Be a Sport! Pommel Horses, Tennis, and the Beautiful (Vintage) Jock

Vintage pommel horse style.

I was looking at old scrapbooks and inspiration boards over the weekend and noticed among the bits of ephemera, quite a bit of vintage sport imagery.

I’ve always been inspired by sport, though as a young gay man, most of my “sporting” was individual. Team sports and the gays can be a tough sell to a fey tot. I knew I was athletic, but the idea of comradery with homophobic teen meatheads was more than I could digest, so tennis and swimming became my sports of choice. I think this is true of a many gay youth who feel the need to be athletic but are either put off, harassed, or bullied by straight teammates.

That being said, the fashion of sports of old seem to never go out of style, and here and there creep into “fad” territory. They might just be having another moment. Check out the above image of Vintage Pommel Horse Fashion Man. Stylist have used “vintage sport” to tell countless visual stories for collections ranging from Chanel to Dries Van Noten.

I need/have to have vintage rings in my house someday. Look at the knotting on the rope!


If I could go back to a time when I thought I was making my own decisions as a youth, I think I would have been a gymnast. These missed opportunities of gymnast perfection still haunt me. Why am I not an Eastern European gymnast? Why have a told myself over and over again that I will learn how to do a back handspring, though I am not yet at the point where I’m flexible enough to have ever touched my toes?

I think it might have been because I was afraid of looking “gay” as a kid. Bummer for me. Good thing life is long enough that I can still learn how to do that back handspring and be super gay. I win again.


Sad boy. He never became an Eastern European gymnast.


Chanel knows what’s up in their new spring ad campaign. Vintage sport is stylish for all, wether you’re wearing shorts or couture. Evidently.


Chanel's spring ad campaign on the uneven bars.


The most alluring thing for me about sports is not the aspect of competition per se (I’m not the most competitive person), but the idea of melding personal perfection, the costume of performance, and physical prowess. Basically, kicking ass and looking hot and fashionable all at the same time.

Many say, “I only run if I’m chased” or “Exercise is gross. I hate to sweat.” That’s a bummer for most people who after 30 gain weight from inactivity and a slowing metabolism. I too hate to run. My stride and pace is that of a 75-year-old man. “Butt” I just bought a new bicycle and I’m counting down the weeks it will take to craft a perfect bike butt.


Bike butt.


I’m way more concerned with the gentlemanly styling of sport fashion than I am with the high tech/synthetic material used in today’s sportswear. Many of the materials used in uniforms past did not breathe, were heavy–and even heavier when wet. Check out these team photos from Yale around the turn of the Century. So much great layering and bulkiness in the wintertime, and perfect trim silhouettes in the summer.


I’m not sure why men’s one-piece bathing suits went out of fashion. A tan line issue? Surely not. Teams from crew to swimming to water polo used to sport these and I, for one ,am sad to see them go. If someone knows of a designer that is trying to bring these back, please let me know. I will be on board in a second. I have a vintage one-piece suit that I bought in San Francisco that is amazing, but is itchy wool and not fit for a steamy New England day at the beach.


Day at the beach!


Sporty and clearly very talented. So many prizes.

Horses! Jodhpurs are difficult to wear, but always look awesome in pictures.

This is a team I would be a part of. Go Team!

This is me at a Halloween party in my vintage one-piece bathing suit. It’s comfy and if you have too much hummus at the beach, no one will notice.


The author in his one-piece suit at a party.


It’s not just a guy thing either. The Great Kate knew sports were a healthy part of life. So get to it. Do your best Katharine Hepburn, put on some tennis whites, and go out there and kick ass.


The Great Kate.

About Tyler Doran

Tyler is the owner of Heir Antiques, a curiosities shop in New York. He lives in the seaside-ish village of Wakefield, Rhode Island where he collects crazy stuff and forms very serious opinions about wildly unserious things. Doran loathes chenille anything; even blankets but especially sweaters. He lives for rare roast beef, unripend peaches and frozen candy (Haribo gummi bears being the best). Tyler plays tennis, swims and bikes to try to look like a 1920′s Olympian and so that he can eat frozen gummi bears and not feel all that guilty about it. His last three Halloween costumes were a Demonic 18th Century Aristocrat, a Demonic 1920′s Olympic Badminton Player, and a Bulgarian Strongman Circus performer from the 30s. Turn of the Century team photographs of guys in cricket blazers and striped football sweaters never cease to inspire him to dress like an English gentleman on a transatlantic steamship or at picnics by the lake. He once had an incredibly detailed dream about being a stowaway named Whisker Mittens on a ship bound for the African coast and he romanticizes histories in a big way.

One comment

  1. My childhood dream was to get scouted by Bela Karolyi and whisked off to a Romanian gym, so I feel you. I’m a little bummed that the contemporary fashions here don’t seem to be inspired so much by actual vintage athletic wear as “dressy fashion in an old-timey athletic setting.” They need to take a cue from your one-piece!

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