February 12, 2014 / 4:26 PM / 5 years ago

Fashion backlash ends "giraffe on ice" flamboyance

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - A “giraffe on ice” is unlikely to strut its stuff in the men’s figure skating at these Winter Olympics and anyone hoping for an over-the-top glitterball of rhinestones, or an orange-trimmed zebra suit, is likely to be disappointed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) greets Yevgeny Plushenko, a member of the gold medal-winning Russian figure skating team, during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 9, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Gold medal favorite Patrick Chan has gone for neutral shades, Japanese tyro Yuzuru Hanyu has stuck to classical outfits while Russian showman Yevgeny Plushenko is the man in black.

The trend does not surprise one of the biggest fashion figures in skating, three-times U.S. national champion Johnny Weir.

“Right now a Victorian or conservative wave has crept on top of men’s figure skating,” the flamboyant American told Reuters in an interview.

“After the last Olympics there was a major relapse into being conservative with your choreography and costuming in men’s figure skating.

“There was a huge backlash against the things that I or Stephane Lambiel had done. Even Yevgeny Plushenko was very famous for wearing outrageous costumes and rhinestones and going nuts with his costumes and music choices.

“People now want to be very conservative and clean - same as fashion, things go in and out.”

Ilia Kulik is still remembered as much for his bizarre white-waistcoat-over-yellow-giraffe outfit as he is for his gold-medal performance at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

It is an ensemble that was compared to a rotten banana and a jaundiced cow on internet forums, but at least it was unforgettable.

Fans also scratched their heads in 2006, wondering what a zany zebra had to do with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. But that fashion faux pas did not stop Lambiel from skating off with the silver medal at the Turin Olympics.

Weir, who had hoped to jazz up proceedings in Sochi before injury ended his career last year, said it is not just the outfits that have become boring.

“With the way skating is now, I find it’s very robotic at times - especially outside the top five favorites,” said the NBC analyst who could not be accused of blending in with the crowd in his hot pink jacket.

“It’s very much a game of copycats to try and maximize the points and accruing as much of a positive grade of execution as you can. It can look to the untrained eye as if everyone is very similar.”

It is a sentiment shared by Chan, the three-times world champion who is bidding to become the first Canadian to win the men’s Olympic title.

“We have much more complexity in our programs than the skaters in the 80s but the skating in the 80s was much more epic and much more memorable,” he told Reuters.

“There was a lot more uniqueness between each skater whereas nowadays it’s almost become a production line. Everyone’s doing the same thing, just maybe in a different order.

“So I hope I can be somewhat of a throwback skater in the fact that I can bring excitement back. I can be like the black sheep of the herd, be different and be unique and be someone people will remember.”

Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Robert Woodward

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