Our pre-Varsity trip to the archives...

Joining a sports team is a brilliant way to make new friends, stay fit and even travel during your time as a student, and at Goldsmiths SU we support a program of 30 student-led sports clubs and activities

With Varsity 2020 fast approaching, we took a trip to the archives to find out about the history of Goldsmiths’ sports teams. We uncovered a lot to say the least, opening with this picture of Goldsmiths students playing a genteel game of cricket in the summer of 1905... 

By looking at these photos we can learn a lot about the kind of clothing and hairstyles that were popular for Goldsmiths students who played sports in the early Edwardian era. The poofy updo worn by the women’s hockey team below is called a pompadour, which was created by backcombing and rolling the hair over a pad of cloth and securing it with wire.

It was viewed as important for Edwardian women to look respectable while they played sports, so the formal hairstyles, floor-length skirts, corsets, collared shirts and cravats seen here were very much the order of the day. 

Lady Florence Dixie, President of the British Ladies Football Club in 1895, was also a well-known suffragette who published several works of feminist literature and criticised restrictive sportswear:

‘There is no reason why football should not be played by women, and played well too, provided they dress rationally and relegate to limbo the straitjacket attire in which fashion delights to attire them.’

By contrast, sportswear worn by men at the time was much looser and easier to move in. The Goldsmiths men’s football team, shown in the picture above, show them wearing a very similar footie kit to that worn by students at Goldsmiths today.

The Goldsmiths men’s tennis team pictured below (taken in the same year as the photos above) also look much more relaxed, although they’re in full whites and there are still more collared shirts than you’d see on the Goldsmiths tennis courts nowadays!

The wooden handle without a grip and squarish ends of the rackets they’re using are typical of the eral. Aluminium rackets didn’t become popular until the 1960s. The strings in the picture are almost certainly real catgut - so-called because they were made with the intestines of cattle. Synthetic racket strings are more common in the UK nowadays. 

And finally, this is the Goldsmiths women’s tennis team in 1906. Women had begun to compete in the Olympics just six years prior, and tennis was one of only two sports in which women could enter individually (the other was golf). In 1900 British tennis player Charlotte Cooper won the women’s singles and became the first individual female champion.