Keeping Score: The women of professional soccer show off their style

On the heels of fashion week, Women’s Professional Soccer rolled out a little runway show of their own. A few players from each of the new league’s teams gathered in New York last week to unveil their inaugural uniforms.

And by "uniforms" I mean "skorts" — the befuddling garment that always begs the questions: Is it a skirt? Is it shorts? Are they serious?

Yes, in fact, they are serious. But they’re calling it a wrap.

The press release explains it like this:

PUMA brings a sense of fashion, flair and femininity to the kits with tailored jerseys, shorts and wraps. Although the uniforms have a more tailored silhouette, the technical materials, cuts and shapes are driven purely by performance, designed for the players to have the maximum flexibility to get them to the ball faster.

Skorts aren’t the only option available. There are also tailored shorts. Don’t worry, though; they won’t make the players look dude-ish. The shorts have "a shaped hem and flatlock stitching for a more feminine silhouette."

I understand that PUMA is a big financial backer of the new WPS, and for it to be a profitable endeavor they need to be able to market these clothes to the hundreds of thousands of youth soccer players and moms out there. I also understand that conventionally attractive people sell more products. It’s not fair, but it’s the reality of brand management.

My problem isn’t that the second incarnation of professional women’s soccer offers stylish uniforms; my problem is that they feel like that have to align themselves with fashion and flair and femininity to be successful. Don’t believe me? Then why name Project Runway winner Christian Siriano as the designer? Why have him pose with the players during fashion week? Why ask the players to prance around on a green turf carpet for photographers instead of signing autographs for little girls at a skills workshop?

It’s not the skort that gets me; it’s the prominence of fashion over skill. It’s the fact that this would never be required for male athletes.

Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has been imprisoned for over two years on felony animal cruelty charges. Once his sentence is served, he’ll be back on the field, making millions of dollars in the NFL. Critics will be silenced by journalists, pundits and mostly by fans, who will continue to pay hundreds of dollars to watch him play. And somewhere there’s a young boy learning that reprehensible actions don’t matter when you can really launch a football.

Meanwhile the thing we’re saying to little girls is that being a world-class athlete doesn’t necessarily qualify you to play professional sports. Your silhouette must be feminine and your runway walk fierce if you really want to make it.

What do you think about the new line of Women’s Professional Soccer uniforms, and the fashion show that launched them?

 

Update: AfterEllen.com reader Filmgrrl let us know that the skorts are for pre-game and post-game wear. Regular shorts will be worn by the teams during their games.

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