Dirt: Closet & wicket

Viv Richards is my fall fashion inspiration.

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Daisy Alioto on dressing like a 1980s cricket player.

Tennis attire was hot this season. (Hot and funny.) Even post-magazine Playboy got into it. The folks at Rowing Blazers had a good summer, and they’ll probably have a good fall too if everyone gets on board with my big plans to dress like a cricket player all autumn. 

Everything I know about cricket I learned from Beyond a Boundary by Trinidadian intellectual C.L.R. James. The author perfectly describes the sport as both an umbilical cord to colonial empire and, ultimately, a cultural incubator with the power to birth a new vision of freedom for the West Indies.

Throughout James’s childhood, loving cricket meant accepting, at least within the boundaries of the sport, status quo Britishness:

I was not a vicious boy. All I wanted was to play cricket and soccer, not merely to play but to live the life, and nothing could stop me. When all my tricks and plans and evasions failed I just went and played and said to hell with the consequences. Two people lived in me: one, the rebel against all family and school discipline and order; the other, a Puritan who would have cut off a finger sooner than do anything contrary to the ethics of the game.

As an adult, C.L.R. James (a Marxist) ventured all the way into cricket and politics by publicly campaigning for the first Black national cricket captain. It’s no coincidence that in the wake of this victory, nationalism swelled in the West Indies:

According to the colonial version of the code, you were to show yourself a ‘true sport’ by not making a fuss about the most barefaced discrimination because it wasn't cricket. Not me any longer. To that I had said, was saying, my final goodbye…

C.L.R. James takes the reader through the 1960s, which is where my aesthetic appreciation begins, discovered in hours browsing Getty looking for sartorial inspiration.

From the 1960s to the 1990s (and especially in the 1980s) cricket players had it all. Bright bucket hats. Crisp polo shirts paired with dusty Adidas. Delicate necklaces disappearing into cable-knit v-necks. Warmup suits that made the United Colors of Benetton look like a try-hard younger sibling.

And nobody, I mean nobody, looked better than Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards. Richards was born in Antigua and like many of the players described in James’s book played league cricket in England before representing the West Indies internationally. His claim to fame is as a batsman and he retired from the sport in the 90s. But I would also like to pitch him as an unparalleled style icon:

Beyond a Boundary doesn’t cover the years of apartheid protest, but South Africa was banned from international cricket from 1970 to 1991. For me, understanding the political context for the sport during these decades only deepens my aesthetic appreciation. Below are some of my favorite photos from this period. — Daisy Alioto

The Dirt: Puritanism is overrated.