Back in the day, branding was something you did to livestock and slaves. And they didn’t like it much either, what with the hot irons, excruciating pain and spending the rest of your life being tagged as mere property. (Not that cows would be particularly bothered by that aspect of things, but I can’t imagine the slaves were too happy with the idea.)
Still, at least they weren’t expected to volunteer for the process, and nor were they forced to listen to a load of infuriatingly meaningless marketing-speak before they were tied down and singed. Look, I just fancied a pair of neon yellow trousers, OK? I don’t care whose name you’ve scribbled on the leg and nor do I imagine for an instant that wearing them will suddenly have me boarding like Zoe Gillings. If anything, they’re likely to make my risibly poor performance stick out like a sore thumb, but I don’t give a rat’s ass because all I wanted was a pair of trousers. See? Trousers. Not a lifestyle. If I want one of those I’ll make my own, thanks – I don’t need to buy a watered down version of what you imagine someone else’s to be.
But for some reason, rather than wetting ourselves laughing and telling the marketing weasels that they’re all fired for being a) a waste of space and b) completely mad, we assume this nonsense has some sort of credibility. Oh yes, it’s a ‘lifestyle brand’, people tell you, as if the phrase had any actual semantic content. (Actually that’s not entirely fair – usually it means ‘hugely overpriced fashion tat designed to last ten minutes because we know the suckers will be back in six months for whatever we’ve told them they should be wearing next season’.)
And no-one ever questions this rubbish, despite the fact that it makes those emperor’s new clothes scammers look like rank amateurs. Explain, please, exactly how the mere act of buying a pair of trousers is going to give me an entreé into the supposedly gilded existence of the sponsored boarder shredding the halfpipe? I suppose the colour might dazzle the casual observer to the extent that he fails to notice my incompetence, but somehow I doubt it. Besides all that, most of the sponsored riders I know are driving old bangers, buying Bien Vu beers and working in bars – someone should tell these marketing types to get out of their London wine bars and have a look at the rest of the world sometime.
But the idiocy seems to be here to stay, judging by the number of people bugging the ski forums with questions about which are the ‘right’ brands to wear. They’re even concerned about branding on underwear (ooh sorry, ‘base layers’, what am I saying, of course cool people don’t wear thermal vests). I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t generally expose my underwear to public view while I’m on the hill. Or not intentionally, at any rate. But presumably one can’t be seen at afternoon tea in a vest which doesn’t say Icebreaker on it, for fear of becoming an instant social pariah. I can only think that JC’s preference for M&S pack-of-two gear would land him on some kind of blacklist.
What the sheep haven’t considered though, is what all this stuff actually says about them. The marketing bods might have convinced you that your £500 Arc’teryx jacket (extra brand cool points for the pointless apostrophe) tells everyone you’re an off-piste god just using this lift to get to some extreme couloir, but I’m afraid what it’s really saying is Rather Overweight British Punter Who Doesn’t Ski As Well As He’d Like To Think. And if you’ve gone for the head to toe in Burton (or head to toe in anything) look, I’m afraid you might just as well have got your mate to write SUCKER FASHION VICTIM across your forehead in black marker. Sorry.
So what criteria should you use when purchasing your ski gear? Well how about things like cost, value and whether or not it fits and is comfy? Or does that particular shade of neon yellow go with the bobble on your beanie? I know, I’m so old fashioned, what do I mean I don’t need a lifestyle with that. What am I thinking of – can’t imagine how I hold my head up in the bars of an evening. I would say I’ll try to do better with my proposed purchase of a new jacket this year, but I suspect that when it comes down to it the choice is likely to be heavily influenced by what Espace Montagne has on sale at the end of the season and what doesn’t look too alarming when teamed with uber-yellow pants.