'Embarrassed' wrestlers drop embroidered pants to save sport from dying

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The Independent Online

Traditional wrestlers are planning to drop their pants in an attempt to prevent their sport from dying out. The embroidered knickers worn by the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestlers could be scrapped as some fighters say they are too embarrassed to wear them. Wrestlers will now be able to compete at county competitions wearing shorts, tracksuit bottoms and T-shirts rather than the highly decorative big knickers worn since Victorian times.

Traditional wrestlers are planning to drop their pants in an attempt to prevent their sport from dying out. The embroidered knickers worn by the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestlers could be scrapped as some fighters say they are too embarrassed to wear them. Wrestlers will now be able to compete at county competitions wearing shorts, tracksuit bottoms and T-shirts rather than the highly decorative big knickers worn since Victorian times.

Jim Bland, chairman of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association, said: "We have got to modernise the kit. The youth of today aren't interested in wearing long johns and embroidered trunks so we've got to allow them to wrestle in something they feel comfortable in."

Roger Robson, president of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestlers, said: "A lot of people are strongly in favour of retaining the tradition, but I am also a realist and I want to see a vigorous sport for the future. The new rules might not actively encourage people into the sport, but it might stop turning people off before they even start.

"It's been a real problem. One young lad who won a championship at his first attempt was teased at school for wearing the traditional kit and he has never wrestled again."

The importance of the pants dates to Victorian times, when kits of white tights and shirts with ornate trunks became popular in men's sports. Wrestlers' wives, mothers, sisters, or girlfriends spent hours on ornate, decorative needlework, to make their men look more attractive during bouts. Prizes for the neatest and most decorative pants soon became a feature of county shows and were often judged by the women spectators. Some traditionalists within the wrestling community lament the dropping of the embroidered pants.

A former heavyweight champion, Eric Renwick, 80, said: "I think it would be better to keep the tradition. "In my day, if you wanted to compete, that meant sticking to the rules. And that meant in Scotland wrestling in a kilt, or if we were in Cumbria wearing the trunks. I think it makes the sport more colourful."

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