In Eulogy for a Brand, we say farewell to a once-relevant manufacturer that has fallen into bankruptcy, irrelevancy, or non-existence. Though we
may will make a few jokes about its passing, we are truly sorry to see another one bite the dust. Shine on, you crazy diamonds. Or, whatever.
Winter is coming, but for a few labels under the once-invincible Burton umbrella, the end of Winter 2012-2013 will be their last thaw. The Vermont brand synonymous with the sport of snowboarding will shutter the Forum, Special Blend, and Foursquare labels at the close of the Spring 2013 season, according to ESPN‘s story last week. Unconfirmed reports also claim Gravis will stay alive only in Japan; Anon will manufacture only helmets and snow goggles; and Analog, which built impressive inroads into the surf world, will revert to making strictly snow outerwear.
Though I grew up bombing the slopes of Vermont on skis, Burton’s emergence from Burlington, VT, as snowboarding’s inventor/steward/pioneer was a source of East Coast pride. Obviously, their hardware was groundbreaking, but it was when they got into apparel that I first began going in on Jake Burton’s gear. Simply put, the company and its subsidiaries made functional stuff that looked way better than what else was on the racks. And more importantly, they made it right around the age when my parents were finally letting me choose my own jackets, pants, helmets, and goggles. No more CB, Land’s End, Kelty, Obermeyer. Cool kids were riding in Burton, and later Foursquare, Special Blend, and Anon.
But those smaller outerwear labels, never quite fit into the niches they were made for. Or maybe, those niches never really existed in the first place. Why was a Foursquare jacket different than one from Special Blend (both bought by Burton in 2004)? And why were either different than Analog’s coats? And Burton’s accessories & footwear offerings were always great-looking, but I never bought anything from Gravis or Anon — because Giro already made great helmets, and about a billion companies made solid lowtops and sunglasses.
These impending closures mean a lot of lay-offs, though Burton hasn’t commented on that yet. Beyond the personnel at each brand, the team members on each pro squad face termination as well. On that front, the company stated only that they’d be “working with each team rider on an individual exit plan to transition them out.” Jake Burton spoke to Transworld Business about the transition in more detail, and he sounds genuinely sad to see the brands go.
For Foursquare, Forum, and Special Blend: enjoy your last run.