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Croquet Dress

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This article is reprinted from Messrs Charlton and Thompson’s Croquet. Commentary by Phooka editor Reginald Bakeley may be read by following the link at the end of this article.

The proper croquet garb, like the game itself, is determined by quiet good taste. There are of course bespoke, chic labels seen more and more on trendy courts and these are accepted without comment, but essentially the rules for dress are flexible; limited only by practical rules of comfort. The game is a demanding one, and as such demands a comfortable uniform. Freedom of motion is the ultimate criterion.

Out of consideration for the course, the croquet shoe should be soft and flat soled. The soft rule is a good one; not only is the course protected but the player is guaranteed maximum foot comfort for the grueling hours ahead. Whether the shoe is a Gucci slip-on, a Topsider, Adidas sneakers or disreputable jogging shoes is determined by the breeding and personal preference of the individual. Champion players have been known to favor all varieties, with a surprising number opting for the disreputable, albeit well broken-in, tennis shoe. Indeed, some in the U.S. have played barefoot. Style must be sacrificed only insofar as protection of the playing surface is concerned. Shoes with sharp heels are not to be worn under any circumstances during play.

The Shirt
Skillful players at any level will take every advantage to improve their game. Many croquet buffs believe the generously cut shirt provides a more fluid swing and so recommend wearing a shirt a size larger than normally worn. Opponents of the bigger-shirt theory hold that the extra material may in fact impede the swing by increasing wind resistance; logically, they extend their thinking by wearing snug, wrinkle-free pullover short-sleeved shirts, preferably of a synthetic material. The synthetic fabric, according to these theorists, will not absorb moisture and will therefore be of lighter weight during the course of the play. Too, they feel the synthetic fabric will move more freely through the air.

It’s an argument that has gone on for some time, and the rule book for croquet sensibly ignores it. A shirt or top (particularly for women players) should be worn; the style and fabric to be chosen and determined by one’s own standards of playing comfort.

English traditionalists ask that the croquet shirt remain a white broadcloth Sea Island pima cotton, the long sleeves rolled to just below the elbow.

The Trousers or Skirt
White flannel is still worn by serious players in England, and it is hard to fault the elegance of this classic garb. However, in croquet, alas like in too many things, standards have changed over the years and skirts and trousers of every conceivable cut and fabric are now seen on the croquet court. Croquet players, like all athletes, have their superstitions. In consequence, the “lucky” blue-jeans, flannels, or shorts will be worn repeatedly. There are known instances of players being requested to change their luck and their trousers, but again, the rules are wisely flexible in this regard. The selection of color, fabric, and cut of skirt or trousers remains the exclusive province of the wearer.

Head Gear
Fortunately for civilized play, the protective helmet is no longer needed. At one point in croquet’s checkered history, the mallet was used as imaginatively as today’s hockey stick, a flexibility that encouraged the wearing of leather caps not too dissimilar from the football helmet. Happily or not, these are bygone days.

The billed cap is to be worn only for protection against the heat and glare of the sun. An attempt at a team uniform-to include the visored cap emblazoned with team colors-simply did not catch on. Frankly, caps are considered effete by seasoned players, and are openly discouraged except when playing in the tropics or Australia.

White, of cotton or wool, is the preferred color sock. The sock should reach well above the ankle, but need not reach mid-calf. Croquet is nothing if not a realistic game. Many players do not wear socks at all.

Foul Weather Croquet Gear
One of the hardier games, croquet provides for continued play even in the face of inclemency. Since a game will not be delayed until puddles begin to form on the court, players are advised to make provision for playing in the rain.

The standards for rainwear are simple: usually a large umbrella held over the head of the player by his partner. Boots and raincoats are generally not worn since they act as obvious impediments to a clean swing. There are no specifications regarding the size or color of the umbrella, but a player is under no obligation to share or to offer to share an umbrella with an opponent foolish enough not to provide for the vagaries of the weather.

A Counter-Viewpoint, by Reginald Bakeley

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