The rich and privileged have always been able to afford the time for leisure activities but only from the later nineteenth century have recreational and sporting activities become available to a wider social spectrum. The Gallery of Costume has a unique and intriguing collection of sporting clothing dating from the early nineteenth century to the present day, for women as well as for men.
To modern eyes much period clothing for sporting activity looks very restrictive, particularly for women, and the fabrics used seem heavy and stiff compared to the high-tech breathable materials available today. Sports such as football, hockey, tennis and golf all originated before 1800, but like cycling, only became mass participatory from the 1890s. During the last fifty years, leisure has been available to an increasing proportion of society whilst professional teams in sports such as football and cricket have secured mass audiences. Sportswear today can rely on an enormous market, drawing on the popularity of leisure pursuits and also on the success of branding and of famous name advertising.