If you are involved in derby in any aspect, from player to fan, you will not of failed to notice a huge shift in roller derby in the last year or so. No, I’m not talking about change in game play or strategy, I’m talking about fashion. It was not too long ago that the name Roller Derby immediately conjured images of fishnet clad “alternative” women in tiny skirts and tutus. Nowadays, take a look at any bout and you will notice most teams are moving towards a more athletic look, team uniforms are more professional looking and the there has been an unspoken emergence of the sports leggings.
My personal opinion of sports leggings is not printable on a family website such as this, however, this is not because I want to be retro or “Old Skool” (she what I did there? Yeah, I’m down with the youth, using text spellings!) The first main reason I don’t wear them is that I have had two children, my body encased in just tight lycra is not something anyone wants to see. This isn’t something that I only apply to sports leggings, in the real world, I don’t believe that leggings are a item of clothing that should be worn without a skirt or shorts being worn over the top. It’s just not nice. But I am also against the sports leggings for more practical reasons, I have a longer than average truck, even so called high-waisted leggings do not come up to my belly button and therefore there is an increased risk of builder bum. Also, how could I concentrate on taking down the jammer when I would constantly concerned about camel toe! It would really not help my game so why bother. My last reason is that I really like my skort, its functional and most importantly, I feel comfortable. The fishnets are totally just because I love fishnets, even before I started playing derby so why the hell not!
My choice to not wear sports leggings is totally my own, and I’m not harassed about it so it’s all cool. As such, players decision to wear them is also their own so I’m not calling for the banning of them but the fact is over a relatively short period of time everyone has started to wear them so I think it signifies much more that the changing collective fashion sense of the community. So I ask, why do you wear sports leggings? I imagine a large response for the “they are comfortable” gang, which, if you find them comfortable, great, you need to be comfortable. This is the response that I get most in my own league but sports leggings were comfortable two, three, four years ago but they weren’t worn then.
This leads me to surmise that the possible reason for the change. My Theory : The big push for Roller Derby to be seen and viewed by the outside world as a legitimate sport has pushed the players to reconsider their attire, maybe completely subconsciously, maybe not, and decide that the sports leggings makes them look more professional. Maybe, this has a point, yes, a team of players clad in lycra does look more like a conventional sports team and eventually the wider public will stop immediately thinking of fishnets. But is that really what we need to do? Cannot we be a professional sport and keep some of the aspects that were unique to us?
Roller Derby used to loves its unconventional image and its alternative tag but it now seems this is an image a lot of people want to shrug off. A few years ago, my own league were sponsored by Motorhead, their press release and our own included the description “fishnet clad hellraisers”, this year we requested that one of our local news outlets didn’t use that description as it was no longer true (Me and one or two others have not succumbed to the evil sports apparel but the rest of the league love them). It is true, we are a more professional sports team than we used to be so it was right to ask to not be misrepresented but I wonder if Roller Derby as a whole is making a bit of a mistake. This extends to various other discussions and recent changes to game, such as names, strategy, et cetera. The game is shifting in all different types of ways as the sport is growing, the old values seem to be less important nowadays than being recognised as sports teams which may just be a natural progression but ultimately, we, the players, are in the position to decide whether we follow it or whether we carve out our own place within the varied field of sports. I guess what I am trying to say is that there are hundreds of sports out there that already subscribe to this one set of values, Roller Derby has always been different, why should we be trying to change to fit in. Why can we work a bit harder and make them accept us and our sport for what it is. Maybe we will never get to the Olympics, but that’s ok, whatever roller derby becomes, even if it never becomes more that what it is currently, is ok as long as it becomes that on our own terms.
We loved being the weirdos on skates, girls that would knock you down as soon as look at you, hard as nails, feisty, independent women. We played up to this and we were proud to be different. Yes, we were seen as a novelty but that got people to bouts, people talking to us. Is there any leagues out there that can say they don’t have a percentage of members from that time who joined simply because it was “different” from conventional sports? I joined exactly for that reason. How many fans of the sport are here today because they went along to see a spectacle but were surprised at what they actually got? Roller Derby used to have a unique selling point and in the race to be taken seriously this is slowly being eroded. Yes, I want roller derby to be seen as a proper sport and our athleticism to be acknowledged but surely that can still happen regardless of what we wear on track? Although, tutus should not be worn! Ever!
This is pretty deep for a rant about sports leggings I know. I felt like a bit of a rant. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments, especially if you would like to change my mind, I’m open to constructive debate.
Until next time and don’t forget to hug your veterans every day.
I have to admit the unconventional image of roller derby girls is what drew me to roller derby having never ever played a sport in my life I looked at it and thought wow!! I could maybe actually fit in here and after not being able to join you ladies because I can’t drive I started my own league in February with lots of help from your league and others.. After deciding on the name Sassy Skeggie Sirens we received a couple if messages from different leagues asking us to reconsider our name due to it portraying an image most are trying to get away from so I put it to vote and all the women wanted to keep our name all agreeing it was the same thing that attracted them to roller derby. Now reading and researching and chatting roller derby over the past few months I worry that so many leagues are trying to ditch that image and going for the more professional athletic image which only in my opinion of corse eventually is going to only attract professional athletic type people and loose the individuality of the sport which is a huge shame your never going to get someone like me or most of our league trying out roller derby with an uber serious totally athletic league.. I can understand the purpose behind changing the image but I think in doing it its also going to change the sport which is a huge shame because its become soo successful so far due to its individuality.. Just saying anyway and its only my opinion and I’m very new to all this and don’t mean to offend anyone in my thinking.. P.S.. The thighs and bums you ladies work soo hard to achieve look great in the fishnets and shorts etc shame to hide them really haha
I have only been involved in derby for the last year, encased in a bubble of the Rainy City Roller Girls, in their venue the Thunderdome - they had just moved into the dome when my wife, Dead-Lea Moonshine started newbie training with them - and we saw a pretty quick progression in those that came to train as new skaters move from the fishnets and tights to leggings. The rough concrete floor is just too abrasive and rips tights or bare skin to shreds when you slide over it.
The Rainy’s travel team have always worn sports leggings, going off historic footage of the team, even before moving to the dome - just seems to be a culture within the league. Thats not to say that its just leggings - many sport shorts or skorts over the top as well.
I wonder if part of the reason over the last year that you, Sin, have noticed this change is down to greater accessiblity of streaming of USA games, plus the World Cup last December - following the chang in the US players, playing more in sportswear than fancy dress.
like the quote used in the Derby Baby trailer “i dont know how big we want this to get?”
I accept it has always been the norm for some leagues. And maybe the change is more noticeable with the much higher levels of bout broadcasts from all over the world. I think there is a lot of leagues though where you can look at their pictures and see the change happening. I also know that some people never felt truly comfortable in fishnets and all that so I do believe all skaters should wear what they want but I think doing it just be make yourself/team look more “athletic” is a little sad, for the sport in general. Roller Derby is about being strong and revolutionary and all those other buzz words, so why are some people feeling the pressure to conform to social norms of other sports?