Fancy Dress Today

“Fancy Dress” and Football have gone together for a long time, although time has changed those who dress up.

Today there are occasional football scandals where football players have made inappropriate choices at Fancy Dress parties. In 2013 St Kilda suffered from an end of year scandal when a player set alight the fancy dress outfit of one of the entertainers, while in 2014, in the UK, a Manchester United player found trouble by dressing up as a suicide bomber at a private function.

More common today is to see fans dress up to see a game. In Australia dress up for fans is encouraged and involves prizes from the organisers. In the U.K. Hartlepool United fans have developed a reputation for dress up for the last match of the season and packs of Smurfs, Thunderbirds and Oompa Lumpa’s have made news over recent years.

Stu Smith - great queen st: smurfeit of smurfs - Hartlepool fans visit London - May 2012 - cc Attribution NoDerivatives
Stu Smith - great queen st: smurfeit of smurfs - Hartlepool fans visit London - May 2012 - cc Attribution NoDerivatives


Today it is more common to see a crowd in fancy dress watch a sporting event rather than the other way around. This was not always the situation, especially prior to the second World War.

It would be interesting to see if rise of radio and television, and rise of the the importance of celebrity caused this change.

Muff Events

'Muff' was a term used to describe mistakes (as in "he muffed it") but was also a term used to describe sport played for humour. 'Muff Football', 'Muff Tennis', 'Muff cricket' were all played and 'Muff concert's' and 'muff racing' or even 'muff coursing' occured. 'Muff football' was one of the most popular of these events.

'Muff' events were often played to raise money for a local charity and were more likely to be run by people in the community rather than professionals. On the whole, events did not include a 'celebrity' component and professionals either played serious games or ex-players might play 'old timer's' games.

One form of 'Muff' Event was 'Dress Up'. This added to the attraction of the event for the participants and spectators alike. Often there was series work put into the costumes.

Although sometimes run as individual events, these fancy dress events were often part of a charity carnival which might involve stalls, and a parade.

A Number of terms were used to describe the fancy dress games:

  • Grotesque Football
  • Fancy Dress Football
  • Dress Up Football
  • Costume Football
  • Theatrical Football

Victorian Commerical Travellers Fancy Dress Football Carnival - Albert Park -Australasian 17-Aug-1912 p68
Victorian Commerical Travellers Fancy Dress Football Carnival - Albert Park -Australasian 17-Aug-1912 p68


Old newspapers are full of reports of these matches
Leader 17 Aug 1912 Commercial Travellers
Leader 17 Aug 1912 Commercial Travellers
Weekly Times 21 Jul 1906 P12 Fancy Dress Football Benella
Weekly Times 21 Jul 1906 P12 Fancy Dress Football Benella
Weekly Times 27 Jul 1907 Fancy Dress Powlett V Ryanston
Weekly Times 27 Jul 1907 Fancy Dress Powlett V Ryanston
Weekly Times 20 Aug 1910 P29 Fancy Dress Football At Fairfield1
Weekly Times 20 Aug 1910 P29 Fancy Dress Football At Fairfield1
Weekly Times 20 Aug 1910 P29 Fancy Dress Football At Fairfield2
Weekly Times 20 Aug 1910 P29 Fancy Dress Football At Fairfield2
Weekly Times 20 Aug 1910 P29 Fancy Dress Football At Fairfield3
Weekly Times 20 Aug 1910 P29 Fancy Dress Football At Fairfield3


The crowd would follow the procession through the street and into the oval to watch the game. Other novelty games followed the same practice. Women's football was seen by many as a novelty in the early 20th century and for many reasons women's football was played at similar charity carnivals.

Although I have lumped all dress up matches into the 'muff sport' category, it is not to say that the games themselves were not taken seriously. In reality there was a wide range of seriousness where some games were not serious at all and others, such as inter town games in the country, or other annual matches would have had a much more serious nature. In most cases, the crowds would have had clear expectations of what to expect.

Women's games could cause particular problems when it came to running them. The game may have been taken seriously by the players and spectators, but 'muff' elements could be added to the game, possibly without the consent of the players themselves.

'Muff' or other elements were sometimes added to other charity games to increase attendance. For example at a Charity carnival on the Adelaide oval in 1925, 45,000 spectators watched a game including old ex-SANFL players and not in fancy dress, but the opening bouce for the game was dropped from an aeroplane. There was also a preceding game involving indigenous players from Point McLeay playing without shoes and a parade including the local Chinese community. A King of Football' competition was also run.

Chronicle  Adelaide 27-Jun-1925 p36 Part of the display by the Chinese Community
Chronicle Adelaide 27-Jun-1925 p36 Part of the display by the Chinese Community


The marginal position available to women, and indigenous Australians in Australia at the time is clearly brought out in the running of these carnivals.


Early Games

Costume matches were easier for cricketers and less likely to destroy the outfit. Cricket matches predate costume football matches.

Every year the members of the . dramatic profession in Melbourne are in the habit of playing a costume cricket match in aid of the funds of the Dramatic and Musical Association. This time the proceeds were specially
devoted towards completing No. 2 cottage. - Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers 30 January 1873 p8

Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers 30 January 1873 p8
Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers 30 January 1873 p8


In 1877 3,000 people attended a match run by the City football club. This appears to be quite an early costume match.
A costume football match is rather a novelty in this city, although both cricket mid football contests of- that diameter are by no means uncommon in some of the colonies, and wherever they have been held, they have invariably proved successful. The committee of the City-Football Club,having decided to hold a match in fancy costume, last no time, and spared no exertions to satisfactorily complete the necessary arrangements. - The Mercury (Hobart) 26-Jun-18771 2


In Melbourne, a charity match on behalf of the family of the late Marcus Clarke (Author of 'For the Term of his Natural Life.'), held at East Melbourne Cricket Club ground. Opera house v remaining theatres. The quality outfits making the paper.
Australian Sketcher  10-Sep-1881 p289 - Source: Trove
Australian Sketcher 10-Sep-1881 p289 - Source: Trove
Australian Sketcher  10Sep1881 p289 - Source: State Library of Victoria
Australian Sketcher 10Sep1881 p289 - Source: State Library of Victoria


Country towns with more limited entertainment options also took up fancy dress football.
Special Attention is drawn to an advertisement, appearing elsewhere, in 'reference to the Fancy Costume Football Match to be held on the Cricket Ground to-morrow afternoon in aid of the Gippsland Hospital. This is a well conceived and novel idea as a wind up of the football season, as well as benefiting the hospital;, whose claims must always be looked upon aforemost amongst our charities. It will also afford a treat for the visitors, as nothing of the kind has, we understand, ever been attempted before in Sale. - Gippsland Times 22-Sep-18823


An unknown match in 1888 (From the national Library of Australia Collection)
Fancy dress football carnival 1888 - Source: nla.pic-an21318808-v
Fancy dress football carnival 1888 - Source: nla.pic-an21318808-v






Casual Racism, Stereotypes

It is impossible to look at the old fancy dress photos without being shocked at the choices that people made. Although uncomfortable for me to include in this article, It is important to confront what was once acceptable in Australian Society.

In the 1877 match in Tasmania (mentioned above), players included N**ger Bones, King of Cannibal Island, N**er Tambo, Ching Ching amonst others.


While reasearching early games involving women, I discovered a game in 1894 on the East Melbourne Cricket Ground. This well atended fancy dress affair was widely reported in the papers.

The State library of Victoria collection includes a picture of the match including a man dressed in black face and wearing a tutu. A textual description of the match carried on in a similar vain (and is today totally offensive to everyone!)

'...In vain did the Dandy Colored Coon speed along the wing; in vain was he backed up by Jack Tar and the Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo ; in vain did Ally Sloper try to retrieve the fortunes of the day by smiting the treacherous ball with the handle of his umbrella...' (South Australian Chronicle 28-7-1894 p8)

East Melbourne Cricket Ground 1894 - Theatrical Football Match - Source  Illustrated Australian news - SLV
East Melbourne Cricket Ground 1894 - Theatrical Football Match - Source Illustrated Australian news - SLV


East Melbourne Cricket Ground1894 - Theatrical Football Match - Source SLV (crop)
East Melbourne Cricket Ground1894 - Theatrical Football Match - Source SLV (crop)


Bartho on the Ball - THEATRICAL FOOTBALL MATCH - Australasian - 28-Jul-1894 p30
Bartho on the Ball - THEATRICAL FOOTBALL MATCH - Australasian - 28-Jul-1894 p30


These are certainly not the only examples of racist costumes. Sadly many photos include costumes that were funny to many at the time. Though sometimes offensive, they show an aspect of Australian society often swept under the table and the highlight even more the achievements of women, indigenous Australians and others during this era.

Another example of such costumes would be the 'Jew-Drop' brothers in an Old Buffers game in Melbourne in 1914.

Punch 11-Jun-1914 p17 - Middle Park Fancy Dress - South of Armstrong
Punch 11-Jun-1914 p17 - Middle Park Fancy Dress - South of Armstrong


'White Australia' can clearly be seen from these examples. They highlight the barriers around white society and how casually accepted racism was at the time.

Hospitals and Wartime

Many times the recipient of the charity event was the local hospital but a number of events were run through the First World War to raise money.

Fancy dress football match 1917 aid of Red Cross - Source:https://www.flickr.com/photos/humecity/7546831196/
Fancy dress football match 1917 aid of Red Cross - Source:https://www.flickr.com/photos/humecity/7546831196/



A Wide Involvement

'Muff Football' was not the realm of a particular group in the society and fancy dress matches were widely organised by Country Towns, Workplaces and Universities and involved Politicians, Students, Workers, Women and a broad cross section of society. A number of examples are included below

Workers
Advertiser Adelaide 27Jul1933p16 TaxiDrivers v Waterside Workers
Advertiser Adelaide 27Jul1933p16 TaxiDrivers v Waterside Workers

Kalgoorlie Western Argus 3Jun1913 p22 Metropolitan Sewerage employees Fancy Dress
Kalgoorlie Western Argus 3Jun1913 p22 Metropolitan Sewerage employees Fancy Dress


Country Towns
Chronicle Adelaide 23-Jul-1910 p32 At Goolwa -Sumner Photo
Chronicle Adelaide 23-Jul-1910 p32 At Goolwa -Sumner Photo


Punch Melbourne 06 Aug 1908 P16 Fancy Dress Football Match At Fairfield PArk
Punch Melbourne 06 Aug 1908 P16 Fancy Dress Football Match At Fairfield PArk
|

Kalgoorlie Western Argus 28Jun1904 p19 Kanowna Fancy Dress Football CJLong-Photo
Kalgoorlie Western Argus 28Jun1904 p19 Kanowna Fancy Dress Football CJLong-Photo


University Students
Western Mail Perth 21Jul1949 p27 Melbourne University for World Student Relief
Western Mail Perth 21Jul1949 p27 Melbourne University for World Student Relief


Politicians
Note the W.A. Premier in this photo
Western Mail Perth 11Apr1929 CharityCarnival on the WACA - FancyDressFootball - Premier PCollier on Left Kicks
Western Mail Perth 11Apr1929 CharityCarnival on the WACA - FancyDressFootball - Premier PCollier on Left Kicks


Jockeys and Boxers
Note that Boxers and Jockeys played many charity games to raise funds through the Second World War.
Jockeys Argus 29-Jun-1923 p7
Jockeys Argus 29-Jun-1923 p7



Women

As football matches involving women were usually of sufficient novelty, women rarely 'dressed up'. Much more common was men dressed as women. Occasionally women competed against men's teams who often took some handicap, whether it be dressing as women, playing with one arm, or in one case playing in sacks.

Women in many cases did attempt to create their own serious leagues but there was significant resistance to women playing the game. For example in 1921 the Football Assocaition in South Australia banned women from playing on grounds that they controlled (Register Adelaide 7-Dec-1921 p7). The YWCA and other women's groups also came out against women playing football as it did not fit within their gender role. Those that wanted to play used charity as a tool to win support for their playing the game.

There are a number of other reasons women were involved in charity football, from access to grounds, to actually wanting to support charity.

The value of these matches is sometimes more than just whether the final score was seriously contested. The value was sometimes that women were able to participate in an activity outside their gender role, and were seen to have done so.

Australasian 25-Aug-1923 p62
Australasian 25-Aug-1923 p62


Western Mail Perth 5-Nov-1931 p23 Charity Match
Western Mail Perth 5-Nov-1931 p23 Charity Match


Chronicle Adelaide 16-Oct-1947 p34 Charity Match
Chronicle Adelaide 16-Oct-1947 p34 Charity Match


Chronicle Adelaide 17-Aug-1939 p37 Parilla - Novelty Game
Chronicle Adelaide 17-Aug-1939 p37 Parilla - Novelty Game


One Off and Ongoing work


Commercial Travellers

Commercial Travellers are now usually known as 'Sales Reps'. They played a number of charity games in Melbourne and Adelaide before the First World War.

Butcher Prepares to shoot for Goal - Commercial Travellers Charity Football3 - Albert Park  - The Australasian - 17-Aug-1912 p68
Butcher Prepares to shoot for Goal - Commercial Travellers Charity Football3 - Albert Park - The Australasian - 17-Aug-1912 p68


An Accident - First Aiders at Work - Commercial Travellers Charity Football - Albert Park  - The Australasian - 17-Aug-1912 p68
An Accident - First Aiders at Work - Commercial Travellers Charity Football - Albert Park - The Australasian - 17-Aug-1912 p68

Chronicle Adelaide  21 October 1911 p31
Chronicle Adelaide 21 October 1911 p31


More Photos can be found at:
Chronicle (Adelaide) 21-Oct-1911 p.31 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88737639
Chronicle (Adelaide) 23-Oct-1909 p.32 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88313570
Chronicle (Adelaide) 24-Oct-1914 p.39 hhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88853253

Old Buffers – Melbourne


The Old Buffers Carnival began in 1907 and ran until 1981.

Originally organised at Alf Weeks Barber Shop at 99 Canturbury Road Middle Park. The first game arose as a dispute over the merits of the South Melbourne Team when a team from the north of Armstrong street (eventually the Blues), took on the South of Armstrong Street (to become the reds). The losing team ...the North... had to shout dinner for the winners. At the dinner a charity fund was begun for the Royal Children's Hospital. The combined teams called themselves the 'old Buffers'. The 'old' part was certainly a feature as the 1912 Argus report noted that no player under the age of 35 was allowed to take part.

Map of Middle Park showing the location of the Old Buffers teams
Map of Middle Park showing the location of the Old Buffers teams


Punch Melbourne 10 Jun 1909 P15 Middle Park
Punch Melbourne 10 Jun 1909 P15 Middle Park
Leader Melbourne 08 Jun 1912 P30 Old Buffers
Leader Melbourne 08 Jun 1912 P30 Old Buffers
Leader 8 Jun 1912 P30 Old Buffers Thumb
Leader 8 Jun 1912 P30 Old Buffers Thumb


Punch 11-Jun-1914 p17 - Middle Park Fancy Dress - North of Armstrong
Punch 11-Jun-1914 p17 - Middle Park Fancy Dress - North of Armstrong

Punch 11-Jun-1914 p17 - Middle Park Fancy Dress - South of Armstrong
Punch 11-Jun-1914 p17 - Middle Park Fancy Dress - South of Armstrong


In following years the teams continued to play annual games for charity. Fancy Dress soon appeared in the Middle Park games and the games were supplemented by parades, sideshows, foot races and other contests...

In 1914 the Old Buffers took on the 'South Melbourne Kalathumpians' in a match in aid of the South Melbourne Club. This crowded day of events was watched by 10,000 people and included cycle races including a penny farthing bike race , a vaudville boxing match, 'push mobile' races, 'Goat' races, with goats acting as horses and kids pulled behind in a goat version of minature trotting (Eventually won by 'Lumpy Bill'), a Donley Race, the Albert Park Brass Band, the South and Port Thistle Band and a footballers handicap and a Ladies footrace.

Image

Image

Argus 2-Jul-1923 p7 Middle Park
Argus 2-Jul-1923 p7 Middle Park


Argus 14-Jun-1938 p4 Old Buffers Carnival
Argus 14-Jun-1938 p4 Old Buffers Carnival


By the 1940's the football matches faded though the carnival itself continued.


Rugby

Fancy Dress Sport was popular in States that did not play Australian Rules football. In the 1890's Fancy dress Rugby was being played in both Queensland and New South Wales. From my own, non scientific observations, I would say that fancy dress football was more popular in the rules states than in the rugby states.

Queenslander 16-May-1896 p939
Queenslander 16-May-1896 p939

Disapearance of Fancy Dress Football

The popularity of fancy dress football appears to have started in the late 19th century and faded before the Second World War. This corresponds with the rise in other forms of entertainment and other forms of charity fundraising.

It would be interesting to examine trends in the method of fundraising but with the new forms of media, and transport I would hazard a guess that the rise of celebrity events, telethons and other events will have taken the place of fancy dress events. The exposure to TV, film and the internet may also have reduced the 'novelty' value of muff events and made them less appealing to audiences.

Today, audiences are more likely to be in costumes that they have purchased off the Internet. Costume parties, Halloween, Comicon, Cosplay and fancy dress at the cricket are all popular. Dressing up is probably more common than it ever was, but fancy dress football for the most part faded away.......but, remember....after raising a lot of money for charity

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End Notes


1. The Mercury (Hobart) 26-Jun-1877 p2 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8954112
2. The Mercury (Hobart) 2-Jul-1877 p.2 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8954238
3. Gippsland Times 22-Sep-1882 p.3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61833149