Sexy Pirates and Flashy Romeos: A Brief History of Men's Figure Skating Costumes

In nature, male birds sport more ornate and gaudy plumage than their female counterparts. The rules of animal kingdom also apply to male figure skaters. 

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In nature, male birds sport more ornate and gaudy plumage than their female counterparts. Scientists say the reason can be traced to competition. In order to compete for attention from mates and show up other males, male birds have evolved robust plumage.

The rules of nature also apply to male figure skaters.

Over the past few years, we've seen male figure skaters up their plumage and embrace their true status as the peacocks of the ice. Sequins are used as if there were a shortage. Tuxedo stripes are on every pant leg. Flame patterns, swans, skeletons— you name it.

What we also noticed is that the costumes, as gaudy as they are, usually fall into nine distinct categories (possibly due to cold and the difficulty of landing triple axels in billowy pants). Here are our findings:

The Sexy Pirate

Other variations: Sexy Musketeer ; Sexy Zorro; Sexy Peasant Sexy Man with Sword

One of the most memorable "sexy pirates" I can remember was Philippe Candeloro, the 1998 Olympic Bronze Medalist. He portrayed D'Artagnan, and was so committed to playing the musketeer, that he even tailored his facial hair to suit the character:

It's easy to tell if you're looking at a sexy pirate because he probably wouldn't look out of place with a sword in his hand. There may even be a pantomimed sword fight in his routine.

Another way to tell if you're watching a sexy pirate is that he's wearing  a top that sports laces, like US figure skater Jason Brown. This is more sexy peasant than pirate, but you get the idea: he's playing a character from the olden times where disputes were settled with swords and pecs:


The Sexy Poet

Other variations:  Sexy Romeo

While they may look similar, there is a big difference between sexy poets and sexy romeos. Sexy poets are lovers, not fighters. Sexy poets are less swashbuckle and more sensitive. Case in point, US Figure Skater Richard Dornbush and his short program:


Like Dornbush, sexy poet costumes have to make it seem like the skater is on the verge of tears or is in need of a hug. Sexy poets aren't going to sweep you off your feet, they're here to make you feel. Like, Daisuke Takahashi and his more modern take on the sexy poet:


Switzerland's Stephane Lambiel went with sexy poet in 2010, looking like a sad romeo:


Same goes for Canada's Patrick Chan:


The Sexy James Bond

Other variations: Sexy Tuxedo, Sexy Formal Wear, Sexy Waiter

There is probably no men's sport that debates masculinity and what it means to be a man more than men's figure skating. And what better embodiment of masculinity is there than James Bond, who has killed more men and diddled more women than any man (fictional ones included) on this earth?  Ask Dennis Ten of Kazakhstan:


Adam Rippon, of the United States, had the same idea in 2012, but his James Bond/Man in a Tuxedo was more of an after-hours James Bond:


The Sexy Gangster

Kind of like the James Bond, but with more of an attention to guns and gun holsters. Jeremy Abbott demonstrates:


And yes, this occasion calls for more Candeloro:

The Sexy Ancient Times

"This is SPARTA FIGURE SKATING!" Germany's Peter Liebers was heard screaming before his short program at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships:


The Sexy Musical

Sometimes, skaters show up to competitions looking like extras from Guys and Dolls or dinner theater. The sexy musical costume isn't that far removed from sexy spy or sexy James Bond, but it's a bit more cartoony (and hopefully intentional):

Javier Raya of Spain via AP

Sometimes it's more heavy-handed than spy, and more musical, like this cowboy:

Russia's Artem Borodulin via AP

This category can be difficult though to assess though. Like this next skater who kind of looks like he's in a musical about the 70s, but also looks like he's doing errands and couldn't change after his shift at Urban Outfitters:


The Sexy Matador

It wasn't too long ago that Beyonce donned a band jacket and made them them cool. Andrei Rogozine of Canada wants to do the same for 18th Century Spanish royals and matadors:


The Sexy Skeleton

Some skaters go for spooky. Kevin van der Perren of Belgium lives there:


(Pressing question: what happened to his pelvic bones? And the rest of his ribs?)

Skater Max Aaron riffed on that idea, but decided to make it his by making it more Tron than Nightmare Before Christmas:


The Sexy Nature

Other variations: Sexy Birds, Sexy Fire

Sometimes, skaters don't embody people or famous men. Instead, they embody forces of nature like animals, or fire, or animals on fire. And for them, we are thankful. Nobunari Oda, of Japan, is like a wonderful, icy, sea creature:


In 2010, Oda was fire on ice:


Denis Ten looks like he can perform fire magic:


And more fire:


Evan Lysacek, one of the sport's most vocal skaters when it came to masculinity (during the last Olympics he bemoaned the femininity of the sport) could not help himself when it came to feathers: 


...or snakes:


Of course, the ultimate winner in all of this is the one, the only, incomparable majestic creature known as Johnny Weir:


Bow down:


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.