Swans A-Swimming

'Sport in History', the journal of the British Society of Sport History, published by Routledge.

‘Sport in History’, the journal of the British Society of Sport History, published by Routledge.

Fashion designers are said to be only as good as their last collection.  And rock stars, only as good as their last album.  Does the same hold true for academics?  Are we only ever as good as our last article or book or lecture?  I’ll leave you to ponder the answer to that.

It’s a good twelve months (or more) since my last flurry of blog posts.  I wonder, have I been only as good in the ensuing year as my own last blog entry: ‘The Final Cut’?  Again, I’ll leave you to ponder the answer to that.

Just this month, the journal article I was chiselling away at in January 2014 whilst in snowstruck New York City (and reporting on its lumbering progress here) has emerged, swanlike, as a fully-formed publication.   Its swanful grace (if you can call it that) owes a debt of gratitude to the magnificant images that illustrate the piece and that I sourced at the National Sporting Library and Museum, VA.  How fortunate I’ve been to work on their ‘Gerry Webb’ collection, comprising thirteen, large, scrapbooks of sporting (equestrian) photographs.  Many of these were snapped by a professional journalist(s) who, even in the 1930s, produced some crystal clear, and compelling, shots that document fashionable men and women having fun on race day (among other things).  Glorious.

There’s an inevitable no-man’s land, a sort of literary interval, between packaging up a manuscript for a publisher and then, sometimes many, many months later, receiving the final, hold-in-your-hand, bookshelf-ready copy of a publication.  It would be easy to write here how that moment is so satisfying and gratifying (which, of course it is).  But engaging such well-worn cliches about ‘worthwhile effort’ does not capture the full complexity of what it is to go to press (so to speak).  In particular, that interval, that expanse of time, that lull, does peculiar things to written words.   So that – and for fear of getting a bit mystical here – the words that are returned to you in type-set, printing press and glossy cover form seem somehow strange, foreign and unknown.  ‘Did I write that?’ ‘I don’t remember saying that?’ There’s an element of forgetting with the passage of time.  But, too, there are other elements at play to do with ‘taking the ego’ away from the words, loss of immediacy, distance, removal.  At least, that’s what it feels like for me.

So, am I making a case here for writing as anti-climatical and, ultimately, rather disappointing?  Quite the opposite.  I wouldn’t be without it.  And, to ensure this particular blog entry ‘delivers’ as it should, here are all the details of that very journal article (and you may view it here)

Goodrum, A. (2015) ‘The Style Stakes: Fashion, Sportswear and Horse-Racing in Interwar America’ Sport In History 35 (1) pp. 46-80. Special Issue, Kit: Fashioning the Sporting Body.

Abstract: Despite an acknowledgement that, historically, the relationship between horse racing, women and fashion was important, existing literature provides little detail on the actual clothes that women wore as racegoers. The aim of this article is to add missing depth on the clothing of fashionable women at horse races, focusing on the United States during the inter-war period. In so doing, the discussion extends understandings of the history, and the material culture, of sporting spectatorship more generally. The article also introduces original work on the male spectator and his racegoing wardrobe. Climatic considerations to do with dressing appropriately for the great outdoors are discussed along with other influential factors on spectator dress such as contemporary fashion journalism and photography. The industry supplying fashion consumers was in transition at this time also and New York acquired prominence as a centre for a new mode of sporty, all-American fashion that was termed ‘sportswear’. As well as dealing with the clothes and the individuals who wore them, then, the article tells the story of the broader socio-economic conditions of American fashion, sport and sportswear that formed – and informed – their wearing.