden board.

How much athletic ability is required for snowboarding? I've never tried it.

Anonymous said...

Snowboarding was an offshoot of skater culture in the 80's/90's, so they dress similarly. Skating culture being the white answer to black "cool".

It also forced skiers to step their game up in the jumps department, which was nice to see, because in my opinion, the tricks look better on skis than on a board. Here is a random video I found of cool skiers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cfE910O88M

Anonymous said...

No kid's thought process is ever "Gee, I like twirling in the air. Should I do figure skating or snowboarding?". Kids get into skiing or boarding (depending on their taste) because their parents ski and they grow up with it. I have no idea how a straight kid gets into figure skating.

Anonymous said...

OT, but why not do some research on the effect of formula v. breast feeding on people's mental and physical traits as they age, and what impact that might have on the development of a society.

"Lynn decides half the African deficit is due to malnutrition, but that it can't account for any of the American gap, where blacks show no other physical signs of malnutrition. But here Lynn doesn't mention breast-feeding, which as Arthur Jensen has shown (1998, pp 506-507) is practiced almost three times as much among white Americans than African-Americans and has been associated with IQ gains of nearly 10 points. It is likely that effectively encouraging breast-feeding would have a positive impact on the next generation of African-Americans."
http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2006/02/world-of-difference-richard-lynn-maps.php

Anonymous said...

I get the impression most of the US snowboarders are potheads, (trust) fundies and/or mostly goofballs (eg Jacobelli).

"trust fundies"?
Holy sh-t what an a**hole. God forbid these kids should innovate a new sport while eschewing the crotch-grabbing chest-thumping bravado that's infected our traditional team sports. What an affront! What decadence! They're on The Pot! I can't wait for the Chinese ubermenschen to displace them!

The Blogosphere. Providing embittered passive-aggressive shut-ins with an outlet for over fifteen years!

Anonymous said...

This is totally off-topic, but there's an interesting article in Time this week relating the immigration problems in Southern Europe and revealing the bizarre, unscientific, superstitious attitudes of the open-borders nuts.

The West is so screwed.

Whiskey said...

What may save Italy is the Mafia and Camorra. Lots of immigrants means crime syndicates lose power to syndicates based on ethnic groups from North Africa or Eastern Europe or Africa.

Even a Camorra gangster can count young men who form the street army of crime syndicates.
-----------------
Time of course is written for a largely female audience -- just look where its sold and the ads inside. Time is sold alongside Newsweek and People and US and Star and OK! and all those other celebrity rags at the supermarket checkout counter.

Women of course want illegal immigrants because they form cheap labor and replace otherwise dreadful beta male "drones" who do the boring stuff of picking fruit or laying tile, but more expensively than "colorful" immigrants. That piece might as well have been by Anne Lamott in the LA Times.

From female preference for gay figure skaters and such to the Time article, its the same thing.

David Davenport said...

It would look absurd and incongruous to have the male half of the team dressed in a tux while the female half was dressed in six ounces of lycra and lace.

Why dat? American men ice dancers/figure skaters should dress in tuxedo and top hat, regardless of what their lady is wearing.

Solo men ice dancers should carry a walking stick and perform to music that isn't a waltz. Cue the late Biggie Smalls ...

How long before the no-nonsense, well-disciplined and hyper-competitive Chinese come to dominate this sport?

Chinese are effectively too white to dominate any activity requiring syncopated rhythm and macho style and showmanship.

Anonymous said...

Figureskaters smoke poles, halfpipers smoke weed.

Marlo said...

Steve Sailer's blog has been a bit dull lately. Write about something racist or sexist to get your readers fired up!

Anonymous said...

"I have no idea how a straight kid gets into figure skating."


He doesn't. He gets into it when he is young and likes to hang out with the girls because he doesn't want to compete with the boys who pick on him.

Dahlia said...

Mr. Hand,
Shaun White makes me think of Arlo Guthrie at Woodstock, but far more hyper. I love Arlo and his song is one of my favorites in the Woodstock documentary:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsnUu71Viyo

My mom was only a kid in '69, but I love hippies! Dudes have to cut their hair by age 25, though.

teacher.paris said...

Olympics are boring.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, figure skating. My hometown, Ottawa, has produced many prominent figure skaters, such as recent Olympic flame lighter and 1948 Olympic champ Barbara Ann Scott (who still looks marvelous), 1988 Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth "The Town Bike" Manley, and...wtf? Joachim von Ribbentrop?

"Following a brief stint in New York City and Boston as a journalist and a period of rest recuperating from tuberculosis in his native Germany, he returned to Canada and set up a small business in Ottawa importing German wine and champagne.[4] In 1914, Ribbentrop competed for Ottawa's famous Minto ice-skating team, participating in the Ellis Memorial Trophy tournament in Boston in February of that year.[4][5] Following the outbreak of World War One, Ribbentrop left Canada, and returned home to join his country in war."


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joachim_von_Ribbentrop

Anonymous said...

About the short-and-tight-shorts conversion to long-and-baggy-shorts: it wasn't just a basketball thing. Go back and look at old photos of what ordinary people were wearing (when they were wearing shorts), and also what athletes in other sports that wear shorts were wearing (soccer, for instance).

In the 1970's the shorts were very short. By the 1990's the shorts were very long. This was true in basketball, soccer, and in other sports. It was true in general fashion. It was true in the USA, and in Europe.

I don't know if "urban" culture had anything to do with it or not, but it certainly was not limited to just basketball or just the USA. It was a general worldwide, multi-sport trend.

Anonymous said...

Most figure skating outfits are tacky, ugly, design nightmares. I don't think they should necessarily go back to the suit and tie look, but please - a little tastefulness! Nancy Kerrigan's plain white Vera Wang costume from the...1992? Olympics comes to mind.

Some of the pairs skaters in Vancouver wore appealing, relatively modest, single-color outfits with a minimum of 'plain' (clear crystal) sparkle. Perhaps that trend will catch on.

teacher.paris said...

More google censorship and worse:

http://www.youtube.com/user/TheAlexJonesChannel#p/u/32/regzSbjYw-Q

H/T Angry7 Harry

idealart said...

"No doubt, the arts attracted a higher proportion of male homosexuals than did fighting, hunting, or plowing."

Theater and ballet, yes. But the other arts, no. Artists go where the money is. Bohemians in the 19th century, encouraged by wealthy patrons and intellectuals, learned how to taunt the squares. To flaunt esoteric gestures would add cachet and intimidate an insecure middle class. In addition, artists were self-employed. Plus, being artists they knew how to make dull things look good. I don't think the percentage was greater than society as a whole. They were just more open about it.

Europeans knew all this but reverse-snob Americans cling to the stereotype. Even today with Barney Frank and co., Americans fool themselves into believing artists create culture, as if they can live on thin air, in some airy-fairy neverland. Fact is, a lot moved to Hollywood. Are there a disproportionate number of homosexual directors?

Steve Sailer said...

"Are there a disproportionate number of homosexual directors?"

Only moderately. Movie directors (e.g., Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock) tend to be guys who want to be in a position of power and influence over beautiful young actresses.

Anonymous said...

Steve has had so much about the costumes of male figureskaters and such ephemera that he hasn't honed in on the odd flavor of the Olympics themselves.

The modern Olympics (b. 1896) are a product of the same sort of earnest impractical utopianism that led to things like Esperanto (b. 1887)and ultimately to the first incarnation of globaloney in the League of Nations (b. 1919). "Youth and sport" - right. Who is ogling all those sporting youths?

Something about that period and its aspirational hokum, the notion that war could be eliminated if only young men from different countries could play games together, reminds me of some of the more mordant words of George Orwell in "The Road to Wigan Pier" about such "progressive" idealists"

"...every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist and feminist...

"If only the sandlas and the pistachio-coloured shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotalerm, and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly!"

- etc.

Anonymous said...

"Are there a disproportionate number of homosexual directors?"

Eisenstein
Ozu
Pasolini
Visconti
Jarman
Demy (bi)
Whale

James O'Meara said...

Anonymous Simon said...

I always hated tight swimtrunks - thanks for the baggies, American blacks! :)

Another proud White man; we need more like you!

Blumenthal said...

Steve, what is your take on Epic Beard Man?

RobertHume said...

About the short-and-tight-shorts conversion to long-and-baggy-shorts: it wasn't just a basketball thing. Go back and look at old photos of what ordinary people were wearing (when they were wearing shorts), and also what athletes in other sports that wear shorts were wearing (soccer, for instance).

In the 1970's the shorts were very short. By the 1990's the shorts were very long. This was true in basketball, soccer, and in other sports. It was true in general fashion. It was true in the USA, and in Europe.

I don't know if "urban" culture had anything to do with it or not, but it certainly was not limited to just basketball or just the USA. It was a general worldwide, multi-sport trend."

Yes, but in Hollywood and US culture gays were coming out of the closet and the effect was world-wide ... don't wear clothing that appeals to gays, otherwise you will receive unwanted attention.

Even today, almost the only place you can see lots of men wearing short, tight swim trunks is in gay meccas such as Fire Island.

Anonymous said...

Chicago administered a test for firefighters in a way that discriminated against blacks. Instead of designating anyone scoring above 65 — the passing grade — as “qualified,” it adopted a second benchmark of 89 and decided to hire only from this “well qualified” category.

The department was not able to show that doing so produced firefighters who performed appreciably better. But the higher benchmark meant that white applicants were five times more likely than African-Americans to move on to the next stage of the hiring process.

MarAkin said...

That's how the test is discriminatory:

Anonymous said...

It think the real question is: Where is the Jamaican bobsled team?

Ray said...

off topic, but Steve's article:

"David Brooks on the Power Elite"

does not show up on Isteve. It may be found in Google's cache only--other wise it does not exist. Odd.

OhioStater said...

Best hockey game of the decade last night, and NBC chose figure skating. Great job guys.

TCO said...

Thought you might be interested in this discussion from a male gym perspective.

TCO said...

http://gymnasticscoaching.com/new/2010/03/johnny-weir-on-johnny-weird/

Link