Over the past two weeks I have undergone an emotional journey concerning my relationship with the Wallabies and the sport of rugby union in general.
The journey has had four distinct phases:
- Not giving a single fuck about the Wallabies / rugby union.
- Being mildly aroused about the fact the Wallabies could win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in more than a decade, and resolving to watch the games.
- Equal parts boredom and disappointment.
- Return to phase 1.
The first part of this journey, not giving a fuck about the Wallabies, has lasted the best part of the decade. The remaining steps lasted a little under a fortnight.
The speed at which I passed through these steps – from abject indifference, not being somewhat exciting, and then back to abject indifference – is a reflection of the two Bledisloe Cup games which have taken place. One was incredibly boring and involved neither team scoring a try, and the other was an embarrassing shellacking.
I would imagine countless others have gone through the same process. So why had we been sucked back into caring about the Wallabies at all?
It comes down to baggy jeans.
By baggy jeans, I mean the low-slung, loose, hip-hop jeans that dominated male fashion for a period of five to ten years somewhere around the 90s.
For anyone who spent their formative years in this period, baggy jeans were de rigeur. Indeed, such were their prevalence that any male wearing anything tighter than a boot-cut was likely to have his taste, and sexuality, seriously questioned.
However, shortly after the turn of the millennium, hip hop and the baggy jeans were swiftly replaced in popular culture by the Strokes and skinny, tighter jeans.
Many who grew up during the baggy jeans period (1992 to 2002), had trouble comprehending the shift. What was this weird, tight denim fad? Why were men suddenly wearing women’s jeans? Why couldn’t we stick with what was regular: good old fashioned denim jeans that hung below your ass to expose your satin boxer shorts?
These questions, while common among 18-year-olds at the time, belied a myopic worldview and of long-term trends in general.
Anyone older than 21 recognised that tight jeans weren’t the fad – they were the norm, and fashion trends had simply regressed towards the mean (hat tip: Nate Silver).
Tight jeans had been around for deacdes before the 90s, and will continue to be popular for decades afterwards.
When you’re young, it is difficult to comprehend that your worldview may be incorrect and there are bigger, more long-term trends at play to which you are unaware. While you may experiencing a fad for the first time, there’s a good chance your parents have seen the same thing drift in and out of popularity several times before.
The Wallabies, and by extension the game of rugby union, are the baggy jeans of the Australian sports landscape.
Those growing up in the 90s thought baggy jeans and Wallabies’ success were normal, regular things. And now reality has struck, it’s hard to let go of the view that their primacy is not the status quo.
That’s why, as a child of the 90s, you can get roped back into watching a Bledisloe Cup game at the simple promise of a return to the Halcyon days, when George Gregan was still quick and your jeans fell down when you were running from the cops.
But trying to re-live the past is ultimately futile. Like baggy jeans, the Wallabies are now associated with a sub-culture and the only people who wear them or watch them are rare units who should be avoided at all costs.
By Ben Shine