Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I Guess Puma Didn't Get the Skort Memo

WPS and PUMA Uniform Unveiling

Let me start with the bit not related to sexism: With one brand styling all of the WPS teams, we have little as fans to grab onto. We have nothing like the particularity of Newcastle or Milan's stripes. Not the bold red of Man U, or the weird electric blue-green of Barça. The uniforms are bland. They are all cut from the same cloth. The same pattern. The colors even have the same tone - as if opposing teams are supposed to match. They are totally generic and uninspired.

And why ask Christian Siriano to design these? [note: they didn't - see comments 8 & 9] Did he create a single outfit on Project Runway that made you think he'd know exactly how to design clothes for an athlete? As fierce as he is, he was uninterested and downright bitchy about being asked to think about bodies larger than size 2. I love his clothes - don't get me wrong. But these uniforms do not look like the product of a mind inspired by the challenge of designing a kit.

Maybe this is why when Marta showed up for a teeny second at the end of today's Ellen episode she wasn't wearing her kit. She was wearing a team training jacket and jeans. And she looked fierce.

If I had to pick a Project Runway alum to design my kit, it'd definitely be a woman - and one whose designs showed an interest in the non-model body. How about Kara Saun, who managed to make a postal service uniform (pictured right) look both hot and functional.

Now - on to the sexism:

What is the redhead in the boring orange cocktail dress on the left doing here? WTF.

Why does the above video open with the players getting their hair done? Again: WTF.

I cringe at the fact that Puma treated the premier of a kit like a fashion show - making the athletes parade down a turf-lined runway. (Check out Greg Lalas's eye-witness report on the event.) As I've pointed out on this blog (Back Talk: Does Sex Really Sell Women's Sports), the (homophobic) "girling" up of women's sports has been proven by marketing studies to drive fans away - people find it condescending if not plain offensive and profoundly alienating.

Nearly every aspect of this unveiling is atrocious - right down to the press release with its "let's find as many ways that we can to remind ourselves that these are women" vocabulary - like using the word "feminine" twice in the same paragraph. (Ever seen the words "manly" or "masculine" used to promote uniforms for a men's team? Of course not.) Why not just write: "We promise: these uniforms won't make you look gay." Because that is clearly what PUMA, and the WPS means.

I can't believe I need to say this, but: I do not want to wear a Marta jersey because I think it is going to make me attractive to men. (Do guys wear Messi or Kaka on their back because they think it's going to appeal to women?) And, guess what else - I like the fact that maybe I look boyish when I'm in my gear. And I'm only interested in other people who think that's hot.

This brings us to the controversial skort, pictured right. Don't Leslie Osborne and Christina DiMartino look thrilled to be photographed in their skorts? (We've been reassured that no one will actually have to play soccer in them.) At first look, the skort (noticeably shorter than the shorts) seems to be part of Puma's attempt to girl up/straighten up the look of the WPS.

Apparently the folks behind this bit of marketing genius didn't get the following memo: Skorts are totally, hopelessly, Navradeliciously LPGAishly gay!

And Christian knows it! Siriano scores one for the team!


  1. Awesome, hilarious post. Good points throughout. Thank you. Just sent this to a ton of my friends!

    --Ann from Women Talk Sports

  2. this is f-en horrible. did I just see a runway of soccer uniforms modeled by professional players...???
    The skort is ridiculous. those should be burned in a pile at the corner flag.

  3. Age-old bullshit as women claw their way up the pro sports spotlight ladder. It's humiliating! An athlete with skills is hot. Period. If Lisa Leslie wants to glam it up on the court because that's her personality, go for it. The girl can still dunk, you know what I mean. It's like Beckham being all pretty out there because that's his personality. But it doesn't mean that all women athletes have to fit in that mode, or any mode . . .feh, I'm preaching to the choir I know.

    Oh hi, btw, I'm Danette. I'm a friend of Zoey & Keith. Zoey sent me your link this morning because she's uniting all her athletic friends. Haha. Anyway, loved the post.

  4. Unfortunately, womens soccer will always fail. This league will be no different than the last league. It will never be able to hold its own, get its own soccer stadiums, it will never fill any stadium. There is just too many sports here in America for a womens league to draw any attention. Im a big LAG fan, but have no interest in seeing a womens game. What, 3,000 people at a game? Its going to be boring. $12 beers and $20 parking at a boring game? Just doesnt cut it. I dont even like baseball (varsity pitcher I was in HS too) and have never cared for american football, cycling, tennis or anything else. I live and breathe soccer. But not womens soccer. Would my wife go to a womens soccer game? Nope. For her, theres no hot soccer players on the field. Id go to see some hot soccer women, but again, not for $12 beers and $20 parking. Especially here in LA where you have a bazillion things to do... the beach, hollywood, mountains, desert, san diego, san francisco, day trips, road trips, you name it... Who really is going to go to a womens soccer game again? Ohh yah. Female soccer players in HS and college, and the ones that used to be. Thats about it.

    Its the truth, and people dont like the truth.

  5. I hate the stupid skort, as a soccer player why in the hell would I want to hear something like that even if its just for fun. The jerseys are BORING. I mean in my adult women's soccer team we pride ourselves in of our traditional blue Adidas everybody has different style of uniforms not this boring Puma jersey. I think for the league to survive you have to branch out of the whole 9 year old / soccer mom fans. I love and hate going to USWNT games, because of the lame atmosphere. I can't stand hearing Mia Mia Mia Mia. They have to reach out to the traditional soccer fan. Ok I'm going off topic. But the whole skort thing was a huge mistake. When the non soccer fan sees skorts on women's soccer player I can just imagine what they are thinking, it gives them more reason on why not to like the sport. It just gives out a bad first impression. We are not in the days of "A League of Their Own."

    I only hope that next season they will redo the uniforms so each team can gave their own identity.

  6. Shirtee, I think it's cool and I totally respect the fact that you only attend mens soccer matches because of the hot players on the field, but that was kind of a tired comment for this forum, no? We can all pimp our opinion as truth . . .like, those tshirts that are "always in fashion" . . .I would say that those shirts are stuck in the freshman-HS senior year of the 1990's, but I know that people might not like that truth. The point is that women have always been told we're never going to do this or that. Our whole lives and throughout history. But that's what you'll tell your daughter when you're coaching her soccer team some day? (If you live and breath soccer that might not happen?) I'm just saying, maybe that's your truth and your opinion -- which is cool -- but it’s tired in this forum to read: Women’s (fill in the blank) Will Always Fail. It's a dull cop out, really, to preach that "truth." It's hopeless, but mainly it's nothing we haven't heard before.

  7. Thanks for the great & hilarious feedback!

    Note - I've already had to delete one offensive - rape-y- comment in response to this post.

    I would delete Shirtees comment, too - but I'd rather suggest he read my post "Modern Minstrels" and take the time to watch the Brazil WNT in action. Shirtees - if you are SO uninterested in women's sports, why on earth are you reading and then POSTING on my blog - which is not only about women's sports - it's explicitly written from a queer feminist perspective.

    People who have never been to a women's game, who express no interest in the women's game, and and then write crap like what you sent in as a comment here are what is known in some circles as sexist - and are, clearly, quite actively threatened by the very idea of women's sports.

    Put that in your pipe & smoke it.

    I'm going to leave your comment up as an example to others of just how hysterical male soccer fans are: but write in another post like it, and know it's going to end up in my trash.

  8. Love the post (and hate the skorts), but I just wanted to point out that Christian Siriano didn't design the uniforms--he just contributed the completely unrelated "home" and "away" dresses. We can't lay the blame for skorts at his door, alas, but rather at the door of some marketing exec at Puma.

  9. Thanks for the correction - I was tempted to edit the blog to reflect this, but it would ruin my punch line! And those dresses are horrible, anyway.

    That video & the press release deliberately confuse matters. For example: they CS styling the players in the opening - as he would have styled his model on Project Runway. Fostering this confusion is bad move - who on earth is handling WPS publicity? The deployment of CS this way suggests they think we are stupid. Like fans of Project Runway would only be interested in soccer if it involved pretty dresses?? I consider myself a very engaged PR viewer, and a very engaged fan of women's soccer - this doesn't mean I want the same thing from Project Runway that I want from the WPS. ARGH.

  10. Just found your blog. I'll add it to my RSS reading list and will probably also add it to my blogroll on mine.

    "Official" jersey designers for leagues is horrible. It's horrible by the NHL and it's horrible here.

    It's really horrible that all the jerseys esentually match and even worse that they're boring too.

    The skort are err..... interesting. Very glad the women aren't going to be forced to wear them.

    I do like the color of the orange and the blue jerseys, but just like the others they're boring.

  11. I'm excited about WPS. I emailed the Chicago Red Stars to double check that the public transit system will run the same special connector bus for their games as the Chicago Fire and they will so that's encouraging. Skorts? Less encouraging.

    OT: Natasha Kai scored a great goal for the US women. It's a cool YouTube video because the crowd is quiet and you can hear the back call out "Natasha!" just before she delivers a perfect long ball into the box. Communication is good. Wicked skill is better.

  12. This is a great post, Jennifer. I'm weary of the blatantly sexist portrayal of women athletes and even more weary of the exploiters doubling back and saying it isn't really sexist, don't be so serious, and so on. I'm weary of sponsors looking for free media and succeeding in turning women's soccer into another consumable. I know the sport needs sponsorship - of course it does. But isn't the logo enough? Or does Puma et al. have to exploit these athletes for every last penny? I'm weary of the argument that because a sport will never be consumed to the extent of the NFL and NBA or even MLS - organizations that, in my mind, add little joy to the world - it does not deserve to exist. Remember Galeano's commment, "These are days of obligatory uniformity, in soccer and everything else." If you are different, if you are not on television, if you labor in obscurity ... you don't deserve to exist. And I'm weary of establishment, male-dominated media, such as the NYT, that prefer trivia to substance, as in the flip comment on this same WPS event, "[I]f, in the words of Joseph S. Blatter, the president of FIFA, 'the future of football is feminine,' then why not look good while doing it?" Nothing like marshaling a self-aggrandizing comment from the dark lord of world soccer to make one's point. And nothing like one of the world's most prominent media companies giving fawning exposure to a corporation that should be paying for it. Shouldn't our professional media ask questions, as From a Left Wing does, rather than propagandizing for consumer capitalism?

    On Marta, I hope she stays strong and resists the commodification. I've only once been in her presence, in a hotel lobby in Arlington, Virginia, at the 2003 Women's World Cup. She walked by with headphones on, marching toward a bank of pay phones. As you say, she looked fierce. Her ferocity will give substance to top-flight soccer in this country if we are curious enough to see the world in her creativity.

  13. Just found your blog from Apryl at Women Like Sports. I like the post and will check out some of your older stuff.

    I actually love the skort. I think it's hot and I think all female athletes are hot - "feminine" or not.

    Still, I understand your points and want to be more aware. I hate that when I put on workout clothes I have to think, "OK, will I look sexy in this?" And not even sexy for anyone in particular, but because I feel like I'm expected to look sexy. I hate that.

    Of course I consider myself a feminist. I hope all women do.

    Subscribing to your blog now.

  14. Thanks John & Lindsey. Blatter: the Sith Lord of World Football?

  15. I love this blog entry about the uniform unveiling. After reading some of your stuff I thought you might be interested in this article about a struggling waitress, Priscilla Meza, trying out for WPS team FC Gold Pride.

    Here are the links:

  16. thank you anonymous - Meza's is a great story, and very relevant to other issues i write about on this blog. i'll try to write something about her here!

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. First off, I think it's funny how you see the kit unveiling, you see "fashion show" and you immediately think SEXISM!!! Oh noes!!! Unfortunately for your argument, this is not the first time and it certainly will not be the last time that uniforms are unveiled in this manner. Each of the past 4 years, the Mexican MEN's national team has unveiled it's kits in that way, at least a handful of Mexican teams that I can think of (Pachuca, Club America, Guadalajara, among others) have gone the same route, and in America, the Seattle Sounders used this little tactic as well. You might actually be able to find footage of Drew Carey parading down the catwalk if you take the time to YouTube the event. I actually wouldn't be surprised to see more and more clubs pick up on the catwalk style unveiling and apply it to their own unveilings.

    Now, male kits may not use the word "manly" or "masculine" but I've seen enough of these unveilings to see that the press releases use language that's obviously intended to imply the exact same thing. They want you to think that the athletes are wearing the kits because it makes them more badass. Obviously, it's a little bit more subtle than "masculine" or "manly" but it's there for the exact same reasons.

    And now on the controversial skort... Again, maybe I'm just a football-nerd, or maybe I'm a little bit better informed. The "skort" is actually Puma's derivative of an idea that surfaced in Holland. I don't know if you've ever played football, but generally speaking, if athletic shorts could have ideas, they'd be the most sexist pieces of clothing out there. Shorts in sports, even in world football are actually blatantly tailored for the needs of men, they're long, they're saggy and they're bulky.

    Actually, most women I've known generally play soccer with a tighter pair of shorts underneath. A women's team in Holland agreed that the standard shorts were uncomfortable (which was partly because of the standard design and partly because the team's sponsor at the time made some particularly uncomfortable shorts) and all agreed that it would be far more comfortable for them if they played in the tighter shorts they had under. I can only imagine what you'd say if Puma pushed those shorts... Oh, the outrage!! Tight shorts intended to be more revealing and condescend to women, and try to sexy up the sport for men!!

    So, to be more "discreet" the women requested to their manager that they be allowed to play in those shorts with skirts on top. The manager thought it was an unusual request, ran it by the FA, the FA concluded that so long as "uniformed" shorts were worn underneath it would be no problem, and so the girls began wearing them in matches.

    So before you go bashing the evil sexist establishment and their exploitation of women, you might want to check up on exactly who requested the skirts in the first place. Admittedly, many WSL players may have never seen the damn things, and may be weirded out by their inclusion, some of them may even be reacting in the same alarmist way, but maybe they should play in them a few times and see how the "skorts" feel. Maybe the women in Holland were onto something... non?

  19. I'm always amazed by the people who read this blog - an openly queer feminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist column - and want to lecture me about my hallucinations of sexism. I recommend reading other columns in which I take up more serious expressions of the sexism & homophobia that shape our lives as athletes. OR just not reading my blog if you don't want the feminist take on things.

    In any case, on those very odd moments when men are asked to do such things, it isn't the same - male athletes are not constantly viewed through the lens of their attractiveness to women. When they step onto a runway, they are not stepping into the same kind of history of gender policing.

    Personally, I've only played with tighter shorts under my kit when I played in the UK, and it was cold & rainy. Men often wear a layer of "underarmor" under their shorts, too. I suppose if they wanted to, they could play in kilts. Don't know what all that has to do with my article.

    Skorts have a complex genealogy but one of their origins is certainly in the days when women were not allowed out in public in anything that looked like pants.

    Oh, and people who have actually seen the outfits in person say it isn't really a skort - more an APRON!

    Oh, and, in any case I come out as a FAN of the skort at the end of the article. When I write that they are "Navradeliciously LPGAishly gay", I am saying that they are hopelessly charming.

  20. Honestly, from a male's perspective, I thought the whole runway shit was a joke. I remember Sepp Blatter saying women should wear hot pants( or something to that nature) to get more attendance. Although not as extreme this is still a joke.

    Now as for the league in a whole, I wish WPS the best of luck and will supporting as much as I can. Shirtees comment up there doesn't represent all male sports fans attitudes. I LOVE soccer and always will, I watch as much as I can. Is this exclusive to the EPL or MLS? No, I actually watched the original WUSA games and went to those games as well. I watch the WMNT along with the MNT. Personally I don't care if its Men, or Women; Children or Adults, soccer is just fun to watch. To me, the gender barrier is very minimal. I watch the game because I love the has nothing to do with whos playing it. Nuff said.


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