An Oarsman’s Dress Code

Above is a wonderful photograph from 1886 of some distinguished oarsmen of Malmö Roddklubb, my Swedish rowing club. At that time, the colours of the club shirt were yellow and dark blue, with blue pants, and a blue cap. The club was officially founded two years earlier, in 1884, but rowing had been going on in town several years before the club saw the light of day. The picture is from a prize celebration at the restaurant in Kungsparken [the King’s Park], a park that open in 1872. When I rowed in Malmö, you could row on the canals that surrounded the Old Town, which was a 4,5-kilometre (2.8 miles) long stretch. A part of the canals actually runs through the lovely Kungsparken and you can see the restaurant from the water. Nowadays it has been turned into a casino.

With an old club like this come a lot of good stories and anecdotes. One is from the 1930s and involves the restaurant in Kungsparken. The club’s most prominent oarsman during this time was Sture Olsson, who became Swedish Champion in the single scull three times, in 1929, 1934, and 1935. (Olsson is seen in the photograph on the left, just having received a championship wreath after winning one of those finals.) At one of the summer club banquets, the members were all dressed up in ‘top hat, white tie, and tails’ and gathered outside the restaurant in Kungsparken. They were waiting for Sture Olsson, who seemed to have been delayed. Suddenly, they could hear something approaching the restaurant from the canal side. There was Olsson, sculling in his shell; he had rowed from the boathouse in the dress code of the evening: top hat, white tie, and tails.

And these days, you have a problem getting all the men in the club to wear a tie for a club dinner!

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