St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
St George's Park - The Demise of the Old Striped Blazer
The Demise of the Old Striped Blazer
Striped blazers with club badges used to be an earmark of South African clubs and associations. This fashion continued in South Africa until it peaked in the years shortly after World War II. Blazer-mania was one of our pet foibles and overseas visitors frequently used to comment on our local craving for them.
Mind you, the colours sometimes left a lot to be desired and how some of the clubs selected their colours is a mystery. Judging from the colours it appears that the more dazzling the jacket, the better.
As a child I remember seeing many people proudly sporting them, whether it was at the "bioscope" or at a restuarant, dance or sport event, men particularly wore the desired status symbol. After all, it represented who you were and who you associated with.
Even though a regular sports jacket was harder wearing and more servicable, whatever their salaries were, young men considered that their wardrobes were incomplete without at least one club blazer.
But what happened? Why did they fall from grace?
Well, after the war ended there were shortages of imported materials of all sorts as everything had been converted to war production. So when the war ended the South African consumers went on a spending spree. Needless to say this had dire consequences for our foreign exchange reserves which rapidly dwindled.
No import permits were issued for goods placed on the prohibited lists, which included the fabric for striped blazers, by the Director of Imports and Exports. Goods sent from African territories would be allowed into South Africa, irrespective of their arrival date, provided they were depatched by June 13, 1949.
From then on, public and semi-public bodies had to obtain the approval of the department of Commerce and Industries before placing orders for goods where foreign exchange was involved.
Local businesses were restricted to 25% of their 1948 sterling imports and the importation of badges and braid was banned. There was a firm in Cape Town that made the badges, but the prices were considerable higher. Shortages of the imported braid were expected.
There was a frantic rush by consumers to get their goods into the country before the midnight, July 11, 1949, deadline. Goods varied from anything from imitation jewellery to bulky consignments of woolen goods to machine parts, and other goods that were expected to be needed when the ban kicked in.
Special flights were laid on by Pan Am, Sabena, BOAC, and a Skymaster of the South African Airways flew into Palmietfontein airport outside Johannesburg carrying freight from London, just an hour-and-a-half before the dreaded deadline came into effect.
As striped fabric for the manufacture of the fancy blazers were on the list of banned items, so gradually, over the years, the garments wore out or the bearers died, and the fashion disappeared from the scene.
Plain blazers replaced the fancy ones, but these never took off to the same extent, and nowadays, the blazer as a worn garment, has been replaced by more casual and comfortable jackets and track suits.
Today, only a few sentimental folk and museums have these once highly sought after striped jackets hanging in their cupboards. They've become another distant memory of bygone days.