Since the advent of the Olympic games, it has never just been a sporting event. It has served as a platform for representation, culture, politics- all coming together to create an inclusive environment for a better world. Fashion has always been in the forefront of such movements, be it as a form of expression or protest. Sporting attires are of cardinal importance not only aesthetically, but functionally, and the outfits Olympians have worn over the years have sparked conversations around issues like sexism, racism and classism.
The Tokyo Olympics 2020 was no different- from controversies rooted in racism to fashion as a tool of protest, we saw some radical statements being made at the mega sporting event. Take a look..
Early in July, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) banned Soul Cap, a Black-owned business dedicated to designing larger swim caps that are better suited to protect all types of natural hair. This decision caused major backlash from athletes as well as the public, causing the committee to re-evaluate their decision. The founders of the company also took to Instagram quoting, “For younger swimmers, feeling included and seeing yourself in a sport at a young age is crucial. FINA’s recent dismissal could discourage many younger athletes from pursuing the sport as they progress through local, county and national competitive swimming.”
Asics for Australian Olympic Uniforms
The Australian Olympic committee faced an uproar when they announced the official Olympic uniforms for the country would be designed by Asics. The sports brand has been associated with using cotton from Xinjiang, a region in China, identifying 27 factories using 80,000 Uyghur people as forced labourers. In light of the controversy, Asics further released a statement saying, “We can confirm that the Australian Olympic Team uniform does not contain cotton sourced from Xinjiang and was not manufactured in this region.”
German Gymnasts Protest Uniforms
For years women have worn bikini-cut leotards for gymnastics. However, this year at the Olympics, the German gymnastics team opted to wear full-body unitards in order to curb ‘sexualisation’ of the sport. The outfit covered the legs to the ankles. Citing the reason behind this step, German gymnast Elisabeth Seitz quoted, “It’s about what feels comfortable. We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear.”
U.S. Fencers Wearing Pink Masks
Alen Hadzic, a fencer representing the U.S. at the Olympics was accused of sexual misconduct by three women. Despite the allegations, he had been included in the Olympics, leading to outrage not only by the public, but the U.S. fencing team itself. They conveyed their displeasure by wearing pink masks in protest against their teammate’s inclusion in the game. This gesture was very well-received around the world.
These are just some examples of how clothing is used as a powerful means of communication. Protest fashion has and will continue to be a way for people to express their issues, always.
Photographs: Instagram, Pinterest