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Boxing shorts were once a hot item, writes Amanda Ngudle

By unknown | Nov 10, 2006 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The last three decades have been nothing short of a tumbling revolution.

And I know this because my favourite paper has always been there to record the contemporary culture that defines our lifestyle according to our own assertion.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking back to celebrate and reminisce over the things that were us and about us.

Such elements include fashion, beauty, home decor, home products, celebrations, political milestones and news makers, to mention a few.

Where were you when the Big John Tate boxing shorts were the in-thing? They were the hottest fashion item in the summer of 1980 and no one pulled off that look better than lanky and vivacious models of the time - Nakedi Ribane, Bubbles Mpondo and Millicent Mseleku.

They wore the shorts with platform shoes, which fought for the "men's biggest fashion item" accolade in the late 1970s.

The freakish fact about these cropped and shiny shorts is that they earned their name from the American heavyweight boxer Big John Tate, who introduced them to South Africa. Tate had come to fight Gerrie Coetzee in 1979 at Sun City.

The fight was fought during the full swing of global sanctions against South Africa, hence it was held at the former Bophuthatswana's venue.

Politicians saw Tate, a black man, as a sell-out and despised him for failing to show solidarity.

Tate won the fight and his political opponents celebrated.

A song was composed to celebrate his victory and it went: Mshaye John Tate uthath'amachance u Gerrie. The song celebrated Tate's victory and it got popular.

Even to a black child, racial intolerance was so rife you could smell it. It was in that same year that many black households purchased their first television sets to the scrutiny of sales assistants who could almost ask for a DNA sample as proof that a black consumer had actually earned the money used to buy the TV.

"We waited four hours for our first set and though it operated on a car battery and showed a big clock 95 percent of the time, we had the respect of our peers," recalls Lindani Ndlovu, a college lecturer who was eight at the time.

On the first night of the television's life-span, there were about 20 self-invited kids, most of whom I had never seen. But they were welcome on condition that I could identify them in case something went missing.

Though many people charged 20c a head for the viewing of their television, some mothers, like mine, thought that was an evil thing to do.

But my mother's heart of gold created an unbearable situation come dinner time. In the end she fabricated stories for switching the television off after the 7pm news.

Thank God most households had their own set by the time my favourite show, The Jeffersons, came on.

South Africans' curiosity about the television big deal and what it could do had been aroused long before the reality was to become. Adverts in print media magazines had embraced the idea so much there were even products named after the box with moving and talking people.

There was a chocolate called TV Bar and a skin-lightening kit called TV Box with coloured-looking folks imitating nothing as we came to understand television to be.

l This series will be published on Tuesdays to bring back the memories.


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