A Blend of Fashion and Sports, but Not Everyone Likes the Taste

With the rise of athleisure wear and the fitness craze, it should come as no surprise that many athletes are now being critiqued for their competition apparel. In many sports a uniform is required, but for track stars like Maggie Vessey and tennis divas like Serena Williams, their competitions offer them the opportunity to truly make a fashion statement.

Eugenie Bouchard at the 2015 Australian Open. Image via NYTimes.com.

Eugenie Bouchard at the 2015 Australian Open. Image via NYTimes.com.

The New York Times Style section reported on the fashion choices of Williams and her competitors at the Australian open this past January in an article last week, but reporter Stuart Emmrich wrote about more than just style lines and brands. He also brought to attention the worry that this new trend of bringing fashion into the arena may prove to be detrimental to women's sports. The fear is that it takes focus away from the incredible athletic feats of these women and resurrects the idea that women are meant to looked at, not necessarily heard from. For example, after Eugenie Bouchard dominated Kiki Bertens in the second round of the 2015 Australian Open she was asked by the on-court announcer to "give us a twirl and tell us about your outfit." She graciously obliged but was clearly a little embarrassed. Billie Jean King, a 39-time Grand Slam winner in her own right, was appalled. King took to Twitter to say, "This is truly sexist. Let's focus on competition and accomplishments of both genders and not our looks."

Serena Williams sporting looks from her Nike collection at the Grand Slam event. Image via NYTimes.com.

Serena Williams sporting looks from her Nike collection at the Grand Slam event. Image via NYTimes.com.

King’s comments can’t help but cause flashbacks to Yuksel Aytug’s 2012 article on the “death of womanhood” happening at the Olympic games. The Turkish newspaper columnist wrote a widely critiqued article about the lack of womanly features, as defined by Aytug, among high-level female athletes, even going so far as to say the woman should be judged on how feminine they look in conjunction with their athletic achievements. Needless to say, the majority of those who responded to Aytug’s article considered his views sexist, backwards, and completely ridiculous.

While commenting on a female athlete’s clothing is not nearly is the same as commenting on her bra cup size, it does feel like a slight step back for equality of woman in sports. Every woman and athlete certainly has the right to wear what she'd like during competition, but the focus should remain on her accomplishments.