Posted by : Unknown Thursday, October 17, 2013

As the Welsh rugby team prepares to unveil its new kit, Robin Turner looks at how fashion on the terraces has changed over the years

Welsh supporters in Paris in 1989

From the flat capped, rattle toting, pipe smoking supporters of the past to the smart casual, team jersey emblazoned fans of today, what Welsh rugby's army face paint of followers are wearing has always provided something to talk about.

And with the launch of the Welsh rugby team's new kit today, supporters from Newport to North Wales will be wondering how they'll suit the new strip.

Welsh rugby chic has been a changeable beast, from the perfect Welsh flag dress worn by a stunning Shirley Bassey in the Millennium Stadium in 1999 to the peculiar modern fad for daffodil hats, face painting and fancy dress, you never know what's coming next.

In the 1950s and '60s, fans would "put on their best" before heading to the Arms Park.

Rugby mad acting genius Richard Burton took the (possibly misguided) decision to take his screen beauty wife Liz Taylor to a Wales v England game at Cardiff Arms Park in 1965 with the Port Talbot born star wearing what looked like an exaggerated football commentator's sheepskin coat on top of a white polo neck jumper while his equally famous beau turned up in a red headscarf and a black fur coat, only taking her dark glasses off to watch the match.

Whether Taylor was in red and black for Burton's beloved Aberavon RFC or Wales, we'll probably never know, but it was a game they would not forget.

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Burton's brother Graham Jenkins, who watched in an immaculate three-piece suit, later remembered it as "one of the worst experiences of a lack of crowd control that I have ever known."

He was referring to the problems Burton and Taylor had in getting through the star struck crowds.

They were eventually rescued by the Swansea-born Wales full-back Haydn Mainwaring, who cleared a path for them into the hotel kitchen where Burton discovered his expensive coat had been ripped, though, given its oversized fur collars, it's doubtful whether somebody was trying to steal it.

Bard of Glynneath Max Boyce tried to sum up the Welsh rugby fan in one outfit with his giant daffodil, oversized rosette, knitted red rugby jersey, large coat and, as all Welsh fans wore in the 1970s, that beaming smile.

The 1970s rugby fan however, was less fashion troubled than those in the past.

With Bowie, Bolan and co waving goodbye to the more traditional look of previous generations, fans started wearing Wales shirts tucked into their jeans, the 1970s boys with lank, caveman style hair, the girls with feather cuts.

The miners played their part in the '70s too, turning up for games in their work helmets which were fitted with cans of Allbright attached to flexible drinking tubes.

It was in the '80s that the wearing of team jerseys got a firm hold but there was a shock in store for the horizontally challenged.

The Welsh rugby jersey through the years

The 2003 Rugby World Cup saw perhaps the biggest change in design for rugby shirts when Clive Woodward and the scientists from Twickers introduced us to the skin tight rugby shirt, designed to make grasping a player's shirt more difficult.

It also made wearing them more difficult for the average fan who spent too long in Cardiff's Caroline Street...."Chip Alley".

Thankfully, the rugby jersey manufacturers were wise to the customers' pain and sports tops became the basis of a rugby themed casual clothing line promoted by the likes of Cotton Traders (founded by former England rugby captains Fran Cotton and Steve Smith), Eden Park (founded by two French ex-internationals and offering quirky Gavroche hats and stylish suits complete with rugby emblems) and New Zealand brand Canterbury.

Matt Allinson, of men's online fashion site Fashion Beans said: "Most updated rugby tops now feature a slimmer fit and come in an array of colours."

And his fashion advice for rugby jersey wearers is: "When it comes to choosing one, opt for high armholes, cut slim in the sides and colours that either work tonally or complement each other.

"Layer it over an Oxford cloth shirt with some jeans. Use it under your denim jacket for some nice texture contrast. Or simply just wear it by itself with a pair of tweed trousers and loafers. The more you experiment, the more versatile you'll find it to be."

The 1990s ushered in the era of Cool Cymru thanks to a host of pioneering bands like the Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics, Super Furry Animals, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, 60ft Dolls and, of course,

Catatonia, whose lead singer Cerys Matthews loved nothing more than to be seen in a Welsh rugby top.

It was a time when supporters celebrated where they came from and rugby shirts with "Valleys Girl" on the back started to be seen.

Earlier this year, for Wales' ultimately victorious Six Nations showdown against England, the Welsh Rugby Union called on fans across the country to create a "sea of red" as extra inspiration for the Welsh dragons on the pitch.

And it seemed to work.

Blockbusting wing George North said of the campaign: "Everyone talks about the positive impact the crowd can have on the pitch because it is true.

"It makes such a difference the players to be able to hear your home fans in full voice on a match day.

"We know going into every game that we have hundreds of thousands of fans behind us, we know we have the best fans in the world game in Wales.

"Looking up to a sea of red in the stands on Saturday or catching site of the good luck messages sent to us via social media or from our friends and family is an inspiration."

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said at the time: "This display of red unity from our fans, will show the world just why it is so wonderful to be Welsh."

Source: Walesonline

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