Lord’s Cricket Ground, long a bastion of that incurably British disdain for change, is set to cause quite the stir this month. The hallowed halls of the Grade-II listed pavilion, usually the exclusive retreat of the Marylebone Cricket Club, will be hosting a high fashion catwalk as part of London Fashion Week. Outrage from club members, famous for their striped ‘egg and bacon’ ties, was immediate, with one disgruntled member exclaiming “Cricket has gone to the dogs”. But the event, on Monday 17th June, is hardly expected to shock. It will form part of the London Collections: Men schedule, with the expert tailors of Saville Row, Mayfair and St James, providing up to 100 male models showcasing “the modern face of British elegance to an international audience”.
Are not straw boaters and cricket jumpers their own peculiar trend of high fashion? We look at other events this summer to find out if fashion is so wholly alien to the world of sport.
The Wimbledon Championships may not have quite the 200-year pedigree of Lord’s, but it is the longest running tennis tournament in the world, dating from 1877. With this long history comes a distinct set of rules and traditions. The ‘all white’ dress code has long been a characteristic of the event, but every year proves sportsmen and women’s remarkable ingenuity to bend the rules.
It may be hard to imagine now, with Sharapova’s knickers a permanent fixture at the tournament, but the original dress code demanded a long-sleeved, full-length dress for women. This all changed with Suzanne Lenglen’s flapper dress in 1922, ushering in an ever-more radical fashion scene. Perhaps the all-time highlight was Anne White’s 1985 tour-de-force, taking ‘all white’ to its logical conclusion with a figure-hugging white spandex onesie. Another game-changer was Bethanie Mattek’s tennis-ball encrusted white jacket in 2006. But it is Anna Kournikova who proved that the game of tennis isn’t always actually about tennis. Her ever-skimpier outfits helped her appeal as tennis’ ‘babe’ and, though she never actually won many matches, she has proved to be one of the game’s most enduringly popular, and wealthy, players.
Royal Ascot has given up any pretence of actually being about horse-racing. We all know its about the hats. Indeed the coverage of what high fashion is a-la-mode often exceeds the coverage of the races. The highlights of the 5-day event are The Gold Cup on Ladies’ Day and royal entrance that starts each day’s proceedings. In the Royal Enclosure, the dress code is notoriously well enforced. Men must wear an evening suit and top hat and women must wear a dress and hat. 2012’s statement hats included one shaped like a giant pill, one with an entire plume of peacock feathers and several that seemed to be made of pink candy floss.
Another institution on the high society circuit is Henley Royal Regatta. This rowing race is a fine showcase for men’s traditional high fashion. There are a marvellous selection of jackets, ties, caps and boaters on show, provided in most part by the students and old-boys of our venerable public schools. The most well-heeled of the country’s elite can be seen, if you can get anywhere near it, at the Leander Club which host the Saturday night shindig during the event.