Dress Coded at the Olympics

By Kendyl Brower

As the world tunes into the highly anticipated Tokyo Olympics, some viewers focus more on the athletes’ uniforms rather than their actual performance. It’s no secret that uniform regulations and sporting culture unjustly target female and BIPOC athletes. However, many athletes are rejecting the unfair practices of sporting events. Leading up to the games, several athletes protested the sexist and racist undertones of sports uniform requirements.  

At the European Beach Handball Championships, the Norwegian women’s team sported shorts rather than the standard bikini, making a statement about the uncomfortable dress code. Each athlete was fined 177 dollars for not complying with the 4 inch long or shorter bikini requirement. This act of defiance garnered mass support from feminists everywhere, many of which can relate to the policing of women’s bodies. Many athletes are shamed for wearing skimpy uniforms, yet must comply with restraining and sexualizing regulations— a lose-lose situation. The universal outrage for irrational dress codes will hopefully translate to a reexamination of uniform culture. 

Sporting full length unitards, the Germany Gymnastics Team makes a statement about sexualization in women’s athletics. One athlete, Elizabeth Seitz, explains, “We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear.” The full length suits stretched all the way to their ankles, breaking the traditional bikini cut leotard standard. The German athletes encourage everyone to wear whatever feels most comfortable, regardless of societal norms.

The International Federation of Swimming, or FINA, bans the soul cap just prior to the Olympics, disappointing BIPOC swimmers everywhere. Soul Cap, a black owned company, creates caps to accommodate and protect curly, natural hair, dreadlocks, weaves, extensions, and braids. However, FINA argues that the cap “does not follow the form of a head.” While the organization claims to provide all athletes with proper accommodations and swimwear, many black swimmers feel targeted by this decision. The ban sparks major uproar and widespread anger, creating yet another injustice for BIPOC people. FINA is currently reviewing their Soul Cap ban in response to the outrage. 

Athletes in nearly every sporting event face the irrational and outdated dress codes that are rooted in misogyny. The repeated uniform controversies every year spark change, but never enough for a total reevaluation of the old-fashioned fashion rules. It’s time (it’s been time) to address the sexist and racist culture of sports uniforms.