Neckties and Gabardine — 1940s Ski Clothing

Post by blogger | February 2, 2013      
Otto Schnibes, from his book 'American Skiing,' 1939.

Otto Schnibes, from his book 'American Skiing,' 1939. Click image to enlarge and evaluate necktie knot.

Cinch up your tie and fold down your lapels, you’re out for a ski day in 1942. Otto Schniebs was one of the Germanic invasion of the late 1930s and early 1940s that brought “modern” skiing to the U.S., and truly laid the foundation for alpine skiing to become a mainstream sport.

Schniebs was a big proponent of ski mountaineering, which in those days was not that far removed from “normal” skiing as nearly anything on skis was human powered. He was also known for his lectures, during which he was fond of repeating his personal mantra in a thick German accent: “Skiing is more than a sport, it is a way of life,” frequently shortened these days to “Skiing is life.”

In his how-to book “American Skiing” (Dutton, 1939), Schniebs shares sartorial wisdom. He’d received a letter from a lady skier asking for fashion advice, and wrote it up thusly…

“Dear Mr. Schniebs: I enjoyed your lecture very much. I tried hard to get close to you after, in order to ask a question. However, I had no luck as there were too many people around you, so I am taking this way to get my question answered. I am 19 years old, 5 feet and 2 inches tall, blond, blue eyes and weight about 110 pounds, and I am considered very attractive. Please, would you tell me what color I should choose for my ski suit, etc., etc.”

Schniebs responds: “What can one answer? Fortunately, I have been married for nineteen years and I have two daughters, both of whom ski, and as a result of past experiences, I am positive that if I should suggest a grey ski suit with some trimming, my letter-writer would choose a red one.”

One can bet that Schniebs wrote this as much for his wife and daughters as he did for the would-be groupie!


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11 Responses to “Neckties and Gabardine — 1940s Ski Clothing”

  1. Ski Chalets February 2nd, 2013 2:55 pm

    That picture of Schnibes reminded me of a trip last year when I bumped into a group of middle aged men wearing full dinner jackets whilst out skiing in Courchevel – A very strange sight to see. They must have been freezing!!

  2. Lou Dawson February 2nd, 2013 3:08 pm

    I don’t know, I think the right dinner jacket with the right base layer could work.

  3. Toby February 3rd, 2013 8:45 am

    What is the correct pronunciation of his last name? Please tell me it’s Shneebs. If so probably the coolest last name in history.

  4. Jq February 3rd, 2013 8:58 am

    Note the big radius ski tip. Any thoughts on freeheel vs. fixed?

  5. Gareth February 4th, 2013 2:51 am

    This would seem an appropriate time to share photos of my Granny skiing in the 30’s, France and Switzerland.

  6. Lou Dawson February 4th, 2013 7:35 am

    Those are wonderful Gareth, thanks for sharing.

  7. Mike February 4th, 2013 8:25 am

    Thanks for sharing Gareth. Those photos are fantastic!

  8. Gareth February 4th, 2013 8:38 am

    She died a few years ago now, I was visiting her in her last years and she said “you live in Switzerland don’t you? I used to ski there, I’m sure I have some photos in that draw over there”, I must say I didn’t take what she said that seriously, and for that I blame stupidness of youth. I opened the draw and found the album, she was explaining each photograph when I started seeing familiar landmarks, I could not believe it, she had been skiing on my doorstep, 30 minutes from where I live, using one of the first lifts in the Alps (Morgins, Switzerland), a rarity as most of the pictures involve a guide and skins. It’s a coincidence that I now live in the Alps. She’d been at a Swiss finishing school were she’d learnt German, which she put to good use in WWII, just another lesson in life, don’t underestimate your elders, they will put you to shame.

  9. Sarah February 4th, 2013 2:38 pm

    Personally, I’d be very cold skiing in 1942. That is not enough gear to keep me warm!

  10. Samuel Savard February 5th, 2013 10:56 am

    Wow, I love historical pictures and quotes! This is awesome! Thanks for the short history of ski! And those pictures ARE great!

  11. Derrick February 11th, 2013 12:02 pm

    It’s going to be in the low 30’s this Holiday weekend at BrainHead. This has me thinking I should bust out a leisure suit for the day.

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