John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Examining the historical wardrobe choices of the nutty Mexican skier Hubertus von Hohenlohe.
When Mexico wants to challenge the world's top athletes in alpine skiing, it turns to one man. His name is Hubertus von Hohenlohe, he's 55 years old, and he dresses in a flamboyant, skin-hugging suit seemingly borrowed from a vihuela-strumming mariachi.
Von Hohenlohe is a force of nature: Germanic prince, a pop singer called Andy Himalaya and Royal Disaster, professional athlete, photographer, lover (presumably), mariachi-suit wearer (most definitely). Here he is all geared up for the Sochi Olympics:
The man is such a singular presence in Mexico that the country's Sochi profile page is all von Hohenlohe, and nothing else. "Alpine skier Hubertus Von Hohenlohe competed at four consecutive Olympic Winter Games between 1984 and 1994," the page informs. "After a 16-year break, he returned to the Games in Vancouver in 2010. He will be making his sixth appearance in Sochi, drawing him level with Liechtenstein's Marco Buchel for most appearances by an alpine skier at the Olympic Winter Games."
NBC recently scored an interview with von Hohenlohe and, as could be expected, it's fantastic. The quinquagenarian "knows he doesn't have a snowball’s chance in hell" of winning a medal, says reporter Joe Battaglia, but that's okay, because the "title he is most interested in claiming is best-dressed at the Games." Here's some more:
Hohenlohe’s penchant for flamboyant uniform designs is well-known. In Vancouver, he wore a "Mexicano desperado" racesuit, complete with bullet straps and pistoleros in the design, and another suit environmentally-themed race suit encouraging people to recycle....
Hohenlohe will leave for the Games from Mexico, where he went to pick up the national flag for the Opening Ceremony. While there, he said he planned to have actual mariachis write song lyrics on his race helmet.
To reinforce the "elegance," his Kappa-designed suit will incorporate a number of gentlemanly touches, such as a crimson tie, ruffles and a cummerbund. None of them real, of course – they're all just colors on Spandex, like those tuxedo t-shirts that wiseacres like to wear to weddings.
As this is likely von Hohenlohe's last rodeo at the Olympics, I've rustled together this retrospective of his historical wardrobe choices. Here he is in 1997 wearing a costume reminiscent of the Italian soccer club Juventus F.C.:
This is him at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics rocking the gun-belt outfit:
(Mike Segar / Reuters)
Here's Von Hohenlohe that same year with an environmental-themed suit marked "FRAGILE," which is probably not a reference to his breaking a leg at a 2007 World Cup slalom race:
(Mike Segar / Reuters)
And this is Von Hohenlohe on a more normal day: