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If Uniforms Hinder Athletic Performance, Men Are At A Disadvantage

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

It’s the year 2040. Japanese Sumo Wrestling has finally become an Olympic sport. The Sumo Wrestling Federation, now led by an all-female board, declares the traditional Sumo uniforms are too revealing. They decree that the new uniform must include performance shorts that come to the knee and a tank top that fully covers the belly.

Furious, wrestlers protest and show up in their traditional garb. The SWF backs down. After all, Sumo has a long tradition. Who is the SWF to tell them what to wear?

Ridiculous? Of course. But no more so than the International Handball Federation fining the women’s Norwegian beach handball team for wearing shorts and tops – attire perfectly acceptable for male players – instead of the bikini bottoms and sports bras required for women.

According to the IHF, the women’s bikini bottoms must not be “more than 4 inches in length.”

When questioned about this arcane requirement, the knuckle-dragging IHF, which has never had a female president in its 70 years of existence, could offer no explanation. To this day, they are merely “looking into the matter.”

I can explain, even if the IHF is unwilling to do so. It’s because they believe more males will tune in to watch if they show more female skin.

C’mon. Athletic events are not strip bars. They allow us to admire the skill and determination of participants.

Whether it’s burkas or bikini shorts, it is far beyond time for women, not men, to decide how to dress themselves. Since Title 9 in the 1970s, women athletes have been numerous and savvy. They understand how to dress comfortably and practically for the best performance in their sport. They understand that male soccer players would have a hard time performing in a Speedo, that female equestrians would be highly uncomfortable sporting a gymnastic suit in dressage – ouch! – and that swimmers would never break a record wearing swim skirts.

Much time and research has gone into improving the gear that can enhance an athlete’s performance. But there is no discoverable research into why any beach handball player can play better in a bikini than a pair of compression shorts.

And the IHF knows it.

Photos: (Top row) "File:Girls Beach Handball 2018 YOG - ARG vs PAR (56) (cropped).jpg" by BugWarp is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0; "File:Boys Beach Handball 2018 YOG - URU vs ESP (36) (cropped).jpg" by BugWarp is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. (Bottom row) Bottom row: Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, Men's Beach Volleyball Team USA, Beijing Olympics, by Craig Maccubbin; Jennifer Kessy and April Ross, Women's Beach Volleyball Team USA, London Olympics, by Sum_of_Marc