Let’s Play Cricket

The term ‘sportswear’ can be a little confusing. Today, it usually means something flammable from JD Sports: a brightly coloured garment constructed from a man-made, technical fabric with that faint whiff of Chinese sweatshop and used more for lounging than any physical exertion.

Yet it wasn’t always that way. The history of sportswear stems from a need for clothing to do gentlemanly activities like horse riding and shooting – the practicalities of which led to men requiring more functional pieces.

They, along with their tailors, constructed new items of dress that, to the modern eye, would still be considered formal, but at the time were viewed as dress-down casual. For example, we still call a tailored blazer a ‘sports jacket’.

Sports continue to be a major influence on fashion, particularly during the summer months. One of the most influential of these is cricket. While it’s only the Commonwealth that plays the game, its smart, summer image resonates the world over. Men still wear trousers when they play – how very dapper – and the romantic image of tightly-clipped village greens and cream teas make it more of a lifestyle than a niche recreational hobby.

Designers and brands like to push this image as a believable way to wear white tailoring, which is notoriously difficult. If you get it right, then you’re a style icon. If you get it wrong… well, let’s just hope you know the moves to Saturday Night Fever.

SS14: The Cricket Influence

Last summer, during the third London Collections: Men (LC:M) event, numerous brands and designers played the cricket card.

Under the vast Victorian ironwork of Old Billingsgate Market, looking out onto the River Thames, the finale of Hackett’s SS14 show didn’t feature the usual neatly filed line of suited boys that you would expect, but a gaggle of cricket bat-wielding models in leg pads, stripy blazers and top hats.

This Victorian-esque image was as English as the game itself:

Hackett SS14

“It seems no men’s collection is complete without some reference to cricket clothing. The cable cricket sweater trimmed with coloured stripes is a summer staple, whether it is worn or nonchalantly thrown over a crested blue blazer.

It’s a romantic image of England and players on neatly mown grass dressed in whites. A game so gentlemanly that they break for afternoon tea on the veranda of a white clapboard pavilion.” Says Jeremy Hackett, Founder and Chairman of Hackett London.

Men are often afraid of white, particularly when it comes to the bottom half: the trousers and shoes.

“Sometimes white is difficult to carry off, so it is of little surprise that designers are captivated by cricket kit. It is an opportunity to show white that stems from an environment that is masculine and sporty.

The off-white shirt with the sleeves rolled up (never short sleeves) and cream cricket flannels is a look that is classic and perfectly harmonious with summer. Please don’t ask me about the rules as I would be stumped,” he added.

Elsewhere, Lord’s played host to the tailoring houses of Savile Row, Woolmark and St. James, who also previewed their new SS14 collections during LC:M. Summer dressing and cricket, in particular, were the central themes with one of the world’s most famous cricket pitches serving as the backdrop:

Key Brand: Kent & Curwen

One of the standout brands from the Savile Row showcase was Kent & Curwen. This label is being reinvented by its American owners with cricket as its central focus. The splice in the cricket bat is even their new logo.

When older brands are being revived, they need a central item or theme. Just like Burberry has the trench coat and Belstaff the motorcycle jacket, Kent & Curwen has the cricket jumper.

Founded in 1926 by Eric Kent and Dorothy Curwen, the firm began as a manufacturer of the finest quality regimental, club and college ties, supplying the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

It was in 1930 that the label introduced the now iconic cricket jumper. The traditional sweater in white/cream with its distinctive striped v-neck set a global trend and was adopted by film stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood such as Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Laurence Olivier, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and C Aubrey Smith, who were members of the famous ‘Hollywood Cricket Club’.

Kent & Curwen went on to become the official outfitters to the English Cricket Team. They now have a British designer, Simon Spurr, as Creative Director and his first collection was shown during January’s LC:M.

Kent & Curwen Have A Rich Cricketing Heritage

How To Wear: Summer Whites

There are two distinct ways to wear summer whites: the retro/vintage way or the slimmer, more contemporary way.

The vintage approach means wide, Oxford Bag-style trousers á la Brideshead Revisited in sepia or off-white tones. Contemporary, on the other hand, sees polar white slim-fitting trousers teamed with a simple colour t-shirt or polo. Just avoid going straight down the middle.

Although the industry is trying to make you think that you’ll need a whole new wardrobe and everything should be white-on-white this season, it’s actually about balance and having enough white touches, be they stripes or detailing, to link the parts of your look together. For instance, many shoes now feature contrast white soles, which work extremely well with white trousers.

Gatsby style is often associated with cricket, so try teaming your trousers with fluffy Aran/cable knits, house stripes and club ties. If you’re being really playful and going all out, you could add braces, a boater hat or bow tie.

It’s best to wear white footwear and socks with this 1920s-inspired look as wider cut trousers often touch the shoe. Look for a classic round-toed brogue in white leather. If you’re investing good money, do so in the knowledge that you’ll get good wear out of them every spring/summer.

For something more modern, you’ll want slim, tapered trousers (white jeans are more than acceptable) that end before the top of your shoe. This offers a glimpse of sock or flesh and a break between the trouser and your chosen footwear – here we would recommend a pair of penny or snaffle loafers.

A white base offers you the perfect opportunity to add colour. A pastel pink or sky blue polo/Oxford shirt looks particularly great with white trousers and your cricket jumper tied nonchalantly around your shoulders.

Both the above looks have strong preppy ties, they just reference different eras.

Summer Whites/Creams Lookbook

kent & curwen ss14 kent & curwen aw13 crombie ss14 ovadia sons ss13 gant rugger gant rugger ss14 tommy hilfiger tailored ss14 el burgues ss13 sarar ss14 ralph lauren resort 2013 el burgues ss14 reiss ss14

Key Pieces
  • Varsity Cricket Jumper
  • River Island Ecru Chunky Cable Knit Cricket Jumper
  • Cream Cricket Jumper
  • Joules Harrington V-neck Cricket Jumper
  • Hackett Chunky Cricket Jumper
  • Beams Plus Cable-knit Linen And Cotton-blend Sleeveless Sweater
  • He By Mango Textured Linen Cotton-blend Sweater
  • Uniqlo Men Slim Fit Chino Flat Front Trousers
  • Richard James Notch-lapel Cotton Blazer 188884
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Garment-dyed Chinos
  • Asos Slim Chinos
  • Burberry London Stone Slim-fit Cotton Blazer
  • Hardy Amies Cable Knit Cotton Sweater
  • Burberry London Stirling Double-breasted Cotton And Linen-blend Piqué Blazer
  • River Island Ecru Cable Knit Cricket Jumper
Final Word

So there you have it, our rich cricketing heritage continues to inspire great British heritage brands’ spring/summer collections. However, this season the influence has spread further, with design houses around the globe embracing summer whites and creams like never before.

You’ll probably be thinking about the cleaning bills for all this white action. Let’s just say you have to be more careful and if you’re going to eat ice cream, make it vanilla!