Peter Bromhead: Remember when only players wore jerseys?


Only old-timers will recall an era when the donning of an All Black jersey was reserved solely for those playing the game.

The garment was sacrosanct. Spectators, however, did tend to wear black attire at football matches - but it was the faithful oily parka or the double-breasted trench coat that dominated the public stands. Oiled black japara cloth was the mainstay defence against the miseries of inclement weather, with the grey trilby hat.

This was the age when flamboyant clothing would have been perceived as "a bit over the top".

I recall attending an international match in the South Island and, in an effort to show allegiance to my adopted home side, wearing a small silver fern badge.

"That's a bit girlie," I remember my Kiwi mate murmuring, acknowledging the embellishment with a curt nod.

In the 1950s New Zealanders seldom expressed their feelings in public, and appeared oddly subdued, even at sporting events, compared with the boisterous soccer crowds I'd grown up with in Britain.

At the time I concluded that this phlegmatic behaviour - particularly among males - was encouraged by the over-consumption of silverbeet, the staple vegetable accompanying the nightly roast mutton or ghastly pink saveloys.

My theory was that any vegetable originally cultivated by the boring Swiss would inevitably lower the exuberance of anybody who ate too much of the stuff.

With the introduction of frothy lattes, pink bubbly wine, fancy cheeses and asparagus, all that has changed and we now have new generations of extrovert, over-excited Kiwis, mesmerised by consumerism and easily beguiled into paying large sums of money to wear replicas of the jerseys worn by their sporting heroes.

Well, not all New Zealanders, I should hasten to add, thinking of Nancy Wake, born in Wellington, whose obituary this week recalled her exploits as a British agent and leading figure in the French Resistance during World War II.

I think I can say with some certainty that she would have preferred to have had her fingernails torn out by the Gestapo - like her hapless fellow agent Odette Hallowes - rather than don a garment bearing the name adidas.

Not because of the exorbitant price dictated by the avaricious manufacturer, but because the company's founder, Herr Adolf "Adi" Dassler, whose abbreviated name now sits proudly on our All Black jerseys, was once a fully paid-up member of the Nazi Party.

- NZ Herald

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