Even if they are wearing numbered, different-coloured shirts.
Well, can you come up with a better explanation what the rugger-buggery is going on in this slightly creepy latex-laden ad for Lucozade Sport ‘Strictly for the Home Nations Only’?
Pegged to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Twickenham and starring big buff bearded England captain Chris Robshaw and chums, I’ve watched it several times and it still makes no sense to me. Maybe it’s because I don’t follow rugby. Or maybe it’s because I’m not an advertising creative who pretends to follow rugby.
The alternative explanations seem kinda kinky-gimpy. Are we meant to wonder what really went down in the back of that minivan when those norty Wallaby wannabes were cornered in the underground car park? By those strapping England lads wearing muscle-tees and expressionless faces? All that bad acting should definitely carry a Triga warning.
Yes, of course, the ‘straight’ subliminal commercial message here, hedged around with misfiring humour, is that if you drink Lucozade Sport, a sugary ‘recovery drink’, you will look like Robshaw. This is generally the way the supplements industry works – some ads more explicitly than others. But I’m not sure that ‘acceptable’ message isn’t drowned out here by more disturbing/confusing ones. Masculinity as male impersonation – a Mission Impossible. (This, after all, is what team sports fans are doing when they wear a replica shirt.)
I admit I’m biased: the recent fashion for styled-beard-with-styled-hair looks to me like a hairy onesie, a mullet mask. One that I imagine wearers peeling off at the end of the day, breathing a sigh of relief, applying lots of wet wipes to their face and neck – and leaving it to soak in a bucket by the bed.
Mind you, I still totally would ‘wear’ Robshaw.
PS This web ad below from the same campaign is also v confusing – but who cares?
Ah, rugby. A man’s game. Played by real men. Big hairy men. With big chins. Nothing metrosexual about rugger buggers. At all. Such a welcome respite from all that David Beckham, Frank Lampard love-me, love-my-shaved-pectorals stuff!
Wrong. So wrong.
For starters, rugby players have also become clothes-horses and walking endorsements for male vanity products. Fake-tanned, highlighted Jonny Wilkinson models designer clobber. Josh Lewsey is the face, or rather, hot, ripped, torso, of Nike Pro kinky lycra vests. New Zealand’s Dan Carter models Jockey underwear.
Ronan O’Gara is the decorative face of an Irish jewellery company. While glam French fly-half Frederic Michalak who seems to be his own mobile jewellery shop-window, has sashayed for Christian Lacroix, endorses a French condom brand, is the wrinkle-free face of Biotherm Homme cosmetics (a branch of L’Oreal), and is the eye-catching package for a skimpy underwear line.
Frederic Michalak is shy
And then there’s Welsh rugby star Gavin Henson, the prettier half of the Henson-Church celebrity couple, who likes to shave his legs and cover himself in fake tan and moisturiser before a match ‘because I like to look good for my team-mates’. David Beckham complained recently that Gavin Henson had stolen his gay fans.
Gavin Henson capturing the gay Xmas card market
To give you an idea how much has changed, take a look the life story of the England Rugby strip. Not so long ago a rugby shirt was a baggy, shapeless beer towel that flapped around a hairy beer monster in a sweatband. But in the last few years it has morphed into a tight, tarty, stretchy muscle-top that seems to have been designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier.
It wouldn’t look out of place dancing under a spotlight on a podium at a gay nightclub. The 2007 World Cup strip features a saucy red arrow that runs from the right shoulder down to the left hip, which is supposed to confuse the opposing team. Perhaps that’s because it seems to shout: ‘If you want to score, flip me over!’
Stretchy Josh Lewsey
I’m sure there are all sorts of reassuringly practical reasons that can be cited as to why the England strip has changed so much of late, but clearly aesthetics is also calling the shots in rugby these days, which, like football, is now increasingly a form of show-biz. English rugby has gone ‘pro’ – and English rugby players now have ‘pro’ pumped, cut, muscular bodies they’ve worked hard on and that need to be shown off to their best advantage.
And oh, boy, do they show off. In the last few years rugby has become nakedly spornographic. Take a look, if you dare, at the Dieux du Stade French rugby Calendar, and accompanying, shrink-wrapped ‘Making Of’ DVD, featuring oiled, naked, shaved, designer tattooed rugger buggers naked in the locker room in poses that are frequently deliberately, provocatively homoerotic in a way that football wouldn’t countenance (unless it was after a match with a groupie present and filmed with a mobile phone).
Whilst showcasing the, er, talents of their own players, Stade Francais, the Paris team behind the Dieux Du Stade calendar, also invite especially blessed foreign players into their changing room. The eye-popping star of the 2007 calendar is humpy Scottish rugby player Sean Lamont, photographed on his back and on his front – showing the world his versatile endowments.
Dieux du Stade even has it’s own male cosmetics line’ Retour Au Vestiare’ – ‘Back to the lockeroom.’ (Just make sure you knock before you enter.)
Phenomenally popular, the Dieux Du Stade sporno calendars have dramatically increased the popularity and coolness of rugby in France with women (who seem to like the homoerotic teasing), but also with men – gay and straight. Rugby sporno has helped make rugby seem that most modern, most coveted of things – shaggable.
Little wonder then that France is also the country that is tipped to win the Rugby World Cup. (Six of the French squad play for Stade Francais.)
After all, last year’s football World Cup was won by not so much by Italy’s superior football skills but their superior sporno. In the run-up to the tournament, Dolce & Gabbana recruited several of their national team’s players to be photographed oiled up and hanging around in the showers in their D&G underwear apparently waiting to gang-bang us – in a clear, if slightly toned-down, echo of Dieux du Stade (the same stunningly provocative photographer, Mariano Vivanco, worked on the 2007 Dieux Du Stade).
The current ‘Ce’st So Paris’ advertising campaign promoting travel to Paris ‘Capital of Love’ which features rugger buggers scrumming and snogging (‘Make love not war’) is clearly meant to be funny, which it is. But given the rise of sporno in the world of rugby it isn’t so absurd.
The only unbelievable thing about the ad is the fact that none of the fake snogging rugger buggers are nearly as buffed or beautiful as some of the real-life ones
Books by Mark Simpson
A biography of the metrosexual. By his dad.
The Queen is Dead
All saints should be considered guilty until proven innocent
The book that changed the way the world looks at men
It’s a Queer World
It’s a Queer World
A warped look at a fin de siecle world of pop culture where nothing is quite as straight – or gay – as it seems. […]