I’m a married man with a secret and it’s time to come clean. I’ve been having a relationship on the side, actually two, and they’ve both lasted more than 20 years. But it’s OK. My wife knows about them and she’s cool with the arrangement.
You see, when I find an item of clothing that I actually love I stay true for a long, long time. I’m fond of many pieces of gear in my wardrobe but two really stole my heart.
The first is a slalom jumper, given to me way back in 1994 when I was 21 and competing in my third Paralympic Games. It was part of the Australian alpine team uniform and the last of its kind because full Lycra suits soon became the norm. It was made of pure wool, with quality padding on the arms and shoulders to protect me from the gates and had a very cool pattern in Lycra.
It was love at first wear and I continued to wear it long after fashions moved on and full Lycra became the standard. The Lycra has worn off in some areas and some of it was left behind on slalom gates, but I kept wearing it, despite the jeers from teammates and rivals. It was warm, comfortable, and it offered great protection. I wore it for 18 years and, together, we racked up what must have been around 1000 days skiing and won a silver and a gold medal.
In the last serious ski race of my life at the 2006 Paralympic Games in Italy, I wore it for the last time. By then it had regained a measure of respect on the slopes – it was old enough to be labelled “vintage”.
The other great love in my wardrobe is a cycling jacket, which is a surprise to me because I’m not a big fan of riding in bad weather. I don’t like riding in the rain and I don’t like to wear clothes that don’t breathe well. If it is cold I would rather put on some warm layers and a vest to keep out the wind. However, some winter mornings in Canberra can be bitterly cold and, on those days when the wind can bring the temperature down to -10, I pull out the king of my cycling wardrobe, my own personal cloaking device – a Mont cycling jacket that I bought way back in 1995. It’s a unique design, made from wind-stopper fabric that was never really designed to be waterproof but that makes it super breathable! It keeps me warm and dry and, no matter how hard I work, the sweat just seems to disappear.
For 20 years my Mont jacket and I have been braving extreme winter conditions together and it’s still not showing any signs of wear. Every time I put it on I feel a real sense of security, knowing it will be there the next time I need super-protection and for many winters to come.
We’ve all bought stuff that doesn’t work. Maybe it didn’t fit right or just didn’t perform like we hoped it would. Maybe fashions changed and we moved on. Experience tells me to focus less on the price and more on the quality, fit, durability and potential longevity. Really good stuff can last a long time and I might just love it enough to care less about fashions.
Old reliable stuff, built to perform and to last. In a disposable, throw-away society, it’s good to own a few things I know I can rely on. The Mont cycling jacket is still in use and the slalom jumper is tucked away safely in storage. One day I might race masters and, together, we’ll stage a slalom comeback. We’ll both be more antique than vintage by then.
As for my wife? Well, she’s pretty sure I’m sticking around for the long haul. After all, I am capable of a 20year relationship with a jumper!
Michael Milton is a Paralympic gold medallist, speed skiing world record holder, was included in the Australian Institute of Sport’s 25 Best of the Best Athletes for their 25th anniversary year, has won a slew of awards, continues to compete in races of multiple disciplines, and regularly skis, mountain bikes and spends time in the outdoors.
What piece of adventure clothing do hold dear to your heart?
See more blog posts from Michael Milton here
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