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Corsets, petticoats, trousers galore! Peel aside the layers that separate us from our Edwardian counterparts.

The Clothes & The Man: Cricket

England cricket team at Trent Bridge 1899
England cricket team at Trent Bridge 1899. Back row: Dick Barlow (umpire), Tom Hayward, George Hirst, Billy Gunn, J T Hearne (12th man), Bill Storer (wkt kpr), Bill Brockwell, V A Titchmarsh (umpire). Middle row: C B Fry, K S Ranjitsinhji, W G Grace (captain), Stanley Jackson. Front row: Wilfred Rhodes, Johnny Tyldesley.

William Gilbert “W. G.” Grace, considered by many to be the finest cricketer in history, contributed to Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes Series with an article on the proper outfit for playing cricket.

Amongst cricketers generally opinions are many and divided as to this or that particular style of batting and bowling, but sound them upon the materials necessary for the outfit of a player, and you will find as a rule that perfect unanimity prevails. I have very seldom met with a cricketer of eminence who did not take the greatest care in the choice of a bat, pads, or gloves, or who did not impress upon his tailor the momentous importance of comfortably fitting clothes.

It is advisable for the sake of health and comfort that he should wear flannel or woollen material next his skin. It was no unusual sight ten or twenty years ago to find an eleven or county twenty-two dressed in all the colours of the rainbow. White is now usually worn, and it certainly looks better and cooler than any other colour. Shirts should be made to fit easily at the shoulders, but not too loosely. They should also be made large at the neck, as nothing is more disagreeable on a hot day than a shirt which is too small round the throat.

The best material for trousers is white flannel or cloth manufactured for the purpose; I like cloth the best, and nearly always have my trousers made of it, as it does not shrink so much in washing, and that is a very important consideration if you play right through the season, from May to September. Braces are not worn when playing cricket, so there is no need to have buttons for them on your trousers; a strap and buckle at the back should be used instead. The straps should be made so that the buckle can be removed when washing is necessary, as the buckle is very likely to stain and cut the trousers if left on. Do not forget loops at the side for scarf or belt to go through. Many of the old cricketers used to wear belts to keep their trousers from slipping down; I prefer a scarf, as it looks better and will grip quite as firmly, and you will not run the risk of being given out caught at the wickets through the handle of the bat coming in contact with the buckle of the belt.

Caps I think indispensable and preferable to any kind of hats, unless in very hot weather under a broiling sun, when some protection to the neck and back of the head is necessary. Most of the leading clubs and counties have a distinguishing colour of their own, and cricketers generally wear caps made of this colour.

Jackets and jerseys, or ‘sweaters.’ as they are commonly called, have their place in the outfit of a cricketer. A jacket on a hot day is useful when one is not actually engaged in the game; special attention should be given to its colour and pattern—very often it is made of the same flannel and shade as the cap, and when well chosen forms a very pleasing contrast to the white of the trousers. It can be used when fielding, but certainly not when batting or bowling. A jersey or sweater is preferable; it fits closer to the body, is much pleasanter, and in the field on a very cold day it helps to keep you warm, which is necessary for smartness and comfort. Always carry it in your bag, for a hot and fine morning may be followed by a cold or wet afternoon.

Experienced cricketers know that the most trying thing during the season is to keep the feet from getting sore and blistered; if they become so, much of the pleasure of the game is gone; therefore everyone who wishes to be comfortable should wear thick woollen socks, and always have an extra pair or two in the bag when travelling about. They are better made plain, not ribbed, and in natural colours they are more comfortable and do not mark the feet.

Cricket boots or shoes must be worn. To prevent slipping, it is necessary to wear spikes or nails in your boots or shoes. [S]pikes are very convenient, as when they wear down short they can be taken out and new ones easily put in. Nails are used by some cricketers; they are of different sizes and shapes, but large square-headed ones hold best. I should advise all cricketers who play often to have two pairs of boots, one with short spikes or nails which will hold and prevent slipping on a hard dry ground, and the other with longer spikes for a soft wet spongy ground.

Pads were not worn in the early days of cricket, and although I have seen a few first-class cricketers who never use them, at the present time I cannot call to mind anyone who plays without them. It is much safer to wear them, and when they are properly made and fit well they but slightly affect the freedom of the legs. The sense of confidence that comes from wearing them more than makes up for the slight loss of freedom. At first [pads] were fastened with pieces of tape wound round the leg and tied; then came india-rubber or elastic straps with hooks, and finally the present arrangement of buckle and strap, which meets with general approval. Some makers of the present day have them fastened by loops and a long strap lacing up the back of the leg. When choosing pads see that they are exactly your size and fit well, for large, heavy, and uncomfortable pads will do as much to tire you out in a long innings as hard hitting.

Batting gloves are of the highest importance, and players should accustom themselves to wear them as soon as they begin to play regular cricket, or very possibly they may have to use them on some important occasion and will feel all abroad when wearing them for the first time. Gloves are generally made of leather, with strips of thick fluted india-rubber sewn on the back to protect the fingers and hand. When purchasing gloves be careful to see that the rubber is stout enough to resist the blow when the ball hits your hand or fingers, or you might just as well do without gloves altogether. See that the rubber on the fingers of the right-hand glove comes down slightly over the tops of the fingers, and on the side of the thumb instead of the back. Just remember that the side of the thumb, and not the back of it, is towards the bowler when you are batting.

Gloves are generally fastened at the wrist by a band of elastic sewn on the top and buttoned. You can fasten them by a band of elastic without a button, or have the thumb separated from the body of the glove and sewn on to a piece of elastic, the other end of which is fastened to the back of the glove, and long enough to pass once round the wrist; this contrivance will keep the glove well in its place.

And now, having described the materials necessary to complete a cricketer’s outfit, the only thing required is a suitable bag in which to put them. One made of good leather is preferable to any other sort. Mind you have it large enough to hold everything you can possibly require. Have a strong lock and key for it, and straps as well. Have your name inscribed on the brass round the lock, and your initials painted in plain bold letters on the side. In the hurry of hand-shaking and bustle to catch a train the wrong bag has been often taken for want of this simple precaution.

Cricket (1890)

For more information on W.G. Grace, here’s a short documentary of his life and times:

Dressing a Gentleman on a Budget


Prince of Wales, later Edward VII
By sconosciuto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII set the tone in matters of romantic entanglements, entertainment, and sartorial matters. Gentlemen of the upper classes and the aristocracy had not followed one man’s style so slavishly since the days of Beau Brummel, but as the social round expanded beyond the London Season (once again the result of Bertie’s eternal quest for amusement), the late Victorian gentleman required many, many, many more changes of clothing than his Regency counterpart. The rise of the middle classes and the might of the Industrial Revolution created a large market for suits, hats, boots, and other items of clothing, but though a bank clerk, an banker, and a peer marched along in uniformity of dress, the subtle distinctions in cut, cloth, and fit were strictly maintained–which created a problem for the impecunious gentleman desirous of keeping that sartorial distance between himself and those lower on the social scale.

Into the gap stepped an anonymous author know only as “a lounger at the clubs,” whose book The Gentleman’s Art of Dressing with Economy proposed to give tips on dressing to one’s station in spite of a lack of funds (this may also be seen as be a companion to 1874’s How to Dress on £15 a Year as a Lady).

The dilemma laid out by the Lounger was thus:

1. You must pay ready money for your clothes.
2. These must be well cut and well made up.
3. They must be kept in shape.
4. They must be kept in thorough repair.

To dress with economy you must adopt the ready money system. If you run a tailor’s bill the thing cannot be done. Your credit tailor not only sticks it on in price, but is often careless about fit and make-up, especially if you are so deep on his books that he guesses you are not in a position to pay him off and go elsewhere. Again, the haute volée of tailors cares little for your custom unless your yearly account is considerable; and although the most aristocratic snip is not above making you a single coat, the same attention is not bestowed on it as if you gave an extensive order. Even from the work-rooms of Burlington, Albany & Co. I have seen many a solitary coat turned out that would scarcely have passed muster in a ready-made Mosaic clothes-shop.

It by no means follows that you will dress well by merely giving an unlimited order to a first-class tailor. Money alone will not insure this consummation, nor is a gentleman’s turnout necessarily in direct ratio to his outlay. I know men who spend pounds on dress where others spend shillings, without appearing to much greater advantage. You may dress expensively without dressing well, as you may dine expensively and not dine well. To dress well and to dine well, both require taste to an infinite degree, and he who exhibits most judgment in the selection and harmony of his dishes and garments will be the best-dined and best-dressed man.

The question may, perhaps, now be asked by the reader, “If I am not to patronize Messrs. Burlington, Albany & Co., or an artiste of similar calibre, to what tailor shall I go?” Well, it is not my province to recommend any particular tailor or tailors; you pay your money and take your choice; but without mentioning names, there are hundreds of excellent economical tailors in London who turn out clothes equal in style and cut to the above eminent firm at prices from 35 to 40 per cent, lower, so cannot afford to give credit for longer than three months. To this class I should go. They may be found in quiet streets off the most fashionable resorts, and invariably have been cutters or foremen to the dii majores of the sartorial art.

Avoid “stripping pegs,” as the phrase is, or buying ready-made clothes. A skilful attendant at any such depot has a knack of pulling down, smoothing, and humouring whatever garment he may set his great mind on selling you; so that before the cheval glass, you look as if you had been born therein, and you and it both grew on together. Ah, dear delusion! You pay for it, and pass out. After a little wear you find the smooth gracefully-fitting robe becoming restive. It kicks up its heels, and plunges at the collar to displace your hat; it puckers, wrinkles, and makes you its bitter enemy so long as you continue to wear it.

Avoid everything outré in fashion—whether it be in material or in cut. Seek not to copy swells who lead the fashions, and sometimes affect eccentric garments and fancy stuffs — (witness the Noah’s Ark coat, long exploded; and more recently the dress coat of blue cloth and brass buttons). Such vagaries may do for men of means, who can afford to wear their clothes a short time and then discard them; but you stick to a coat cut on unflinching principles, which will not be out of date next month or next year.

Now, if you do not keep a valet (and if you wish to dress with economy, you had better not) you must either be your own valet, or get some one to do the work. No CLOTHES, HOWEVER NEW, WILL LOOK WELL UNLESS KEPT IN SHAPE. For this purpose look out for working tailor, bootmaker, and hatter in your own immediate neighbourhood, close to home, who are not above doing these small jobs and executing trifling orders off the reel. The tailor will rework button-holes, mend linings, finedraw holes made by rent or burn, renew buttons, &c. The bootmaker’s services should be requisitioned whenever there is the slightest wear perceptible at either toes or heels of boots. The hatter is often wanted to smooth the nap when ruffled by storms of rain, adverse winds, and hostile umbrellas. Your linen, too, must be kept duly posted up to the time of day, and if you have not wife or—well, say maiden aunt, or other female friend, addicted to the art for which Penelope was famed, then you must take sweet counsel with your laundress, and bribe her when necessary, to have the edges of your shirt-fronts and wrists machined, which are easily done at a trifling cost. I have often seen men, otherwise well dressed, mar the whole effect by exhibiting frayed cuffs, which simply wanted new running with a hem.

A Comparison of Prices

tailor prices

tailor prices2

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