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Editor’s Letter | The Style Issue – September 2016

Our September issue investigates the concept of style. Fittingly, for such a subject matter, we’re looking at it from all different angles.

“Style is the answer to everything.
A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing.
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it.
To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art.”
– From ‘Style’, by Charles Bukowski

In 1972 when Bukowski read those words to an audience in San Francisco, he probably couldn’t have imagined that the recording would one day be used in a snowboard film. Yet when I first heard them nearly 40 years later the context couldn’t have seemed more perfect. The movie was That by Forum Snowboards (arguably the coolest company around at the time) and Bukowski’s louche drawl was used as a voiceover in the intro to Devun Walsh’s section.

Walsh, a laidback Canadian from Whistler, wasn’t doing the most “dangerous” or the most technical tricks, but with his baggy clothing and big, no-grab spins, he epitomised everything that was considered most stylish about snowboarding in the mid-2000s. As a slightly pretentious 21-year-old literature student living in France and snowboarding as often as I could, the whole thing just seemed impossibly cool.

“Style has moved on – the baggy trousers I bought in an attempt to emulate Walsh have long-since been replaced by skinny jeans.”

Of course, in the decade since That was released, style has moved on. Snowboard video parts these days are full of tweaked grabs and uber-tech rail tricks, and the baggy trousers I bought in an attempt to emulate Walsh have long-since been replaced by skinny jeans. But if what is considered stylish has changed, the paramount importance of style in boardsports – in fact, in almost all adventure sports – has not.

Style is an integral part of all board sports. Photo: Red Bull

This month we’ve looked at the notion of style from all different angles. Matt Barr’s essay on the concept of ‘The Glide’ looked at how style has been an integral part of surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding since the beginning, and how the enjoyment people get from them is intrinsically tied up with questions of style. Dr. Julie Angel, author of Breaking the Jump examined Parkour’s focus on running with style, and how it’s helping empower women the world over. Associate Editor Jack Clayton meanwhile asked “what is style?” by looking at scootering – an action sport derided by many as fundamentally unstylish – and asking “why?”

This month Sam Haddad looked at the role that questions of style play in architecture, with particular reference to ski resorts. In the past couple of years brutalist buildings in places such as Flaine, once derided as concrete monstrosities, have started to become fashionable again. As so often happens, what is considered stylish has come full circle.

The brutalist architecture of Flaine, long considered among the ugliest in the Alps, is coming back into fashion. Photo: M.Dalmasso

Despite this constant churn of what’s considered ‘cool’, some things manage to remain perennially stylish however. Associate Editor Lou Boyd’s article on Vans looked at the remarkable way in which the Californian shoe brand, 50 years old this year, has managed to remain the footwear of choice for skateboarders throughout its long history – while also attracting everyone from “members of Take That to Tyler, The Creator”.

Of course fashion isn’t the only consideration that dictates people’s choice of clothes – or at least it shouldn’t be. We spoke to several companies this month who are looking at ways of making outerwear in a more eco-friendly way. Companies such as Patagonia and Paramo, for whom helping solve the environmental crisis is more important than transient questions of style. These brands have deliberately rejected the idea of following fleeting fashion trends, because they don’t want to make clothes with a short sell-by date. Perhaps surprisingly, by deciding not to focus on what’s currently cool, some of these brands have made themselves cooler (and more stylish) in many people’s eyes.

Patagonia deliberately don’t make ‘fashionable’ jackets. They want the style to be timeless enough for wearers to keep them for season after season, thus reducing their consumption. Photo: Patagonia

Or maybe this isn’t so surprising. Because when it comes down to it style isn’t about trying too hard or emulating someone else. Style is about being yourself. This is probably why the idea is so revered in adventure sports, which celebrate self-expression. As Bukowski’s poem suggests, for something to be truly stylish, it must be effortless. Style is something that comes naturally.

Learning this was bad news for my 21-year-old self, who eventually had to concede that despite his best efforts, he would never have the same easy style as Devun Walsh. But it’s good news for the rest of us, because it means the most stylish thing we can possibly do is get out there and do whatever sport we’re into in the way that comes most naturally to us.

Enjoy the adventure.
– Tristan, Editor-in-Chief

Sign up to our monthly issues newsletter to get these long reads delivered direct to your inbox and keep your eyes peeled for our Mountain Issue, dropping soon.

To read the rest of the Style issue head here. You can read old issues here.

You may also like:

Style & The Art of Standing Sideways | From Polynesia’s First Surfers to Today’s Skate Punks, One Thing Unites Us All

Van Doren And The In Vogue | How Vans Became A Million Dollar Industry While Keeping Its Cool

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