Players wear specific clothing to play rugby; you can’t just go onto the pitch in everyday wear like jeans or a tracksuit. This is partly because rugby clothing is designed to help players keep cool and also they need to be dressed alike to promote their team.
The different types of rugby clothing available are:
- Base layers
It is also possible to buy clothing specifically for rugby training, including:
- Training bibs
- Training bottoms
- Training tops
Each specific type of clothing has its own sizing system, depending on where it is to be worn and what its purpose is. Base layers, for example, need to be a tighter fit than a shirt, because they are designed to add warmth and protection. It is also possible to buy products for both adult and junior players, as well as specific items for men and women. Please check size guides provided against individual items.
Base layers are worn mainly to give players extra warmth and comfort whilst training or playing a match – as rugby is a Winter sport, its easy to get cold, especially before and after a game. They are designed to be worn snugly to the body to give compression, aiding blood flow. That said, you can also buy base layers that are worn in warmer conditions, to keep you cool. These do still fit snugly to the body but allow moisture to evaporate quickly, carrying heat away from the body.
Different brands do use different sizing systems for base layers; Skins, for example, use their own BMI sizing. If you’re unsure, it’s best to contact the retailer you are buying through, as they will have manufacturer guidance on specific sizing. That said, a lot of base layers do follow a uniform sizing system, from S through to 2XL. Women’s base layers go from XS to XL. Kids sizes, from 5-12 (also known as Mini, Small Boys and Large Boys), are also available.
Players wear both polo shirts and t shirts; you may see t shirts worn more during games as they look a little smarter. However, the polo shirt is also very popular.
Polo shirts tend to follow a uniform sizing system but T shirt sizing comes up a little different, usually a little tighter in the larger sizes especially. To measure for a new polo or t shirt, go around the fullest part of the chest, keeping it level across the back and under the arms.
Of course, as with all types of clothing, there will be differences between manufacturers standard sizing. Contact your retailer or the manufacturer direct if you can’t decide which size is best.
Jackets and hoodies are used for training, pre-match and post-match waiting times. It is unusual to see an active player wearing a jacket or hoodie, even on the bench.
Hoodies tend to be made of fleecier material than jackets, but that doesn’t mean they are all warmer; depending on the make, some rugby jackets are made from material that offers inbuilt warmth protection, such as polyester and fleece.
When it comes to sizing, there is a difference depending firstly on brand and secondly on style. Hoodies often come up bulkier because of the material they are made from, so can come up larger than even a XXXL jacket. Again, this can be dependent on manufacturer.
Rugby shorts are designed to be worn over a groin protector, particularly men’s shorts, so they have to be a little larger than standard shorts sold on the high street. Also, they need to be airy to give adequate cooling during a sweaty game. In contrast to a base layer, they are designed to be loose around the legs.
As with all clothing items, actual sizing is dependent on manufacturer but as a general rule of thumb it is best to measure yourself before buying. To measure for rugby shorts, measure around the narrowest part of your body to get the waist size, i.e. above your hips.
Like jackets, hats are usually only worn by players when they’re not actively involved in a game. During a game, protective head gear will be worn instead.
Typical rugby hats are the beanie and the flat peak, it largely depends on the style the player is looking for. Either way, their primary purpose is to keep the head warm in Winter and cool in Summer, as well as adding a little style to the overall outfit. They will usually be embellished with a team logo.
Beanies are usually one size for either adults or kids, and flat peaks tend to have a clasp size adjuster at the back.
Training tops and bottoms are usually made up of t shirts, jackets/hoodies and trousers, with shorts reserved for warmer weather and matches only (although of course it is player choice if they do decide they want to wear shorts to train in year-round). You’ll typically find that training clothing follows the same sizing guides as match clothing and is largely dependent on manufacturer for specific sizing. See above for how to measure for both tops and bottoms.
Training bibs are used during training to identify different teams, usually by colour. They are lightweight, breathable and designed to be worn over a polo or t shirt. Some are reversible for easy team change overs.
They come in 2 sizes; Junior and Senior.
Materials Used in Rugby Clothing
The materials used will depend on the type of clothing being made, and what it’s being used for. Sport specific fabrics such as polyester, nylon, elastane and polyamide are commonly used across the spectrum of rugby clothing (as well as other sports) because they all offer unique qualities to make the clothing aid performance.
Base layers – synthetic materials including polyester, nylon or polyester blend are commonly used in base layers. Merino wool is also used as this is lightweight and soft. Silk is found in base layers designed for performance in extremely cold temperatures, so you may not find this in a basic product. Whatever material combination is used, it will have great ‘wicking’ capabilities – this means the base layer has been designed to draw sweat away from the body and will not absorb or retain it.
Polo shirts – Polo shirts are usually made from polyester with cotton embroidery as an optional extra. Some are made from cotton, but as this does not contain any wicking properties, they are made more for fans or casual wear than for during training or a game. Herringbone tape is often used for designs with side seam vents.
Jackets – this largely depends on the style of the jacket, but materials designed to add warmth, practicality and durability will be uppermost in mind when these go into production, such as polyester, fleece, metal for zipping, elastane (commonly used in cuffs and hems) and thermal wadding.
Hoodies – hoodies tend to be made from materials designed to keep the user warm, so polyester is often used alongside elastane for cuffs, hems and drawstrings, cotton in any embroidery and fleece in the lining.
Shorts – Rugby shorts are designed to be loose and lightweight, so you’ll often find polyester, elastane and nylon in the make-up. These materials reduce chafing, add little weight and work to draw sweat away from the body. Most will have an elasticated waist and draw string for a good fit. Some do have a fleece lining, for wear in cold conditions.
Beanie hats – usually 100% polyester with cotton embroidery. Some are made from acrylic fleece. Both offer warmth and flexibility, fitting snugly to the head.
Training tops and bottoms – usually made from the same materials as match tops, polytester tends to be the most common material used in the manufacture of training clothing. Training bottoms will also contain elastane in hems and drawstrings. Some have a comfort lining made from thin fleece or similar.
Training bibs – usually 100% polyester micro mesh
It goes without saying that maintaining your rugby clothing is essential, as leaving it wet and dirty will not only make it look bad but will reduce its lifetime and devalue it. Wet fabrics are prone to going rotten and even mouldy, so if your gear has become dirty, you’ll need to wash it.
Check the manufacturer’s label for washing instructions. A lot of clothing items will be hand wash only, as automatic washing machines can be too hard and cause damage during a spin and rinse cycle. If you do need to hand wash your clothing, use warm – not hot – water and a mild soap or detergent – this will be gentler on the fabric and materials. Leave to soak and then scrub any particularly bad areas with a medium brush. Once you are happy with the wash, rinse thoroughly and dry at room temperature on an clothes airer or clothes hanger ideally – placing items directly onto a heat source such as a radiator can damage fabrics and leave them brittle and too dry.
Flat peak caps should be bent back into shape before leaving to dry; if they have become badly bent, they may need holding in the correct position whilst they dry to restore the peak.
Players should always choose clothing based on need, which will cut down on unnecessary spending of items you may not wear. Size is then the next purchasing factor, followed by price. If you are brand loyal, you may find you pay more for certain items than if you buy from a smaller brand.