05/30/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

For Recession-Chic, Look to the Woodsmen

When a friend asked me to be a judge for the 63rd annual Woodsmen Meet at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, I could not say no. I thought it would be interesting to see who these people were who competed in such events as log rolling, fire building, sawing, and pretty much anything you can think of that involves wood and brute manpower. Of all the bizarre things I saw, what struck me most was the fashion at this meet. People were definitely trying to express themselves through their clothing choices and I wanted to learn more. After I finished judging my event, I put down my timer and picked up my reporter's notebook.

I was standing with a woman from New York City who was as enthralled with the fashion as I was. She said she could imagine Bill Cunningham from the New York TImes reporting on the fashion scene at this meet. "It does look like a Renaissance festival," the chic New Yorker laughed, commenting on the tattoos and the brightly colored sateen/polyester flouncy shirts that a team from Colby College sported. "All that is missing are the plunging necklines," she added.

I did not come across any plunging necklines, but I did spot some camouflage bikinis. I noticed the girls' team from Paul Smith College of the Adirondacks all had matching camouflage bikinis. The team captain told me that one girl on their team is a hunter and had the camo bikini first. When the captain saw this bikini she said, "okay, we all need to have those when we canoe in the competition," and so they all bought the bikinis on As the captain said, "who doesn't like camo?" The bikinis and matching outfits promoted team spirit. A team that wore matching mumus during a previous competition inspired the Paul Smith girls to coordinate their outfits for this competition.

While I had the girls' attention, I asked about The Carhartts these girls were wearing. I had never even seen this brand of pants before I came to school in New England, but now I am quite familiar with them. The baggy workpants sort of resemble the trend in boyfriend jeans that has swept that country. I mentioned this comparison of Carhartts to boyfriend jeans to a Dartmouth student. While she had not heard of this new baggy jean trend, she did think that Carhartt's were an ideal combination of fashion and practicality. The pants have their "own norms" of hygiene, she said, and many people do not wash their pants until the pants are so stiff they can stand up on their own. The Dartmouth student added, for woodsmen's competitions, practicality is key so "you split your wood and not your pants."

I would have never considered Carhartts to be "cute," but spending too much time in New England had brainwashed me. I was particularly impressed with a girl from Paul Smith who donned pedal pusher-length Carhartts that she cut herself, hiking boots, a wife beater, and STIHL suspenders. When I mentioned to some of her teammates that I liked this look, the teammates divulged that this girl in the pedal-pusher Carhartts was a trendsetter and plans to patent the "Carhartt Capri."

While I knew I would see some interesting sporting events and burly men at this Woodsmen's Competition, I had no idea I was embarking on trend research. Before long, we will all be wearing camouflage while chopping wood. By bringing us back to our roots, the fashion at the Woodsmen's Competition was definitely recession-chic.

For more information about the Woodsmen's Weekend and to see photos from the event, click here.