Fashions on Ice and Snow (1940)

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Institution: Internet Archive
Collection: Prelinger Archives

Running time: 11m 03s
Source film:  16mm; color; b&w; sound
Year: 1940
Production: Jam Handy Organization

Sponsor: Angstein (S.) & Company
Narration: Bill Stern

Whether you’re browsing in-store or online, most ski jackets you’ll find are probably made out of some combination of nylon and polyester. It might have synthetic insulation (e.g., Thinsulate) for warmth and seam taping and some sort of hydrophobic coating to help waterproof it. On the other hand, if you’re seeking winter wardrobe that consists of flannel or poplin, I can only conclude that you’re a time traveler from the 1930s or 1940s. And if that’s the case, shouldn’t you use your time traveling skills to go back and prevent Hitler’s parents from meeting?

This 1940 film was produced by the Jam Handy Organization for Sacony — no, not Saucony, Sacony! — just four years after downhill (alpine) skiing made its debut in the 1936 Winter Olympics (and was subsequently skipped in the 1940 Olympics due to controversy about rules barring ski instructors from competing). The sport was also apparently so new to the popular consciousness that it necessitated a three-minute primer in this film about “the ancient sport of the Vikings brought up to date,” featuring plenty of spills, jumps, and snow-carving. This introductory segment of the film is presented in black-and-white before an awkward title card prepares viewers for skiing and skating fashions, in “all the loveliness of natural color.” That’s right: this is the Wizard of Oz of promotional winter fashion films.

The only thing more awkward than the film’s cut-and-paste approach — Godfrey Ho would like his modus operandi back, thank you very much — is the baldly sexist narration that fawns over the “typical feminine enthusiasm” of female skiiers, the Sacony ski jackets that “hug the figure” and never pull up, and “padded shoulders that won’t let the skiis slip off when there’s no man around to carry them.” This narrow focus on how the clothing looks to the external gaze, with only vague assurances of silly functional notions like warmth and weatherproofing, may help us understand why Sacony is no longer in the women’s winter sportswear game, or even the profitable business game.


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