Boofhead league players shouldn’t surf on my wave
When Ben Hannant appeared at his door this week to reveal he had played Origin while suffering from swine flu, he wasn’t only sending shivers down the spines of league fans. A lot of surfers would have felt a pang of anxiety too. Not because of any fears about the Origin series, but because Hannant was photographed in a hoodie with a surf label emblazoned across the chest.
There’s nothing wrong, per se, with footy boof heads pulling on a surf label. Australian surf companies have clad most of the free world in reasonably stylish, affordable clothes, and for footy players to feel part of this phenomenon is perfectly understandable.
But the contrast between a dude who is paid to bash into other dudes on a field and the more graceful sport from which the surf wear industry has blossomed is too stark to go by without comment.
Surf gear gives footy players street cred they invariably don’t deserve. They have a tendency to overdo the street wear outfits because their work gear is so hideous. On the park they look the same as they did 100 years ago, let alone last season. Even at training, where they should have a bit of leeway to express a bit of individuality, they are forced into generic tees and girlie leggings.
So when they get a chance to flaunt their wealth and casual good fortune down the club, at the tribunal or fronting court for some drunken escapade, for many years they chose the most extravagant surf gear they could find.
It was as far from their on-field outfit that they could get without cross-dressing (which some of them tried anyway). Volcom, the rebellious label that maintained its counterculture creed until it floated on the US stock market in 2005, was the most popular, but the big three – Billabong, Rip Curl and Quiksilver – were also faves.
Until recently, for a couple of years, you couldn’t open the sports pages without thinking you’d stumbled on a surf wear catalogue.
This epitomised the dilemma faced by the surf companies’ marketing departments ever since they started taking over the world in the early 1990s: how do you keep your label growing into non-surfing markets without appearing you’ve sold out?
Or, in other words, can a label with roots in the sweet idealism of the counterculture survive being photographed on the chest of a footballer, a culture that reeks of tradition and Dencorub? Fortunately, the fickleness of fashion solved the problem for them, at least in this instance.
Until Ben Hannant opened his door to a photographer this week, I thought the wave of surf fashion among footy players had been well and truly ridden to shore, upon which the boof heads discovered even more extravagant and expensive gear, such as G-Star and Diesel.
In fact, Willie Mason audaciously raised the footy fashion bar even higher last month, when he chose to relieve himself against a pub wall wearing not the smart casual that his peers sheepishly sport, but in a well-fitted dark blue single-breasted suit with white open-neck shirt.
The cut was almost certainly tailored – hanging perfectly across his wide shoulders but without a corresponding ballooning in the pants that he would have got had he bought off the rack. It was a challenge to league players everywhere, and one that Ben Hannant should take not of.
Ditch the surf gear, Ben. It doesn’t suit you, sir.
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