Nike just threw a can of gasoline on the fire with their new jersey design for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Not only are the USMNT jerseys made just for men and the USWNT made just for women, but there’s a new issue—the (as Bernie would say) YUUUUUGE plunging neckline for the women’s jersey.
As a woman, I am riled up. As a fan, I’m furious. When the jerseys first premiered on social media, I was excited for the new line. I liked that it says One Nation, One team on the sleeves and that it has a nice overall design. I was ready to buy exactly what the players were going to wear for Rio.
When Nike premiered the “Stadium” jersey, my heart sank. The first question was, “really?” and the next was, “how in the world am I going to play soccer in this shit?” With a neckline that low, it would be impossible to play a match without having some serious wardrobe malfunctions. I also thought about how I want to wear exactly what the players are wearing.
Nike only gave the option of wearing realistic jerseys to those buying the men’s jerseys. The USMNT jerseys have the option of either the authentic or the “Stadium” (replica). However, the USWNT jersey only comes in the low-cut “Stadium” version. So, it’s even more unfair that women can’t even buy the exact jersey that Alex Morgan will wear.
The jersey is also a template, so the same exact design used for the U.S. is used for England and France. The difference with these countries’ replica jerseys is that they represent the men’s national teams with the World Cup stars above the logos. Really weird, right?
Others were just as incensed at this change to the jersey and took to social media (of course) to express their discontent.
@nikesoccer date in which you plan on releasing a uswnt jersey with a normal jersey neckline? Current replica jersey has to be a joke…
— Stacey Hamblin (@zelda1212) March 28, 2016
— Cheryl Gregory (@clg0519) March 28, 2016
— Katie Mertz (@TheyCallMeKatei) March 25, 2016
Does this insinuate a deeper issue? Does Nike think that women are only interested in the fashion side of soccer? Do they not realize that some women other than who are on the team would want a fully functional jersey with three stars? Are women not considered real fans? That last question may be a bit far, but what made Nike think this was a good idea?
Garret Heinrich of CBS Radio Houston summed up the entire issue in one sentence.
“While it is a replica, in essence, it’s more of a fashion shirt. A replica typically is the same cut, the same look, less of the extras,” he said.
This revealing style isn’t something new, however. Manchester United signed a 10 year deal with Adidas in 2014. For the 2015-16 season, Adidas made the women’s jersey with an extremely low neckline. This was different than previous designs by Nike who made an exact replica of the authentic jerseys but in a women’s cut.
— Helin (@MUnitedGirl) August 1, 2015
Sizing is another huge issue in this debate. Lest we not forget Nike’s decision to only make the USWNT jersey in women’s sizes and the USMNT jersey in men’s sizes. If you are man and want to support the women’s team with three stars above the crest, either you draw them on with a permanent marker or wear the women’s shirt and hope it accentuates your curves as well as it would for a woman.
But what if you are a woman and your body type better suits the men’s design? Personally, I don’t usually fit women’s cut shirts because I am a straight line. I prefer the men’s cut because it fits better. No curves on me, no curves in my shirt. It works. Yet Nike is forcing women, no matter what their body type is, to conform to a certain look. If you are a woman, you must only support the women’s team and with a low cut shirt to show off more skin. If you are a man, you must only support the men’s team and have a replica jersey that does not have any fashion aspect to it whatsoever.
“Different cuts for different bodies are great. That’s a functional decision,” said Stephanie Yang, writer for SB Nation’s Stars and Stripes FC, in her editorial. “Different aesthetic details based on gender are dumb.”
I agree with Yang. We live in the 21st Century and are still being bullied by companies into wearing clothing based strictly on gender. As ESPN’s Chris Carter would say, “C’mon man!”