What’s not to lycra?

Pic 1. A stylish combination of club blazer and rowing kit from 1900.
A stylish combination of club blazer and rowing kit from 1900.

16 April 2016

Tim Koch writes:

Hear The Boat Sing editor, Göran R Buckhorn, recently posted a piece on the ‘regatta’ or ‘boating’ blazer that Sweden’s Malmö Roddklubb has just designed for itself. In Britain in the last few years, there has been a big expansion in the number of clubs with such a garment. When I started rowing in the mid-1980s, most of the rowing blazers to be seen were those from the top rowing universities and schools plus others from some Grand Old Clubs (GOCs). The numbers of these blazers were restricted by the fact that many could not be purchased by just any club member, they had to be earned by rowing in a Henley crew or in the first boat for the Head of the River. Some years ago there was a heated debate at the Annual General Meeting of one of the GOCs when it was suggested that its blazer should also be allowed for those who gave distinguished off the water service to the club. One irate defender of the status quo finally suggested that such people be allowed the hallowed jacket – but with a rather vulgar (or is it vulva?) four letter word emblazoned on the back (on hearing this, some from a neighbouring club suggested that perhaps all their old rivals should wear such an illuminated garment).

Pic 2. An advertisement for sports club blazers from the 1930s. The cost, twenty-nine shillings and sixpence, was less than £1.50.
An advertisement for sports club blazers from the 1930s. The cost, twenty-nine shillings and sixpence, was less than £1.50.

Malmö’s effort is a rather tasteful affair but, even when a blazer design includes lurid and/or clashing colours, the effect is usually toned down by the fact that the jacket is commonly paired with a conservative shirt and trousers. However, this is obviously not the case with modern on-the-water kit. As the name suggests, the lycra one-piece (‘spandex unisuit’) is usually the only garment worn when rowing and any lapses of taste are more obvious. This, especially when coupled with the fact that the material hugs every curve and bulge of the body, can produce some eye-catching results.

Pic 3. A card given away in cigarette packets in the United States in 1888, part of a series called ‘Dudes of the World’ and an early, pre-lycra example of inadvisable rowing kit.
A card given away in cigarette packets in the United States in 1888, part of a series called ‘Dudes of the World’ and an early, pre-lycra example of inadvisable rowing kit.

 

Pic 4. A gentle start to our parade of tastelessness; this design is modelled by Oxford University Lightweights and based on something that their grandmothers would have worn to the beach in the 1950s.
A gentle start to our parade of tastelessness; this design is modelled by Oxford University Lightweights and based on something that their grandmothers would have worn to the beach in the 1950s.

 

Pic 5. These Italians are presumably from South Tyrol where 'lederhosen' were traditionally worn by some – but lycrahosen?
These Italians are presumably from South Tyrol where ‘lederhosen’ were traditionally worn by some – but lycrahosen?

 

Pic 6. If you wear kit like this, then you have to win.
If you wear kit like this, then you have to win.

Sadly or happily, rowing has been beaten by women’s cycling in the production of lycra outfits that make you want to unsee them.

Pic 7. Who thought that the centre outfit was a good idea? Its only merit is that it makes the lycra on the left look good. Perhaps the Swedish cyclist on the right considers her lucky escape.
Who thought that the centre outfit was a good idea? Its only merit is that it makes the lycra on the left look good. Perhaps the Swedish cyclist on the right considers her lucky escape.

 

Pic 8. The Colombian Women’s Cycling Team – what were they thinking of?
The Colombian Women’s Cycling Team – what were they thinking of?

Perhaps we should return to the days when rowing kit was a simpler affair (and was never washed)?

Pic 9. A famous black and white picture of a Cornell crew from 1911 that has been cleverly ‘colourised’. Picture: reddit.com
A famous black and white picture of a Cornell crew from 1911 that has been cleverly ‘colourised’. Picture: reddit.com

 

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