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Exploring why the color of your figure skating boot may matter more than you think

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

figure skating boot

"I can be brown...I can be blue...I can be violet sky...I can be hurtful...I can be purple...I can be anything you like...." ~Grace Kelly by Mika

The closet is a sacred space for many of us. It houses a rainbow of expression and the item we choose for the day directly correlates with how we feel within that given moment. The color choices excite us and some days, we just have to wear purple.

My closet has two sides: day-to-day and figure skating. The day-to-day side has pinks, greens, purples, blues – you name it! On the other side, the figure skating side, there’s a lot of black. There are a few tasteful figure skating dresses sprinkled in there. They are demure with some sparkle (but not too much) and a flattering neckline. Looking at these two sides, you would think this closet belonged to two completely different people.

It doesn’t end at just the attire. Competitive figure skating is steeped in tradition. This tradition dictates the colors we wear on our feet. Figure skating boots have fallen victim to tradition when it comes to acceptable colors. White, beige/tan, and black skates with coordinating laces are the status quo. But, what about the people who do not want two different sides to their closets?

Can someone who is more of a recreational skater take center ice in sparkly, Barbie pink skates with those killer multicolor blades from Paramount? A lot of boot companies do provide custom services and I have seen pink, blue, purple, and green boots. These boots are always cool – everyone admires them. But, can you wear them in a competitive environment?

Short answer: No. We’re not there yet.

Let's be clear on one thing: this is an opinion. I am just sharing my thoughts on the subject and some information I have picked up over my years in this sport. If you are skating for the pure joy of it, wear any boot/lace color you wish. Express yourself! Find venues to wear these amazing boots: exhibitions, character programs, or National Showcase. However, if you wish to compete or test, you may want to keep to a more conservative path.

Does it break the rules?

Boot and blade color is not specifically addressed in the rules. However, if you look under the “Clothing and Equipment” rule for your discipline, it does say “The clothing of the competitors must be modest, dignified and appropriate for athletic competitions or tests, not garish or theatrical in design. Clothing may, however, reflect the character of the music chosen” (Source: 2022-23 U.S. Figure Skating Rulebook). What does this mean? Unless called for by your music, your equipment should not be distracting – stick with the basics!

I know what you’re thinking: “Still…it’s not against the rules.” No, it’s not. But, this is a judged sport and you are at the mercy of what a judge thinks is “modest, dignified, and appropriate.” If your electric blue skates have nothing to do with your program, then you put yourself at the risk of violating the rules - in someone’s opinion. And well, in the end, you put yourself at the unnecessary risk of losing points.

So what can I wear?

Traditional competitive boot colors are white boots with white laces for ladies and black boots and black laces for men. Ladies also have an option of beige/tan (which is still potentially controversial to some audiences).

Why do ladies wear white skates? Well, you can thank Sonja Henie for this one. She changed the way ladies dressed for figure skating. She pioneered the short skirts (just above the knee) and, according to her skating partner, Michael Kirby, Sonja said “[white skates] reminded her of the beautiful snow in her homeland of Norway.” Short skirts and white skates were deemed as stylish and this would start the fashion trend for many future generations of female skaters.

Some female skaters do choose to wear tan skates. Tan/beige skates are often associated with professional figure skaters who have retired from the amateur competitive circuit. Tan skates do not show their age or cleanliness as easily (Trust me: keeping white skates white is truly difficult…and annoying) and they elongate the line. Over time, tan skates have become a status symbol for professionals and some may even feel it’s a celebration of the phase of your skating career that is free of scores and judgment.

I wear tan skates and I believe that they elongate my legs. However, to be honest, I chose them because I always wanted tan skates. Yes: it’s that simple.

So, if you always wanted to wear bright purple skates, wear them! Be who you want to be! But, remember: figure skating is expensive and, until it is more acceptable to wear non-traditional colors, you will probably need to replace these with a more conservative choice.

Hopefully, one day the sport will dare to venture out into the world of color. People were in complete awe when Sonja Henie did it! But, for now, our world remains very black and white.

Happy Skating and as always: glide with purpose!

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