Monday, August 18, 2008

Non-archaeological post (sorta) I found this article on Olympic sportswear fascinating: Olympic Uniforms: Less Clothing Means Better Results
With their toned bodies and sun-kissed skin, beach volleyball players have more to show off than their lightning quick serves and powerful blocks. Especially if the players are women.

Beach volleyball is one of the most glaring examples of uniform discrepancy, with men and women wearing strikingly different outfits to play the same sport.

Men jump and dive into the sand wearing loose-fitting tank tops and shorts that hit mid-thigh. Women wear bikinis, the kind that make waxing oh-so-crucial.


It's a fairly lengthy article and goes into some detail on the whys and wherefores of various Olympic attire. I've wondered about this for some time, especially in the last several years as the female outfits have become smaller and smaller. IIRC, the original Greek athletes would compete entirely in the buff. Apparently, the bikini-wear favored by some of the track and beach volleyball women are extremely non-restricting and don't, ummmmmm, ride up or, in the case of the volleyballers, let sand get into all the nasty little nooks and crannies. So one is left with the impression that these things are, to get all Darwinian, being selected for because of their function.

BUT. One would also assume that the same functional constraints would apply to the men, albeit without having to wear anything on top. It seems as if only the male swimmers conceded to physics and wore tiny little Speedos (until recently of course). They seem to forgo the functional advantages and stick with relatively bulkier and more restrictive clothing. Style trumping function?

In yet another twist, the article also goes into the basketball teams, in which the women have tended towards emulating their male counterparts and wear the long baggy stuff. Is the clothing less of an issue in b-ball than track and field? I suspect so; clothing seems to be far more specialized when time is the determining factor rather than points. Swimmers seem to do whatever it take to grab an extra tenth of a second or two while different clothing won't make much of a difference when shooting a basket.

Of course, there's also the whole marketing angle as well. I have a feeling a bikini will bring in a lot more advertising reps than baggy shorts and a tank top.