Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An uneasy combination

I've been watching plenty of Olympic action, and even though Canada hasn't come through with any medals yet, I'm hooked as usual. Sadly, my days of innocently (ie naively) believeing that the Olympics represent the height of integrity and purity (athletic or otherwise) are over, but I still watch transfixed in hopes of witnessing those little moments of magic. I'm a massive sports addict, but apart from certain appropriate exceptions (figure skating, tennis, maybe a few others), I get uneasy when the sports world and fashion world attempt to meet. I do tend to agree with the edict "look good, play good" - a well-designed uniform (or costume, as the case may be) is important, because it helps an athlete get in the right mindset, and helps with the intimidation factor. Then again, it's all well and good to be fashion-conscious if you're at the top of your sport, but if you don't have the game to back it up, you get accused of being more concerned about your appearance than your performance (Anna Kournikova anyone?), which is fair enough, I suppose.
But, I get especially irritated when there's too much attention paid to what the athletes are wearing or how they look. What gets me most is the incredibly irrelevant media commentary denigrating certain athletes' appearance or uniform, especially in sports where the nature of their sport isn't exactly conducive to looking sexy. To me it seems obvious that that's hardly the point, but I guess that's what happens when sports are treated as a part of the entertainment industry, and events like the Olympics now seem to be judged by whether or not they make "good television".

On the flip side, I also feel ambivalent about the fashion industry's forays into the sports world. I don't think there's anything wrong with a big-name fashion designer like Stella McCartney designing workout gear for Adidas. And I love when big designers do uniforms for national sports teams and such - why not combine elite athletics with elite design? But I do have to roll my eyes when people turn going to the gym into a fashion statement. That's not even getting into Vancouver's ridiculous obession with yoga/lifestyle apparel company/cult Lululemon - one girl actually wore Lululemon yoga pants to my high school convocation ceremony (true story).

I always laugh whenever the "sporty look" is in fashion, and the fash mags do "sporty" editorials with decidedly unathletic-looking models wearing all kinds of impractical getups, accompanied by earnest captions urging you to channel your inner Olympian by pairing leggings and track jackets with stilettos. I have no problems with sports-inspired fashion as a look, but the rhetoric cracks me up since I always end up reading it from an athlete's perspective and I can't take it seriously. I never like to be closed-minded, but I think high fashion and elite performance athletics are at such cross-purposes (ie extreme form vs extreme function), they can't ever really completely be harmonized.


Nastia Liukin

All that being said, one of the sports that do fall into my "acceptable for fashion dissection" list is gymnastics. Really, any sport where the athletes wear glitter makeup is ripe for the picking. This is US gymnast and individual all-around gold medallist Nastia Liukin, who caught my eye with her graceful presence. I find a lot of gymnasts, while extremely conditioned athletes, have very stiff, robotic movements. Nastia looks so elegant, more like a dancer than a gymnast. I really liked the leotards Team USA wore for the team competition, with the cool white swirls on shiny red - simple but impactful, unlike some of the other team's garish looks. I think Team Canada should consider bright red leotards next time.

As for me, I showed a flash of patriotism my with red and white sneakers (okay, that's not really why I wore them but I can pretend).



Striped shirtdress: Esprit; Linen cardi: from Tokyo; Belt: Muji; Chains belts worn as necklaces: Jacob and Muji; Mesh tights: Hue; Shoes: found on huge sale at Moulé

2 comments:

The Clothes Horse said...

The Olympics have always been a bit underhanded I guess. I mean some of the first ones were done in the nude to make certain contests were male and weren't cheating! But there is something nice about celebrating athleticism and turning your body into a machine the world over.

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