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Critics question newly unveiled Olympic uniforms for France: ‘Are sleeves just for men?’

‘Pretty but why don’t women have sleeves?’ one viewer questions

Kaleigh Werner
New York
Wednesday 17 April 2024 15:48 BST
House of Berluti unveils official French uniforms for Paris Olympics opening ceremony

LVMH and Berluti have unveiled team France’s outfits for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games’ opening ceremonies, and people aren’t pleased.

Navy blue tuxedos with silk tie-dyed lapels reflecting the colours of the country were revealed as the ensemble for both male and female athletes. However, the advertisement posted on Berluti’s Instagram showed one key difference between the men’s tuxedos and the women’s tuxedos – the women’s were sleeveless.

“A classic ceremonial garment, the tuxedo designed is cut from elegant midnight-blue wool. Its jacket features a shawl collar enhanced by an original ‘French flag’ motif in shades of blue and red, with an ombré effect inspired by the Maison’s signature patina,” the designer explained in their Instagram caption.

Each clothing item is being offered in sizes 3XS to 6XL “to offer the 14  sizes required by all the hopefuls on Team France,” per the LVMH announcement.

The looks are paired with Berluti Shadow trainers and the “Shadow or the Maison’s flexible Lorenzo leather loafer,” for the men and women respectively.

These garments are now being described for “rewriting the rules of athlete outfits,” according to a New York Times article. However, the high-end getups were also compared to the uniforms worn by flight attendants.

“Designed in collaboration with Carine Roitfeld, the former editor of French Vogue, current editor of CR Fashion Book, and an all-around famous Frenchwoman, the looks are a valiant attempt to rewrite the rules of athlete outfits that somehow also call to mind Alain Delon and Catherine Deneuve playing Pan Am flight attendants on the lam at Le Palace,” the New York Times argues.

Online, people expressed frustration around the style choice to remove sleeves from the outfits designed for female athletes.

“Are sleeves just for men?” one critic questioned, while another said: “Pretty but why don’t women have sleeves?”

A third added: “The Belt buckle is gorgeous. Sleeveless outfits are not very attractive.”

These comments come after widespread controversy erupted over Nike’s new US Track & Field uniforms for seemingly leaving female athletes more “exposed”.

The athleticwear for men consists of thigh-length shorts and a long USA branded tank top, while the offering for women includes a one-piece bodysuit with a thin-cut bikini line.

Former professional athlete Lauren Fleshman, 42, took to social media to publicly denounce the design of the women’s uniform with a side-by-side comparison of the outfit and the ensemble for men. “Patriarchy 2024,” she wrote.

“I’m sorry, but show me one WNBA or NWSL team who would enthusiastically support this kit,” Fleshman said. “This is for Olympic Track and Field. Professional athletes should be able to compete without dedicating brain space to constant pube vigilance or the mental gymnastics of having every vulnerable piece of your body on display.”

She continued: “Women’s kits should be in service to performance, mentally and physically. If this outfit was truly beneficial to physical performance, men would wear it. This is not an elite athletic kit for track and field. This is a costume born of patriarchal forces that are no longer welcome or needed to get eyes on women’s sports.”

Fleshman went on to highlight how she’s “queer and attracted to female bodies”. However, she doesn’t support seeing male or female athletes be self-conscious about their body at work.

“That is not part of the job description. I lived that life and know that excellence is born of unselfconsciousness, of freedom and embodiment of action and instinct. Stop making it harder for half the population,” she demanded.

Katie Moon, fellow Olympian, and Dan O’Brien, former athlete, pointed out that these options were just one of several the athletes are allowed to choose from. Nike confirmed to Reuters that the kits included 50 apparel pieces and 12 competition styles to choose from for the Paris Olympics.

Moon, a 32-year-old Nike-sponsored pole vaulter, confessed the outfit seemed “concerning” at first, but may actually be beneficial.

“I absolutely love people defending women, but we have at least 20 different combinations of a uniform to compete in with all the tops and bottoms available to us,” she remarked on Instagram. “We DO have the men’s option available to us if we want it. When you attack the buns and crop top saying something along the lines of it’s ‘sexist’ (which if that was our only choice, it would be), even if it’s with the best of intentions, you’re ultimately attacking our decision as women to wear it.

“And if you honestly think that on the most important days of our careers we’re choosing what we wear to appease the men watching over what we’re most comfortable and confident in, to execute to the best of our abilities, that’s pretty offensive.

“I personally like the buns because I want as little fabric clinging to me when I’m hot and sweaty (which I am at 99 per cent of meets I compete in).”

Nike told The Independent: “We will also have tailoring options available for Olympic and Paralympic athletes at the games.”

The Independent has contacted USA Track and Field for comment.

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