Dear Nike: Please “Just Do” less
By Daniella Snyder, Editor-in-Chief
Wimbledon women, who haven’t been paid equal prize money to their male counterparts in over forty years, now have a new problem on their hands: Nike, the iconic athletic wear company who constantly strikes deals with female athletes around the globe, is trying to put world-star female tennis competitors in dresses that my grandmother wore in the 1940s.
But really, though. The dresses most resemble the “babydoll” (gag me) style dresses developed by New York fashion designer Sylvia Pedlar in 1942. After World War II there were fabric shortages, and Pedlar invented the dress to deal with the lack of material. In the 21st century, this style of dress is more commonly associated with lingerie and pajamas instead of athletic wear.
The worst part about this? Surprise—the women can’t actually play well in flowing, short dresses that are literally getting in the way. It is so counterproductive to what these women are trying to do on the courts that some of them had to modify the outfit: they wear leggings underneath it or a jacket over it, and one woman even wrapped a headband around her waist to stop the dress from flying up in her face.
After a day of competition, Nike sent an email to all of the women offering tailored changes to the dress before the next day of competition, even letting them return to their traditional skirt and top combination. The women tried to compliment the dress Nike created, calling it “pretty” and “feminine” but saying that it wasn’t proper for a world-class tennis competition. Most of them switched back to the Nike tennis uniform the women know and love.
I ask an articulate and thought-provoking question to Nike: WTF?
What Nike employee sat around some design meeting one morning and actually posed the idea that a DRESS would be a good idea for female athletes? Were you drunk? That’s like asking a football player to compete in a tuxedo. What’s next? Heeled sneakers for the WNBA?
I could harp and rant about inherent and unconscious misogyny and sexism in the sports and athletic wear industries, but I won’t. When a company does something as ridiculous as put an athlete in a dress to compete, their actions are no longer unconscious. They, as a company, are literally screaming to women, “We don’t respect you equally! We don’t care about how well you play, just as long as you look pretty!”
So, Nike, please…looking forward, shut up the drunk guy at your meetings who thinks that dresses in sporting events are a good idea. And please just do less.