There’s no excuse for it, really. Up and down the country, grown men and women are flaunting themselves in outfits that quite frankly ought to have a warning attached to them. Skintight, unforgiving, impossible to put on and take off without double joints and a lot of undignified wriggling, and most of all thoroughly unflattering, they’re the first major hurdle that anyone getting serious about rowing has to overcome.
I am, of course, talking about the dreaded all-in-one (for the non-rowers out there, it’s a hideous, lycra affair that shouldn’t really be worn by anyone over the age of, let’s face it, about six months).
The more reckless and cavalier (typically, men under 21 whose mothers ought to know better) are even prone to wearing them without underwear, which is a sight that no one (and especially the unfortunate cox) should ever be exposed to.
Now of course there are sensible reasons for pouring yourself into what was described on Twitter by @paddlefirm as a “lycra condom” (shudder). Your hands can’t catch on them at the finish; they’re streamlined, and … er, actually, that’s it. And whilst that’s all very well for international competitors, I’m not at all convinced that’s a good enough argument for the rest of us. How much wind resistance is your average club rower really creating?
When I had an abortive and phenomenally unsuccessful attempt at rowing as a student back in the 19**s (cough), lycra was unknown to us until an advertisement from “Godfrey Textiles” heralded the arrival of “all in one Rowing Suits” – designed specially for Rowers “in the latest fabric – stretch Lycra” (see below).
How we laughed. How ridiculous did those men look? And what, we reasoned, was wrong with shorts and a T-shirt?
Ah well, we thought. It’ll never catch on.