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Sports fashion: A retrospective

The NFL Draft is still 40 days away, the Pelicans are in rebuilding mode and, sadly, I did not win Warren Buffet’s $1 billion March Madness challenge (but neither did anyone else). As a result, I find myself lacking enthusiasm for current sporting events. However, it is not just the action on the field/court/pitch that attracts every fan. Sports are part of a larger spectacle that includes energizing music, over-the-top halftime entertainers and, of course, unforgettable costumes.

In New Orleans, the term “costume” is both a noun and verb, meaning we know how to appreciate fashion trends of all types. Consequently, even the most casual local sports enthusiast can appreciate the fashion statements that are essential to any sport. Inspired by this appreciation for uniforms as well as the recent events of Nola fashion week, I completed my own subjective list of the Top 5 best and Top 5 worst fashion trends in recent sports history.

The Top 5 Best Sports Fashion Trends

5. Short basketball shorts

Gone are the days when male players wore shorts that fell well above mid-thigh. Basketball shorts have become longer over the last few decades.  According to one theory, Michael Jordan is the reason behind the shifting trend. Supposedly, while playing for the Bulls in the 1980s, the legendary player requested that the manufacturer produce longer shorts so they did not ride up his legs while he was playing.  The Fab Five of Michigan in 1991 cemented this tradition, and longer, baggier shorts became the norm in basketball (goodbye short shorts forever). Too bad, because showing a little leg (especially professional basketball player leg) is always a good thing.

Pete Maravich wore the formally popular short basketball shorts while playing for the New Orleans Jazz in the 1970's.

Pete Maravich wore the formally popular short basketball shorts while playing for the New Orleans Jazz in the 1970s.

4. Eye black

Eye black, as the name suggests, is a material worn under the eyes to reduce glare. The trend has a long history; Babe Ruth began wearing it in the 1930s and Andy Farkas, an American football player, was first pictured donning it as early as 1942. These days many athletes, especially football and baseball players, use it to protect their eyes from glare (even though some studies dispel the usefulness of eye black for this purpose). Regardless of its effectiveness, the black substance is associated with toughness, a means to intimate opponents.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees looks ready for battle in his eye black

Saints quarterback Drew Brees looks ready for battle in his eye black.

3. Olympic beach volleyball uniforms

Being a world-class athletic duo like Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings is impressive enough. The fact that these three-time gold-medal winners do it in this attire (or lack of attire) adds to their legendary status. When these two ladies play in those “uniforms,” I am inspired to stand up and immediately do lunges, sit-ups or something to start looking like that. I applaud those two for looking that good while playing beach volleyball at such an elite level.

Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London

Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

2. The Hornets Mardi Gras jerseys 

I’m a big fan of the new name and logo of the Pelicans, but there was something about the Hornets’ Mardi Gras uniforms that was so New Orleans. The bright pattern of purple, green and gold, outlined by the subtle bead pattern, was so outlandish and extravagant. It was so bad that it was actually good.

The Hornets Mardi Gras jerseys featured a colorful mix of purple, green and gold

The Hornets Mardi Gras jerseys featured a colorful mix of purple, green and gold.

1. Brown paper bags 

Legendary Saints sportscaster Buddy Diliberto first suggested the playful antic of wearing a paper bag to hide his identity as a fan during the 1980 season, when the team went 1-15. Saints fans soon followed suit, decorating bags in black and gold with the nickname “Aints” painted across the front. Since then, fans of other teams across various sports have taken up this trend with paper bag creations of their own. Even though sporting a paper bag is a fashion statement associated with losing, the trend is representative of New Orleanians’ creativity, resilience and sense of humor. With this simple action, Saints fans helped define the meaning of diehard.

Saints fans wear paper bag outfits during a dismal season

Saints fans wear paper bag outfits during a dismal season.

 

The Top 5 Worst Sports Fashion Trends

5. NFL throwback uniforms

NFL throwback uniforms are often less than flattering (to say the least). There is a reason those designs belong in a different decade. The Steelers' bumblebee throwback jersey is the ultimate example of this awful trend.

Pittsburg Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wearing the throwback jersey during the 2012 NFL season

Pittsburg Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to endure the throwback jersey during the 2012 NFL season.

4. 2014 Olympic speed skating uniforms

The dismal performance of the U.S. speed skating team was one of the top headlines of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. The team blamed a new design in their Olympic uniforms made by Under Armour (a vent in the back was claimed to be the source of the trouble). Yet, even after switching to the old uniform, their performance did not improve. It seems that the uniform was jinxed. Or, more likely, the U.S. is simply no longer the speed skating powerhouse it once was.

Speed skater Shani Davis competes in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi

Speed skater Shani Davis competes in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

3. Advertising on uniforms

Many sports teams around the world feature ads on their uniforms; yet, amazingly, this trend is not currently allowed by the major professional U.S. sports leagues. However, the NBA commissioner recently said that this could soon change in professional basketball. It is only a matter of time before the professional sports bigwigs in the U.S. sell the prime real estate that team jerseys will afford. With numbers like $41.2 million per year (the annual sponsorship amount Qatar Foundation pays FC Barcelona), this opportunity will soon be too good to pass up. So enjoy those pristine black and gold uniforms while you can, as one day they will likely have a giant logo plastered across the front of them.

The Qatar Foundation logo is prominently displayed across the jersey of FC Barcelona player Lionel Messi

The Qatar Foundation logo is prominently displayed across the jersey of FC Barcelona player Lionel Messi.

2. Tattoos … everywhere

Tattoos and professional athletes go hand in hand these days. Unless you’re David Beckham (who, let’s face it, is beautiful enough to do whatever he wants), it’s not an attractive look to pair a uniform with a body covered in ink. An athlete’s ability should be statement enough, without adding the extra permanent markings.

David Beckham, like many professional athletes, is covered in tattoos

David Beckham, like many professional athletes, is covered in tattoos.

1. Bill Belichick’s signature cut-off sweatshirt

Cut-off sweatshirts have never and will never be a good look. Ever.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sporting his signature cut-off sweatshirt

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sporting his signature cut-off sweatshirt.

 

 

Native New Orleanian Megan Peck writes occasionally about lie in New Orleans for NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]