Costume drama at Ice Station Sequin

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The Independent Online
SPORTING COSTUME is usually straightforward: form is generally defined by function. Lugers don't wear suits like giant condoms because they think they look smart: they wear them for aerodynamic efficiency. Racing drivers used to wear T-shirts and cloth caps; now they wear flame- retardant overalls and helmets, not because they look groovy, but because they help the drivers stay alive in an accident. Manchester United's kits are an exception, form following finance rather than function. The other glaring exception is the sport in which the outfits are quite simply inexplicable - ice skating. Particularly men's ice skating.

Just consider the anti-fashion parade at last Thursday's men's free programme at the World Championships in Birmingham. Each and every outfit was an aesthetic affront, the whole event a jamboree for the sartorially dysfunctional. We sought expert help. Christina Dobner is design director of Chrisanne, a company that specialises in ice dancewear: Torvill and Dean have performed in their stuff. "People want to show up against the ice," she explained. "That's why shiny metallic gold and silver are so popular. And black is used a lot, which is a shame when there are so many lovely colours that would do just as well." Chrisanne outfits start at about £200, but many dancers favour DIY. "With most of the skaters it's home-making," Dobner told us. "Their mums do it or they do it themselves." That explained a lot.

Only the most indulgent mother, for instance, could have told Germany's Ronny Winkler that he would look his best performing in a ruched, loose gold silk blouse with a claret cummerbund and black velvet trousers. Similar parental encouragement was perhaps responsible for our own Clive Shorten's ensemble: electric blue sequinned shirt and snug troos in a similar shade.

How do they manage to leap and spreadeagle themselves in such, er, restrictive trousers. "Most of them use a two-way stretch materal, like Lycra, for comfort," Christina Dobner explained. Phew.

Back to the show and young Thierry Cerez of France, the nation that epitomises chic. Not Thierry. He skated on to the ice wearing a burgundy velvet doublet with black frogging, white lace cuffs and a white lace collar, worn with black velvet gloves. It was all very Three Musketeers, and the fluttering lace may have proved distractingly counter-productive: Thierry kept falling over.

Zhongyi Jiao of China was keen to prove that when it comes to crap couture, China can slug it out with the worst of the West: baggy off-white coarse- cloth trousers with loose lacing down one leg, a string belt and a thin white shirt with a string vest on top of it. It looked very cold, and Zhongyi looked rather self-conscious in it, as well he might. But Cornel Gheorghe of Romania took the prize. His black shirt and black trousers were eminently sensible: why, then, had he embellished them with a wide gold spangly belt and a gold sequinned bow-tie? He looked like a Butlin's bingo caller. The best-dressed man at the event was Eric Cantona, sitting quietly in the crowd in a natty grey polo-neck.

Now don't get us wrong. We defer to no one in our admiration of the athleticism, grace and skill of the skaters. What we still can't work out is why they insist on displaying these qualities while decked out like failed auditionees from Saturday Night Fever. "They are basically trying to reflect the mood of their music," Christina Dobner explained. Fair enough, that explains the peasant shirt, cravat, pinstriped trousers, dyed grey hair and beard sported by France's Philippe Candeloro to dance to the theme from The Godfather. But why was Britain's Steven Cousins dressed in 19th- century Grenadier's mess kit to perform to Live and Let Die?

We needed some advice: we called Nick Sullivan, Fashion Director of Esquire magazine. "It's an odd, dark, strange world these men are stuck on," Nick pronounced. "Planet Sequin." Can there be any help? Any hope of rescue? There's no point. "If somebody turned up in a funky new fashionable outfit," Sullivan said, "everyone would think they were trying to influence the judges or something . . ." It struck us that Robert Altman, whose cinematic hatchet-job on the Paris fashion scene is playing to packed houses, might like to turn his attention to styles on the ice. Prat Porter?

IAN WRIGHT is at present engaged in litigation with the trendy advertising agency Harari Page over an advertisement whch appeared in a glossy magazine showing the Arsenal forward lying on his front wearing nothing but a smile. But if he's so touchy about revealing his buttocks why did he give Stewart Houston and the watching millions such an eyeful when adjusting his shorts as he took the field as substitute at Blackburn on Wednesday?

THERE is no accounting for taste in Scottish basketball. In a cannibalistic encounter at the Livingston Forum today, the Edinburgh Burger Kings take on the Livingston Bulls. Kill 'em, lads. Then eat 'em.

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