At Wimbledon, The Focus Is On What The Women Are Wearing

Maria Sharapova "upset the traditionalists" recently by announcing that she'll be playing uber-conservative Wimbledon in shorts. Not just any shorts, mind you. As Vogue UK reports, Nike has designed a unique outfit for the star, which pays homage to London's "history in bespoke tailoring." Says the third-seeded Sharapova (who is herself about to make her design debut ), "Call it menswear. It's kind of like a tuxedo look, very simple lines, classic." Meanwhile, Serena Williams' white belted trench coat has made major headlines ("Game, Set and Mac, Miss Williams," screamed the Daily Express - although the match was in fact a close one), while Roger Federer's dapper warmup looks (notably a recent gold-trimmed cardigan) are critiqued in the daily style pages and bookmakers are giving odds on Brit Andy Murray appearing in a kilt. Um, what the hell?

Some would say Wimbledon's all-white dress code encourages this kind of experimentation. Others would argue that it's part of a dangerous trivialization of one of the few sports in which women rule. "Only in this climate could it be written - as it was at the French Open - that the American Ashley Harkleroad had "upstaged" Serena Williams because she had decided to pose for Playboy," writes Marina Harker in The Guardian. "Williams had just crushed her in two sets, but whatever. Harkleroad's first-round draw here is Amélie Mauresmo, in a match swiftly billed by some commentators as the clash between the lesbian and the Playboy model."

Yes, this is appalling, and there is no question that the deification of a "celebrity" like Anna Kournikova at the expense of more accomplished athletes is bad for sports, society, girls and fashion alike. But I'm inclined to take a more relaxed approach. First of all, however trivial - and besides the point - these athletes' fashion choices might be, they are still drawing attention to genuine athletic accomplishment. (And all the players singled out for sartorial acclaim are actually world-class tennis players.) And is critiquing sportswear any worse than critiquing red carpet fashions, especially when the practictioners throw themselves into the fray with red-carpet-like zeal? At the end of the day, if focusing on fashion is trivializing the hard work of these women, it is also glamorizing it - and we could do worse than to glamorize hard-working athletes who, not incidentally, sport these clothes on toned and healthy-looking (read, well-fed) bodies. And, if nothing else, the dandyism is unilateral - Roger Federer can only grasp at the sex appeal generated by stars like Sharapova. And judging by the reaction to that cardigan, he's not doing very well.



Shorts and Sweet
[Vogue UK]

Game, Set and Style [Vogue UK]

A trouser-rubbing timewarp that needs no new balls[The Guardian]

Trenchcoats up the Wimbledon fashion stakes[Reuters]

Earlier: Girly Fashions At The Australian Open: Game, Set, Matching Headbands

The Men Of The Australian Open Serve Good 'Sex Face'