Dear Readers, it may come as no surprise to you that I’m not much of a sports follower. Up until a decade ago I couldn’t give a fig about the Olympics, and my grasp of other sports was confined to ‘the one with the ball with hexagons’ vs ‘the one with the pointy ball’ vs. ‘the one with the hard little ball’.
Then I came to NZ, and met Mr D.
NZ is really into athletics. Mr D is really into athletics (so much so that he would point out that athletics are a specific type of sport, and not a synonym).
Partly out of a desire to fit with my adopted culture, partly out of proximity to Mr D, and partly out of self defense, I now know a lot about sports.
Or, to be more precise, I know a lot about 3.5 specific kinds of sports: cricket, rugby (both league & union — hence the .5), and running. I’m still pretty vague on that sport with the pointy ball and the yard lines, or that one where they stand around and don’t hit the hard little ball with a round stick a lot.
There is no cricket or rugby in the Olympics (though Rugby 7s has been added to the 2016 lineup), but one of the best runners in the world is a Kiwi, and all the Kiwi athletes will be wearing uniforms that have their basis in the garb worn by the first NZ rugby team to tour England: the 1905 All Blacks, so called “by reason of their sable and unrelieved costume.”
The original All Blacks probably wore all black because it was cheap and looked tidy even when it was dirty, but they started a pretty awesome tradition of wearing black and white (and occasionally silver for the fern emblazoned on the uniforms) and naming the team after the uniform colours. The national Rugby Union team (current world champions) is still the All Blacks, the soccer team (the one that was the only undefeated in the 2010 World Cup) is the All Whites, the cricket team is the Black Caps, the field hockey teams are the Black Sticks Men & Women, and the badminton team would have been the Black Cocks if the IBF hadn’t shown a distinct lack of humour and disregard for a longstanding national tradition and vetoed it.
It’s a fantastic tradition : it’s hard not to look chic and elegant in black and white, giving Kiwi athletes a distinct sartorial advantage on the field (and really, even though I now know some of the technicalities, I only watch the Olympics to comment on the uniforms).
So, in honour of the Kiwi athletes in London this year and the seven Kiwi athletes who travelled to the last London Olympics in 1948 by boat (the formal wear of the 2012 NZ Olympians is a direct homage to their attire) and in honour of the glory days of NZ rugby, when rugby really was a home-grown sport, and the All Blacks were not professional athletes but farmers and businessmen who trained by lugging bales of wool, I’ve made a late 1940s swing coat in black and white tartan.
It’s the sort of thing I imagine a fashionable supporter at the 1948 Olympics wearing, or, the same woman a few years later (hey, NZ was a bit behind the times sartorially speaking) wearing on the sidelines during the famous 1956 Springbok tour of New Zealand.
For my photoshoot we went to the Basin Reserve, which is the Wellington cricket grounds, and also home to the NZ Cricket Museum. The Basin Reserve also serves as a sort of glorified roundabout: with all the traffic from the CBD going out to the suburbs flowing around it.
It’s a gorgeous setting: old bleachers in an Art Deco building, newer bleachers in a dreadful 1980s building, sloping hills where people sit and have picnics during cricket games, a little classically inspired pagoda, and all of it fringed by pohutakawa trees. The awesomest thing is that when there aren’t games on you can just wander through it. People use it as a shortcut on their walk too and from work, and kids hang out on the hills and treat it like a park. It’s not often that you can just wander through a major stadium or athletic ground at will!
Unfortunately for our photoshoot they were in the midst of re-doing the field, so it was a bit dug up and muddy rather than serene and green, and there was a distinct smell of fertilizer in the air. We spent a lot of time wrinkling our noses and giggling rather than taking pictures. On the bright side, after days of rain the sun peeped out and gave us some glorious light for the shoot.
The jacket isn’t quite right: I meant it to be a stunt version of the pattern, so I used the cheap nasty acrylic fabric. I didn’t quite have enough, so the back pieces are cut off grain, which is doing terrible things to the hang of the coat. I had to omit the cuffs because I didn’t have enough fabric left. And I want to play with the sizing of the jacket on my next version. So there are things to be tweaked. But I’m generally happy with the jacket, and inordinately pleased with my bound pockets (do you know how hard it is to get perfect bound pockets in acrylic? hard), and the lining.
Because really, a brilliantly mallard green lining makes everything better!
For your listening enjoyment, the title of this post comes from ‘Run Runaway‘ (the lyrics actually say “Dream in Black and White”, but I like to sing my own version). I’ve linked to the Great Big Sea cover rather than the Slade original, because (as we know) everything is better done by Great Big Sea. For another song, I kinda have to share ‘Loyal‘, a Kiwi classic that comes up whenever anyone wants to evoke a deluge of nationalism and sporting fervour (or, more accurately, shame the athletes who have decided to go abroad for more money fervour).
So, here is to black and white, and copper and silver and gold! Here’s to the Kiwi athletes doing my little adopted country proud! (and here’s to the marathon of this jacket FINALLY being done!)
Just the facts, Ma’am:
Fabric: 3ish metres of mostly acrylic, slightly wool blend, 3ish metres of mallard teal acetate lining, both inherited from Nana
Notions: 3 white plastic buttons (inherited from Nana), thread, 1 metre interfacing ($9)
Make again? Probably — but in much better fabric.
Wear again? Yes. I had slight reservations at first, but I’ve reached for it three days in a row. This might become a wardrobe staple
Total cost: $9