We invite abstracts for papers for a special issue on the topic of “Sport Equipment and Technology” that we will propose to The International Journal of the History of Sport. The volume would include 10 papers, including an introduction and 9 studies of different sporting objects. We are aiming for geographical diversity of both contributing authors and articles as well as temporal breadth. We already have commitments from an international group of scholars with pieces about the history of sneakers, equestrian sports, surfing, and outdoor equipment.
Every sport is shaped by sports technology that pushes the boundaries of sport, whether that technology is as seemingly simple as a sneaker or as complicated as electronics to measure performance or a racing yacht. The material objects of sport shape the experiences and performances of athletes, the business of sport, and the rules that govern both competitive and non-competitive sport. Sporting equipment is quintessential technology–products of innovation governed by broader networks and social worlds. Outside of sport practices, sports clothing and equipment have become objects of wild popularity in everyday life.
This special issue will examine the history of sportswear and sports equipment as technology by focusing on the development and distribution of sporting goods, on processes of standardization, as well as their popularization. These lines of inquiry also open up questions about the materiality of the objects themselves: their function, the values attached to them, and their power to shape sport.
We are particularly encouraging proposals with the following driving concerns:
- Innovation: Where do new designs come from? What role have ‘lead’ users played in shaping the business imperatives of sport? Where does maintenance, rather than innovation, occur?
- Standardization: How have individuals, businesses, and sports governing bodies pushed or resisted the standardization of technology?
- Popularization: How did the spread of sport technology to a broad public change the innovation process, the business of sport, and the meaning of the objects?
- Materiality: How does the physical or chemical makeup of sports equipment shape its usage and the values attached to it? How do bodies that differ in size, appearance, and experience make use of equipment in different ways?
Overall, this special issue will explore the people behind sporting equipment, such as entrepreneurs, designers, users, and governing bodies, as well as processes that reveal how clothing and gear moves from invention to adoption, from cutting-edge to mundane, and from expert to ordinary users.
Carolin Roeder is a historian of modern Central and Eastern Europe and is working on a book on the transnational history of climbing. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. In spring 2021, she will be the István Deák Visiting Assistant Professor for Eastern European Studies at Columbia University. You can read more about her work here.
Rachel Gross is a historian of the modern U.S., writing a book on the outdoor industry called “Buckskin to Gore-Tex.” She is an assistant professor of history at the University of Colorado Denver, where she teaches courses on capitalism, women and gender history, and public history. Rachel is broadly interested in how outdoor clothing and equipment has changed over time, and how seemingly mundane gear has become central to outdoorspeople’s identities. You can read more about her work here.