Friday, 6 June 2014

'Game of Driza-Bones': Australia's Commonwealth Dilemma

It’s not often that the sight of the ‘green & gold’ has Aussies seeing red, but the unveiling of the new Commonwealth Games uniforms for Team Australia has done just that. Nanna knits, jumbuck jackets and delightfully daggy Dunlops are the heroes of this dish that appears to have been served-up from beneath the shade of a Coolabah tree. The outfits are certainly seeing an all out attack on their defence apparel designers, so let’s take a look at the uniforms and issue, as they unfold.

According to social media and various online surveys yesterday, feedback suggests that a “majority of the Australian public” hate the new Commonwealth Games uniforms. Now to them I say, with all due respect, you’re the same “majority of Australians” that elected Tony Abbott Prime Minister of this country. Based solely on that little fact, you’ve in all likelihood lost all right to an opinion. Where was this outrage when my primary school winter uniform meant I had to wear a flesh-coloured skivvy and knee-high socks? You don’t know my struggle until you’ve had your mother fit you for a compulsory flesh-coloured cotton track-suit for your primary school sports days. There’s a good chance what you have is not an opinion on uniforms, but in fact an uninformed opinion – *BOOM* – wordplay worthy of a possible Commonwealth Games bronze.

Let’s start by addressing the green & gold elephant in the middle of the room; there is really no way to make green & gold look good together. Essentially, they’re the colour of envy and urine. There’s a reason they’re not in the wardrobe of your average Australian citizen, and if they are, there’s a reason they rarely make their way out of said wardrobe. There’s only so much we can do with the colours we’ve been given. It’s tantamount to handing ‘My Kitchen Rules’ contestants a celery stick, cucumber and a lemon and asking them to make you a Pavlova – you’re disappointed with the result and left with a bitter taste in your mouth.

We also need to stop pretending Australia has a rich history of high fashion. Our “national style” is either overly protective or intensely revealing. It’s either footy shorts, a Bonds singlet, thongs and an akubra hat or Blundstones/Dunlop volleys, Driza-Bone jackets and Hard Yakka pants. If there was a word to describe our aforementioned “national style”, it would be “resistant”. Our clothes have to be resistant to seemingly everything. They have to be water-resistant, wind-resistant, sun-resistant, stain-resistant, flame-resistant, fade-resistant, bug-resistant even bird-resistant – we spend so much time making our clothing resistant, we don’t have time to make it look irresistible!


The other key benefit many have overlooked is that we now have the only official Commonwealth Games uniform, which is also hi-vis and OH&S friendly. Given that more and more event host countries are failing to meet construction deadlines of their stadiums, this could mean that we sweep the medal pool by default as we’re likely the only team permitted to compete on a construction site. So even on the off chance that Glasgow isn’t ready on time, there’s still time for Aussies to get behind their athletes and start designing a green & gold hardhat!

Essentially, we need to ask ourselves; how much does the appearance of the outfits really matter in the grand scheme of things. Wasn’t it Martin Luther King Jr. who once declared, “Athletes should not be judged by the colour of their skins or by the content of their carry-on”?   I may have skipped the odd history class in high school but I digress.  Firstly, these athletes are some of the fastest moving and agile people in the Commonwealth if not the world, you’ll be lucky if you get a glimpse of their outfits long enough to pass judgement. It’s the same reason people would be up-in-arms if the Victoria’s Secret fashion show was a sprint.

Secondly, these are some of the most attractive people in Australia, with bodies most could only dream of having – why do they even need uniforms? I’ll be the first to suggest that green & gold painted-on body suits are the way to go. They’re unique, aerodynamic, tailored to the individual athlete’s body, an attractive sight for the crowds, a distracting one for the competitors and in these tough economic times for Australia, what better way for the government to show that they’re committed to saving money!? It’s an opportunity to get the Commonwealth Games viewing audience into the billions. Honestly, I’ve never watched a great deal of Commonwealth Games as I’ve often viewed it as the slow in-bred 2nd cousin of the Olympics, however if this policy was instituted, I would be watching the rhythmic gymnastics intently!

When we get right down to it, let’s face it Australia; as long as our athletes bring home as much gold, silver and bronze as they can physically fit into their carry-on luggage, we could care less if they cross that finish line, balance on that beam or win that match dressed in a pair of green & gold pyjama pants, hand-me-down sweaters and tee-bars. The results and performances of our athletes are what matter. That’s why you’ll never hear a reporter after one of the Diamonds’ netball games saying, “Yeah a decent win, good ball-movement, but geez, wasn’t the colour coordination and precision stitching on those skirts and bibs something to behold!” Really, if history’s taught us anything, it’s that you can wear even the most unflattering outfit as long as your achievement is big enough. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in an all-white ski suit, biker helmet and school backpack and no one criticised that clash of styles. Mel Gibson fought back the English in a kilt and he had a movie made about him… seriously though, I skipped a fair few history classes.

So come on Australia, let’s be uniform in our support and remember that getting behind our athletes doesn’t mean we have to get on their backs. Sure, in the future we may need to consider more fashion-friendly colours and say "out with the ‘green & gold’ and in with the ‘blue’," but right now let’s just set our sights on the winner’s podium rather than the catwalk. If that means wearing something that looks like the ‘Man From Snowy River’ turned hipster and had his nanna put together an outfit for him, well then “OI OI OI!”

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