Whenever the summer Olympics appears on our television screens every four years, gymnastics gets all of the fashion love. The glitzy leotards, sparkly eyelids, and chic buns, it’s obvious why the intricate sport dazzles it’s audience. However, there is another sport that amps up adornment to another level, track and field. For years, the female US track and field team has sported unique accessories and jewels that play second place to the runners amazing feats. Now it’s time to take a look at how the United State’s track and field team has “dressed up” for the race.
Running With Accessories
Whether running the 400 meters or jumping the hurdles, the women’s American team at the Rio Olympics made fashionable statements.
Shannon Rowbury ran the 1500m while wearing a gold septum ring and hot pink lipstick, and hurdler Kristi Castlin went for a bejeweled look with a rhinestone bindi and coordinating nails. High jumper Inika McPherson wore dark lipstick and rocked her tattoos with a pair of round ear gauges, while sprinters Elaine Thompson and Deajah Stevens relived the 90s with chokers. Although not representing America, Jamaican Elaine Thompson wore strappy headbands, colored lipstick, and a plethora of tattoos while currently earning the “fastest woman in the world” title.
The Fashion Flow of Flo Jo
This emphasis on adornment in track and field is reminiscent of another former Olympian, Florence Griffith-Joyner. Often referred to as “Flo Jo”, the American sprinter made history with unbeatable records in both the 100m and 200m. Her legacy is clouded with drug enhancement allegations and her life ended shortly in 1998 after an epileptic seizure.
However, the sports career of Flo Jo also highlighted her fashion sense. The sprinter built a reputation for long colorful nails, including a patriotic set with a splash of gold at the 1988 Olympics. She also wore loudly printed unitards that at times, featured a cut out leg. She also sported hooded unitards accessorized with an accent belt.
Griffith-Joyner had a taste for fashion since her childhood. Throughout her career she would tell stories of designing outfits, convincing her teammates to wear leggings under their shorts while in high school, and even wearing a snake around her neck as an accessory. “Dress good to look good. Look good to feel good. And feel good to run fast,” Griffith-Joyner once explained. After retiring in 1988, Griffith-Joyner designed uniforms for the Indiana Pacers and launched her own clothing line. Although she is still considered the world’s fastest woman, her style was was as quick as her.
Nailing It At Track And Field
Joyner wasn’t the only member of the American Olympic track and field team to sport eye-catching nails. Olympian hurdler Gail Devers consistently wore long fingernails that were so long, it curled at the ends.
Sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross didn’t wear long nails for her 2012 Olympic win, but instead opted for a pair of crystal Chanel earrings, a side French braid, and a bullet charm necklace given to her by her mother. Richards-Ross has embraced fashion throughout her running career and now has a nail polish line sold at Sephora and a faux fur line, respectively.
More Than Just A Manicure
Blending track and fashion has been more controversial than one would think. As noted by academic Lindsay Parks Pieper, Florence Joyner was often criticized for her fashion choices. Parks Pieper relates it to Joyner being an African American woman who embraced common Black trends like long nails. Instead of opting for short French or pastel manicures that were common with White American females, Joyner’s manicure “marked her as non-white and thus non-normative.”
Track and field has been a sport that only garners the public’s attention every four years. While it has that sliver of attention, team members have chosen to show off their personal style alongside representing their country with accessories as eye catching at their talent.