On the Spandex Codex, or Cataloging Ensues When Archivist Watches Wrestling

I’m a mom of two young children. The only “me” time I get is late at night when I’m too zonked to do anything meaningful and too exhausted to clean the house. I want to think and ruminate on something, but, eh, so tired. When I get bored of losing at Candy Crush, I’ll poke around YouTube and watch classic wrestling.

“Ravishing” Rick Rude with Cheryl Roberts on his crotch.

My favorite male wrestler is a true character: The late, great “Ravishing” Rick Rude. If you’re a wrestling fan, you need no introduction. For the Disney crowd, he was a rated-R version of Gaston.

If you’re an opera fan, think of Don Giovanni: A lusty libertine who only ceased seducing the ladies when it was time to kick ass, and even then he’d blow a kiss or swivel his hips. One of Rude’s best known storylines, the attempted seduction of Cheryl Roberts and the series of run-ins he had with her (then-real life) husband, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, was reminiscent of Don Giovanni’s battle with Don Gonzalo — except Rude as villain, or heel in the tradition of professional wrestling, did not succeed in his conquest (but the character of Rick Rude would have totally invited a statue of Roberts to watch his matches at ringside had he been victorious).


Lust for the physical, both sexual and violent, permeated every aspect of the Rick Rude character, including his tights. The spandex worn by Rude was designed to represent the brash, proud nature of his character, the focus of his conquests (be they sexual or markers of professional success), and depictions of future victory. The artwork printed or air brushed onto them ranged from simple (plain tights with his name down the legs) to slightly adorned (hand prints) to absolutely over-the-top. In keeping with the storytelling aspect of professional wrestling, the trunks aided in revealing and reaffirming the personality and intent of the character without the performer having to say a word. After all, he was quite busy with the match.

Upon entering the ring, Rick Rude would take the microphone and, in his distinct personal style, implore the crowd to gaze at his form. If the audience hated the guy (they did) and refused to play along (they tried), the tights gave them no choice. The art on his trunks shifted the viewer’s gaze from the match itself to the wearer. Even if you were repulsed by his attitude and overly sexual nature, you were going to want to figure out what was going on with his pants: “What is that thing printed on his hips? Exactly what does it say on his rear end? What is… Jesus, I’m looking at his crotch…”

We’ve been invited to check him out and, thanks to the trunks, we, the collective viewer, are going to do it out whether we intended to or not. Say what you will about pro wrestlers, the man behind the muscle, Richard Rood, was a brilliant showman who knew exactly how to tease a reaction from a crowd.


Pick ten Rick Rude matches and you’ll see at least seven different trunks (note: this is not a scientific metric). Of the dozens of matches I’ve seen recently, there were dozens of pairs of unique tights. And since I’m intellectually bored and my archivist senses have been tingling lately, I thought I’d try to catalog them. As a result, the Spandex Codex was born. Have Pinterest, will catalog and curate.


I screencapped the clearest view of the art on Rude’s tights (oy… VHS recordings did not age well) and tried to provide as much information as possible for that particular wearing: Date (and/or airdate), opponent(s), event type/name and location, then a brief description. Not following DACS or anything like that, just something I banged out as I watched the shows. Nothing formal, nothing archival, just the over-intellectualization of paint on spandex. I mean, why spend my few leisure hours renaming photo files and organizing old family snaps when I could watch wrestling and Pinterest some of the most interesting ring gear to have ever been made?



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