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Library Guides

Fashion History in the University Archive: Sportswear

An overview of resources held by the University Archive


Sport has always been an important part of the University's history. The University Archive holds rich collections of photographs of sports and leisure activities from the 1880s to the present day.

These photographs document the changes to sportswear over this time, including the use of knitwear for sports garments, changing shoe shapes, and notions of masculinity and femininity both in costume and body shape.


The best documented clubs at the Polytechnic were the athletics (Harriers and Cyclings clubs, both of whom compiled details photograph albums of their history. They include photographs of major international events, such as the Olympic Games.  We also hold smaller collections for the boxing, fencing, football and rugby clubs.



A 1932 athletics race

a man running in 1932


Although there were many women's sports clubs at the Polytechnic, they are not as well-documented as the men's. The best photographic sources are for athletics, gymastics (including the 1908 Olympics) and fencing.

Women gymnasts rehearsing for the 1908 Olympics

women gymnasts rehearsing for the 1908 Olympics

Other leisure activities

The Polytechnic Ramblers was a popular club, founded in 1886, that still continues today. We hold a large collection of photographs showing changing leisure outfits over the 20th century, including walking, swimming and skiing.

The University Archive also holds a large travel collection, showing holidays to Switzerland and Norway from the late 1800s to the 1950s.