Monday, April 2, 2012

Strategic fashion: Roller Derby uniforms

I am a volunteer fashion victim; let's get that out of the way right at the beginning of things.  I wear ridiculous clothes on a regular basis in and out of my derby life, so I probably shouldn't be dishing out fashion tips; but, these are not necessarily "What Not to Wear" kind of tips, but rather how can you make what you wear work for you.

First of all, let's talk about helmets and covers.  I know that the first thing we do when we join derby is get every sticker possible and stick it on our helmets, or we buy a weird colored helmet which sticks out like a sore thumb when we're in a pack of our teammates.  I'm guilty of this as well, but since derby has started down the proper path of becoming a more mainstreamed sport, I have started seeing teams adopt the same helmet for all players.  Personally, I think that Charm City has the coolest and most interesting helmets in derby at this point, and I love it when I see an entire pack of them out on the floor.  Yea for a team signature!  It's pretty intimidating to see all of the players wearing the same helmets and jerseys; it feels like the team is unified.

To add to this, some teams are now making all of the players wear the same colored helmet and they also get the covers to be the same color!  Brilliant and sneaky!  This is probably one of the most distracting things you can do to the other team, and I'm sure, eventually the WFTDA will crack down on this, but it is really a great move on your team's part if you can pull it off.  Most of us use peripheral vision on the track when we're watching for the jammer to come up on us, and if every single member of your team has on the same color as the helmet cover, then you are giving your jammer an advantage of getting through the pack.  Of course, getting a group of derby players to agree on anything is kind of like herding cats, so I do wish you luck with that.  Triple Eight has helmets in almost every color of the rainbow, and they are pretty inexpensive, so they might be an option.
Philly was way ahead on the helmets being the same color as the panties. 

My second tip is looking into the Philly dresses they wear!  Beth Row and I used to argue about these uniforms because I was dead set against ever skating in a dress, and I thought she was letting her "girly girl" nature override her good judgement, but now I have seen the light.  "The light" was when I saw one of the B.A.D. jammers grab and take a whip off of the dress her blocker was wearing, and whip the entire straightaway!  That was impressive as hell and completely won me over.  Also, the dresses seem to be forgiving on every body type from the bodacious Teflon Donna to the wispy Mo Pain.  Everyone wins!
They fit all different body types.  I'm sold! Photos by A Boy Named Tsunami

If you're not going the dress route, then the next topic that comes up is sleeves or no sleeves?  Personally, I hate sleeves, but I see the utility in them.  Sleeves can protect you from weird shoulder injuries, ie sliding across the floor and your skin sticks to the surface injuries, and you can put your number on them so you don't have to wear arm bands or write on your skin.  Having had one person mess up my number when she was writing it on my arm, I am almost tempted to look into getting sleeves, but then again, I hate feeling material on the underside of my arm.

Let's talk bottoms.  Ok ladies, please, for the love of all that is derby, stay away from light colored bottoms.  Nobody looks good in them, and they show all panty lines.  Stay away from natural materials too, since they tend to cause more friction on the floor and retain moisture.  In the words of Candy Korn, "Jammers are always rearranging their bottoms on the jammer line.  Just once I'd like to see a bout where jammers aren't adjusting their underwear!"  She has a point; if your attention is on your clothes, then you aren't fully ready to jam.  Also, if you do decide to wear black bottoms, please make sure that they are not see-thru! In some light, black bottoms tend to become shockingly revealing, showing the world your choice in underwear....or your choice not to choose any!

Finally, for the men.  I'm sorry guys; derby uniforms are tough for you.  You want to protect your legs from rink rash, but big baggy shorts look like they would be cumbersome and hot.  You could choose "mantyhose" but that seems to not work on anyone.  I don't know how to solve the riddle of your uniform, but please please do NOT put on Derby Skinz.  Derby Skinz on guys look like you are smuggling a teensy tiny monkey who is juggling walnuts and pickle.  It's just not pretty to look at.  Don't punish the audience because you want to be funny.  Thanks!


  1. I adjust my shorts on the line as a distraction and also as a person with add I need to do something else to focus. So as I adjust my shorts I am picking out my initial pathway. You don't have to look down to adjust yourself if you do.... You have other problems and maybe needed a larger size :)

  2. our head ref chooses to wear "lift and separate" shorts from time to time...WHAT HAS BEEN SEEN CANNOT BE UNSEEN! ah well, at least he's starting to wear quads now...head ref in blades??? ugh! ;)

  3. Best sleeve compromise: cap sleeves. Enough room for your number, but no material of significance under your arm. And not as unflattering for those with upper arm issues. Or as self-conscious, at least.

  4. I've never seen any of the Philly girls do a skirt whip. While it does sound like it was fairly effective, I think you've forgotten a crucial variable: Let's just assume that half of derby girls are queer, and half of the queer players are butch. That means that such a decision would give an average of about a quarter of the players* the heebee-jeebees. I can't put my own personal bias aside to give reasonable estimates on the numbers of skaters that would either move to a new city, or buy a hybrid vehicle, rather than don a liberty bell-styled uniform, but I do know that demographic is out there.

    Your notes on increasing uniformity for a) camouflage, and b)team-building are spot on, though! I certainly think that any team with the means to do so would benefit!

    *I say "at least" as I know plenty of heterosexually identified skaters that would refuse such a uniform, as I assume that there are some butch players that would do whatever they'd have to do to skate. I'm making population-level generalizations here.