Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 17/05/12: Olympic Spirit

Fashion and Sport – the two don’t really mix, do they?  The marriage of fashion and sport reminds me of an uncomfortable photo op taken with a now-forgotten (by me) ladies soccer team, all looking very uncomfortable in floor length ballgowns.  Their admirably toned arms splayed out as symbols of toned superiority and forced jocularity, the gowns hanging on them a little less well than on your typically svelte-going-on-emaciated supermodel.

They were meaty, muscular women – due to hours of rigorous training they were physically no more typical of an average woman than a model would be.

Conversely, the sportswear trend, which involved models wearing impractical jersey and neoprene nothings with vertiginous heels, has become inexplicably popular.  Athletes wearing couture and models in training gear – never the twain shall meet.

That was until the sponsorship behemoth that is The Olympic Games hoved into view.  This month’s issue of British Vogue is all about British Pride and Olympic hopefuls.  The cover girl is Kate Moss, who might conceivably do a push-up if a lit cigarette was dangling within mouth’s reach, like the donkey with a carrot on a stick.  With severe red lips and an ash blonde, marcelled ‘do, she is draped in a Grecian studded tunic, the likes of which have not been seen on the sportsfield since the German cheerleaders at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The contents are full of the unabashed patriotic articles that are anathema to most Irish people.  As a half-Brit, half-Irish woman (a heritage almost as politically confusing as half-Israeli/half-Palestinian or half-Obama/half-Osama), I can understand where all this fervent partiotism is coming from.  I can also understand why Irish people aren’t as fervent in their national hero-worship and celebration.  It’s discomfiting.  We’re all worried about money and the economy and the inner workings of the Dail.  What have we to be proud of if the spine of the country has degraded so horribly?

As Alexandra Schulman, editor of British Vogue, says in her monthly editorial that ‘fashion is an inspiring and creative force’.  Why don’t we successfully marry fashion with sport together?  Professional athletes are inspirations.  Sport is about testing the limits and boundaries of human achievement.  Sport and fashion are, to an extent, all about the body; how it can be pushed and moulded, how we can amaze others and create lasting memories from the visual feats of others.

Irish style and sport are in the ascendant – why don’t we use the two as example of Irish pride?  Stella MacCartney designed the Team GB Uniform.  Who has designed ours?  We could get Philip Treacy in to do some jazzy, irreverent hats. Simone Rocha can cover swimwear, J.W Anderson track and field.  Joanne Hynes, Natalie Coleman, John Rocha, Paraic Sweeney, Eilis Boyle, Paul Costello… we’ll find a place for them somewhere.  This is a real opportunity to show proper Olympic spirit.  We may not win a lot of medals, but we’ll definitely be well-represented.

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