Thinking last week how nice it would be to have a bit of historical context for the unveiling of Stella McCartney's uniforms for London 2012, we set our sights high and asked authority and Shire author Janie Hampton if she would be willing to contribute a small piece ... and our wish was granted! So without further ado, over to Janie!
At last, Team GB’s uniform has been unveiled, all 590 items designed by Stella McCartney. There is a different uniform for each sport, as well as Ambassador’s, Games Maker’s, Team Leader’s and even Anti-Doper’s. The all-white nylon Torchbearers’ tracksuits look like pyjamas, with gold arrows (representing the energy of the Olympic flame) shooting down the torch-holding sleeve.
The snazzy blue football shirts and red boots will be worn by the first British football team taking part in an Olympic final since 1948. Back then, the footballers had to buy their own boots, though the Football Association lent them each a tracksuit.
Oarsmen in the 1940s normally wore T shirts, buttoned up to the neck. They felt very naked when issued with skimpy sleeveless singlets . They had to make their own shorts. Tony Butcher’s mother made his from some terry-towelling. ‘They were better than most shorts, as they didn’t slip,’ he said.
The British male competitors were each issued with a free blazer, plus two pairs of Y-front pants from Coopers.
‘It was after the war and I think all the tailors had been shot,’ said oarsman Bert Bushnell. ‘They must have been cut out with a knife and fork. Because of clothes rationing, the Olympic tie was so short it stopped half way down your chest.’
The British Olympic female athletes had to use their own clothing coupons to get their blazers, berets and frocks. ‘The sort of thing we used to call a kitchen dress, that you might give to your cook,’ said fencer Dame Mary Glen Haig.
‘We made our own running kits,’ said sprinter Audrey Mitchell. ‘The legs of the shorts had to be at least four inches long. They were more like big baggy knickers.’ Instead of tracksuits, British athletes wore slacks and jumpers in between their races. High-jumper Dorothy Tyler was lucky, she still had the track suit she’d worn at the 1936 Olympics.
See Janie Hampton's book here