Girls Usually Wear White Figure Skates; Boys Wear Black

The color of figure skating boots does matter

Black Skates for Boys and White Skates for Girls
Black Skates for Boys and White Skates for Girls. Credit: Soren Hald / Stone Collection / Getty Images

Boys and men almost always skate in black figure skating boots, and girls and women generally wear white. The reasons for this may seem odd, but the gender-specific color of figure skates has a long history in this elegant sport, dating back nearly a century to one of figure skating's greatest stars. Read on to find out when and how the tradition of black for men and white for women started, and why it continues—with exceptions—to this day.

White Skates and Short Skirts

Before three-time Olympic figure skating champion and ice skating legend Sonja Henie appeared, female ice skaters, like their male counterparts, wore black figure skates. Henie introduced the idea that women and girls should wear white ice skating boots.

In 1928, when Henie was 15 years old, she became the youngest woman at that time to win an Olympic figure skating gold medal. Henie held that title for 70 years until Tara Lipinski of the United States won Olympic gold in 1998. Lipinski was two months younger than Henie when she won her medal in 1998 at the Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. 

In addition to single-handedly changing the color of skates that girls and women would wear from then on, Henie also changed the kind of clothing female skaters wore. Until Henie came along, female skating attire was similar to street clothing. Henie introduced the idea of beautiful and short skating dresses and skirts for female figure skaters.

Not All Black and White

In recent years, however, entry-level soft skating boots have become popular for recreational ice skaters. The color of these soft recreational skating boots is usually never white. Soft boots are made in various colors, including blue, pink, gray, tan, or purple. Multicolored soft boots are also popular.

Some of the soft skating boots even include Velcro straps.

It is also common to see female professional figure skaters perform in tan-colored skating boots. Custom skating boots can be made with about any color or design. Suede skating boots have been seen in pink, purple, and even leopard or zebra designs.

Colored Covers, Rentals, and Pants

Young and beginning ice skaters like wearing skate boot covers of various colors and designs. A temporary solution for a male skater who may have been given a pair of white skating boots is to wear black skating boot covers over those white skating boots.

The skates available for rent at most skating rinks vary in color. Some arenas rent brown or beige-colored skates, but it is also common to see rental skates in orange, blue, red, or green.

Henie's short skating skirts may also be on the way out. For more than 90 years, female figure skaters usually always wore skating dresses or skating skirts and beige-colored figure skating tights for practice, but today, it is common to see skaters practicing in figure skating pants. Who knows? Maybe the black-vs.-white figure skate style will eventually fade, too.