The sun had set on the Strip and some members of the Norwegian curling team were taking a break from competing in a tournament here. They were ready to hit the town, the Bellagio, perhaps, and maybe dinner at Caesars Palace. But the men knew that tourists would not recognize them as Scandinavian stars of an obscure sport.
People cared more about their pants.
In a scene straight out of a geekier version of “Ocean’s Eleven,” Thomas Ulsrud, the team’s skip, wore purple paisley pants with a matching jacket. Christoffer Svae opted for a tuxedo with a playing card pattern, and Haavard Vad Petersson wore bright pink cotton candy swirls with dots of electric green.
Camera phones, laughter and the drunken exclamations of tourists followed the team as they traversed the dizzying casino carpet.
“You would think in Vegas people have seen crazy stuff like that before,” Svae said. “But they got a lot of attention.”
The curlers have gotten used to people paying attention to their clothes. In 2010, at the Vancouver Games, where the Norwegians won a silver medal, they made a splash when they made the sheet of curling ice their runway, competing in bright red, white and blue pants, the colors of their country’s flag.
The pants came as a shock in a sport in which athletes traditionally wear black and draw little notice outside of curling circles.
But for the coming Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the Norwegian team is back, and so are their pants.
This year, there are at least two new pairs: one that’s a zigzag homage to their country’s flag and one that’s black and flowery and could be called grandmother-chic.
Within days of unveiling the threads in Vancouver, an unofficial Facebook page devoted to the team’s pants collected over 500,000 likes. (That’s about a tenth of the population of Norway.)
Representatives from Loudmouth, the company in Foster City, Calif., that made the pants, said orders out of London went up tenfold, and the company’s servers crashed.
“It was enough to cause a stir in the curling world,” Tony D’Orazio, a curler in Rochester, N.Y., who started the fan page and has chronicled the team’s subsequent fashion for the last four years, said. “For them to do what they did in 2010, it was revolutionary to curling. It took the traditions of the sport and re-energized it for a new generation.”
And for the last year designers and the team have been working on their highly anticipated line for Sochi.
The designs were intended to be tributes to Norway, but also had to look good on television, said Scott Woodworth, the founder of Loudmouth. The company made the team’s Vancouver pants and subsequently came on board as a sponsor.
The designers avoided white so the pants would not be lost on the ice. But they did not want the plain black that has been a ubiquitous part of curlers’ gear for generations.
“They needed to be Norway colors,” Woodworth said. “They needed to look good and be striking.”
The tradition of the colorful pants began as an accident.
Svae was looking online for gear after a supplier shipped the wrong uniform to the team just weeks before pre-Olympic training. He found golf pants with a red, white and blue checkered pattern and ordered a set in his teammates’ sizes. (Previously, the pattern was mostly purchased by fans of the University of Mississippi Rebels.)
“We didn’t really try to prove a point or anything,” Svae said. “It was just feeling comfortable with what we were wearing to represent our country. Obviously it was a break from tradition.”
At first, Svae’s teammates did not go for it.
“I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had seen,” Torger Nergaard said. But he did not think fans would care one way or the other. “As long as we were wearing pants, I didn’t think there would be too much of a fuss.”
Four years later, the teammates say the pants improved their performance. Now they wear them in practice and in competitions.
“It kind of took the edge off everything,” Svae said. “When our games were not going too well, we’d look at each other and think, Oh, you look like a clown. So it made us feel at ease.”
Now, each player’s closet is a rainbow of 80 to 90 pairs of loud pants. They travel to each competition with about six options, usually coordinated by Svae. “My wife hates it,” Ulsrud added.
There are rules to go with the pants. One is that they all wear the same pants together as a team, never alone.
“These pants would be great to win in,” Vad Petersson said. “But they’d be terrible to lose in. We decided that when we wear them, we have to really try and win and go the whole way.” lol no shit
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