The impact of fashion on the sports world
By Carolina Rapacci e Maria Eduarda Matias
From São Paulo, Brazil
Nowadays, especially after this year’s Olympic Games, a lot has been discussed related to the way athletes need to dress. This discussion has an emphasis on the clothes female players are obligated to wear depending on the sport they play and how sexualized they can be because of this.
The clothes they wear are given by sponsors and must follow the competition rules. The contract and the sponsorship with huge and non-inclusive brands make it harder for athletes to wear what they feel comfortable in. Taking these contracts into account, players are not allowed to choose what to wear and end up with no option despite wearing what is given them. This opens a space for dissatisfaction from the athletes and ultra sexualisation of women’s bodies from the public.
Many athletes have been going against the strict rules for uniforms, such as the Norwegian federation. The female beach handball team, which usually plays in bikinis, went to court wearing shorts because they did not want to be sexualized while playing. The ridiculous and irrational fact was that they received a fine that costed the federation around nine thousand reais just because the girls were not in bikinis - it is important to highlight that shorts are allowed for men in the same sport. This way, the permission of wearing clothes that show less of athletes' bodies must count for both men and women, especially because women are the ones who mostly suffer from abuses and violations of their bodies in the sports industry.
Moreover, the gymnastics’ girls have also used competition spaces to protest. Some of them have worn long sleeves and leggings instead of the traditional bodysuit at the Tokyo Olympics. This happened because there has been a huge scandal involving young gymnasts and coaches from the American federation and there have not been enough legal penalization for the abusers - which makes it clear that the sports’ industry is not a safe place for women.
These kinds of big events make this situation even worse. This, because the bigger the event, the more bureaucratic it tends to be. Therefore, the rules also become stricter and could even involve fines for those ones who do not comply with them. Thus, obviously, the rules for uniforms also become stricter, forcing the athletes to wear clothes determined by their athletics’ organizations, which in most cases do not take into account the opinion of the ones who will actually wear it, they only care about how the athletes will use the uniform to make more money, making it kind of a business.
As well, big sporting events, like the Olympics Games for example, involve the whole world. Thus, many different cultures are involved in the same place, so obviously it is practically impossible to make the strict rules of these games respect all of them. So, cultures considered “minorities” end up being extremely disrespected. Examples of this are Muslim countries athletes, who do not find, or are not authorized to wear, uniforms that respect the determinations of their religion.
With that in mind, Nike, one of the biggest sportswear companies in the world, launched inclusive clothing for these women. The first collection of swimwear designed to not violate the dress codes of Muslim athletes, or even to women who prefer to cover their whole body during activities, was named “Nike Victory Swim Collection” and counts with: hijabs, tunics, and leggings. The media and the public acclaimed it.
To sum up, the urge for more sportswear brands to start producing inclusive clothes for athletes is clear. What is more, competitions must be less strict about the uniform players are supposed to wear - especially when they do not interfere with the sport itself. At last, it is claimed that women need to be respected in all spaces, including the sports industry that is mostly dominated by men.