Once upon a time, playing against somebody wearing some sort of official stash indicated that the average player – by which I mean myself – was up for the same level as embarrassment as a year eight boy in a swimming lesson when one his class-mates has a beard. These days, things are less certain. The reason: everyone is wearing it. I even saw a dark blue modern pentathlon training top this morning, although how useful a stash top is in a discipline that involves horse riding and swimming is debatable.
My housemate plays rugby league (or RUGBEH LEEG as it should properly be called), and yesterday came down to breakfast in stash trackies, vest and hoody. Presumably if you cut him in half the letters OURLFC would also be written through him like a stick of rock. I can hardly claim to be blameless in this. Somewhere at home lies – unworn, I hasten to add – a purchase of such stash-hungry, narcissistic proportions it makes an ‘Oxford University’ hoody look like the kind of thing you could wear to a rough local on a Friday night: a bright red, New College Rugby wife beater, complete with name and number. The shame.
So why the kit obsession? When the England rugby team stepped out to national puzzlement in their new anthracite – or grey as it used to be called – kit, clearly they were thinking more about Christmas shirt sales than any desire to pander to a presumably non-existent audience watching in black and white. In the end, it all boils down to money. When they were taking a break from building Stonehenge – which I’m guessing was often, those stones are bloody massive – those prehistoric builders would have had to settle for shirts and skins whilst they kicked around a sheep’s skull or whatever they did back then. But they were cavemen, and didn’t have any money or printing or anything. Now we have money we may as well progress a level and wear that monogrammed beanie hat, even if it is summer. I mean what’s the point in slogging down to Iffley three times a week if you can’t command natural respect for your sporting prowess when buying your weekly supply of crew-date wine in Tescos (3 for £10, freshers – nothing gets girls more interested than a man who likes to splash out on them), frankly, what would be the point? It’s not like your average footballer wants to spend his whole life doing keepy-uppies in the fruit and veg aisle. No, that would be ridiculous. Stash is effortless. Not only does it have an elasticated waistband, it nonchalantly says yes, I’m better than you, and if you touch that last bottle of Merlot I’m going to cut you, or at least black board your name at Vinnie’s forever.