Kit Change - Has Rugby Gear Lost its Grassroots Edge?

February 2, 2017

Whatever Happened to the Classic Rugby Gear? Simply Stated: Rugby kit certainly isn’t what it used to be. The modern day pitch witnesses a wider selection of vibrant colours than Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen’s paint pallet, and materials that were yet to be discovered 20 years ago.

Frankly, players enjoy a mammoth range of stash these days – so much so you find people competing in 7s tourneys simply to get the kit!  

Of course rugby, like every sport, must evolve and commercialise itself, and to be honest many of the modern day kits are brilliant! However, has rugby perhaps lost its ‘gutsy’ edge and label? It used to simply be about winning and losing – Often, the less you cared about your appearance the better you played.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Question:

How fondly do you look back on your childhood rugby days?

If you were the kid whose mum packed them off to training with a simple, plain rugby top with a white t-shirt underneath, swimming shorts and a pair of your dads socks that could still be pulled up to the knee…you were probably a top player!

If you were the guy who arrived with shoulder pads, red socks, short shorts and almost hi-top esque boots…then perhaps you hid your inability to play the game with your knowledge of how to kit yourself out - this camouflage was in place to convince people you were good, not that you could look good. All the gear, no idea!

What I am saying is the training pitch wasn’t a catwalk – it was an arena.

But not only was it at junior levels that the kit was classic and modest – pitches containing players of the highest order saw blooded men with strips that looked at least 6 games old and boots that looked more like hiking shoes!

Something I find amusing is nowadays when you welcome a new player to your local amateur club; It is easy to distinguish a rugby novice from a seasoned rugby veteran from the way they are kitted out.

The New Guy:

  •  Firstly, he will look like he’s come from a Persil ad. Immaculate kit
  • The kit will be state of the art – Skin-tight top (may reveal more than the mind can take), under armour, some tape around the knee for an unknown purpose.
  • Boots that look more like dancing shoes and the odd one may even bring shin pads for the first session

The Return of the King:

- The same gear he wore when he hung up his boots for the first time.
- An international strip that contains simply his national badge
- Some plain cotton shorts 
- A pair of hi-top like boots – Similar to those in the image above

Whatever happened to those baggy strips (of course it made it easier to tackle your opponent) but they were classic rugby tops – the strips nowadays are bicep-hugging, verging-on-cycling-lycra tops. But it's the stigma that comes with the baggy strip that we're missing. 

The oversized cotton strips actually meant the player had to battle the elements – wet heavy strips that openly invited mud, certainly made it a lot harder to perform a Sonny-Bill like offload.

These days I’m sure the England strip is getting whiter and whiter – if that is even possible? Perhaps them and Persil know something we don’t…

The game has become very trendy with players enjoying fluorescent strips and flashy, luminous boots – for this I blame Gavin Henson.

I absolutely agree that rugby should keep up with the times and continue to modernise – however during this process it may have lost it’s identity a little that can be seen with the increased consciousness surrounding appearance – or perhaps I’m just a cynical git. 


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