Monday, 7 May 2012

Whatever happened to: Proper Rugby Kit?

Those familiar with my inane drivel will confirm that I often get a bee in my bonnet about kit design.

Some might even say that I’m a tad obsessed but it is my submission, m’lord, that it is all with good reason and it seems entirely appropriate that Proper Rugby Kit should make it into my sporadic series of nostalgic ramblings about aspects of the game that appear to have vanished...

When I began playing rugby in 1979 rugby kit had barely changed in 100 years, specifically:
- Heavy cotton rugby shirts, with collar and a couple of buttons down the front, in plain colours, hooped or, for the more avant-garde teams, quartered design. And long sleeves, always long sleeves, so that you could roll them up or (as became the fashion in the 1990s) hack them off with scissors. 
 - Sturdy cotton shorts in plain white, black or navy. With pockets, always with pockets, for storage of gumshield, sweets and cigarettes.

- Cotton/wool socks, plain, topped or, for team that likes to show off, hooped. Socks that didn’t stay up, no matter how many rolls of electrical tape were used.
Club colours and designs remained the same year on year and, despite the occasional embellishment here and there and the appearance of sponsors’ logos as money reared its ugly head, for many years little changed.

And then it did.

Pinpointing when it happened is difficult. Some say the England World Cup team of 2003, others point to the All Blacks in 1999. What is clear though is that now we are left with:
- Skin tight, lycra based, round-necked t-shirts with no collars. Even when not featuring incomprehensibly lurid designs they are invariably festooned with a myriad of sponsor logos and emblems – on the front, on the sleeve, on the back, down the side, on the inside? And short sleeves, always short sleeves, so that anyone wanting long sleeves has to squeeze into an even tighter base layer worn underneath.

- Tight, shiny, genital-hugging shorts, colours to match the t-shirt, which frankly wouldn’t look out of place in a San Francisco nightclub. And no pockets.

- Lycra-infused socks that attach themselves to the calves like clingfilm and take an age to put on and take off.
What next? Aussie-rules style vest and budgie smugglers?

Contrary to popular belief I am not an utter Luddite and do appreciate that the modern professional game needs to move on and that technological advancements in kit design are inevitable (despite unintended consequences like the impossibility of getting a decent bind in the scrum).

Sadly, however, such ‘advancements’ are not limited to the professional game and it has become all too commonplace for the slightly less toned athletes amongst us to have to squeeze into such lycra abominations. There is only so long one can hold one’s breath, after all.

No, rugby kit that fits and looks like proper rugby kit – is that too much to ask?


Phil @ Dumptackle said...

I think it started when addidas took over the All Blacks kit in 1998.

I always remember us having pretty much the same black kit with a white collar for ages when cantebury where making it and then adidas just changed everything.

The 1999 kit in particular I seem to remember having a strange material on the chest which was supposed to make it difficult for the opposition to tackle. It didn't help against the French though! And it made it look like you could see their ribs....

Unknown said...

I know just what you mean about larger players squeezing into lycra kit - a few years ago my daughter played for England Colleges against the Welsh Colleges at Cleeve RFC in Bristol - because their white kit from the previous fixture had been so soiled from the mixture of sand, coal dust and heavy rain that made up of the surface at Abercynon RFC and couldn't be washed clean they played in their navy blue second strip - one of the props from SEEVIC was a young woman of generous proportions and her shirt was stretched so much she looked like she was playing in pale blue!

Unknown said...

I fully agree with you. I don't like these new designs either.
Some of new kits are totally ridiculous.
I have written about it on my blog a few weeks ago, also posted some photos of silly rugby shirts.

Pascalou said...

? my U17 son has no such prevention against up-to-date "lycra jerseys".
You should see his face if you give him and his fellowes some good old cotton ones to play under january rain... (Yes, winters can be rainy around Toulouse, and pitches muddy...)

Graeme said...

adidas may have revamped the All Black's jersey but the fact that it's still primarily black is a lot different to the massive 'O2' stamped front and center on the English jerseys. Canterbury always had their emblem on the AB's jerseys. That said, there are some horrible kits out there these days. The Crusaders had a sword on the front of their jersey a couple of seasons ago that pointed straight down at their privates.