Up until a few years ago, I loathed sports, mostly on the basis of what I still believe is a valid fury that athletes (like actors and influencers) get paid egregious sums of money to entertain while people whose jobs are just as essential but not as public (ahem, style bloggers) (kidding I mean teachers and service workers haha) get paid paltry crumbs in comparison. I also had a chip on my shoulder due to my dad’s seeming disappointment that I was not born A) a cis boy or B) athletically gifted or C) taller than 5’2″. The lore of each player and their relationship to the others was too complex to easily follow and usually involved domestic violence, so I couldn’t enjoy the aspects of sports that theoretically appealed to me: the interpersonal dramas, narratives of victory and loss, and sexy, sweaty guys touching each other intimately. Going to games, which I rarely acquiesced to, was typically a sweaty, overstimulating, grueling affair, and worst of all: THE AUDIENCE WAS CONSISTENTLY DRIPLESS!
My hatred of sports was cured a few years ago by my unwitting indoctrination into the love of sports anime, starting with the obvious and famed volleyball anime Haikyuu and leading to deep fandom of shows such as Yowamushi Pedal (bike racing) and my favorite to date, Kuroko’s Basketball (guess which sport that one’s about). These shows did NOT feature any domestic abusers and DID feature tons of tender moments between boys experiencing adrenaline-induced euphoria while playing in “the Zone” together, and I was finally able to understand enough key concepts of play that I could actually appreciate clips from “real” sports games for their poignance and aesthetic harmony (I especially love watching good basketball passes by players like Nikola Jokić and Larry Bird).
But despite it all, one thing still plagues me: the audience attire at sports games (writing “sports game” feels ridiculous for some reason?) is still firmly entrenched on a continuum from simply dripless to downright tragic. This cannot stand! And I have not seen a single style guide for sports fans that’s not just like “wear uhhh skinny jeans! And… heels! With a jersey! Bam!” Which, go ahead, but that combo does not particularly compel me. We can do better than this, together. Note: While working on this post, I stumbled across TokyoFashion.com, which contained the best sports-referencing looks I’d ever seen. I have leaned on this resource heavily for this piece.
The three factors that I believe could create a genuinely awesome game day look are:
- Earnest team spirit (VINTAGE IS BEST)
- Color and fit play
- Maximalism and contrast
I will discuss each at more length below but the essence is: wearing non-festive clothing to a game is always a snooze and downgrades your look no matter how cute it would be in other contexts, extreme color and fit shenanigans are essential in creating a fit that doesn’t just make you look as dull as every other drunk tech mogul sloshing their beer down the necks of the people in front of them when the ref makes a call they don’t like, and maximalism is a safer bet than minimalism, with contrast doing a lot of heavy lifting. Here we go!
P.S. You will probably be able to guess where my dad grew up/what sports scene he tried to indoctrinate me into by the teams I favor in the example clothes I’ve curated. Not NY…
P.P.S This post has less recs than usual and more general tips/ideas/recipes. If you are having trouble searching for a particular item I mention here, DM me on Instagram and we’ll make it happen!
1. Earnest Team Spirit
I don’t particularly like either of Rihanna’s fits in the two photos above, but she’s so hot that of course anything she wears looks great. However, in the context of a game, though the left outfit is probably “technically” better (more ‘flattering’ ew) I support the right outfit 100x more for the simple reason that it shows a minimal amount of team spirit.
Listen, most of the people who will see this post are probably more on the side of “kid who smoked weed under the bleachers during the game” than “varsity cheerleader” (no offense), but I guarantee you that if you’re being forced to go to a game somehow, you will have 127x more fun if you dress as if you are ride or die for whichever team you/the forcer is rooting for (or you could always decide to commit to the team the forcer is AGAINST, lending a spicy twist to your relationship). It materially involves you in the narrative of the game and unites you with at least a handful of other people in the audience, inviting moments of passion, suspense, and camaraderie. If you already love sports, awesome, you don’t need to be sold on this, but if you’ve never been able to get invested in a game, try dressing the part.
If you’re really not into sports, you can think of a game fit as a sort of cosplay–we all know how much more we appreciate the dude who came to the themed party in an earnest, clumsily-crafted costume than the grinch who eschews the theme to just “look hot” or whatever. You will look cooler at a game if you invoke the spirit of the game than if you dress normal, them’s the breaks. Take a look at dress-up god and Knicks fan Spike Lee:
The funky stripes on both hat and jersey! The perfect cobalt athletic turtleneck/mockneck? in Knicks blue to continue the coordination and spirit even in a totally functional and non-festive garment! He looks great! I think he could have pushed this look even further by wearing pinstriped pants. I don’t blame him for wanting his lower half to be a little chilled out, but continuing teh stripe motif in a subtler, dressier way would have been sick.
Big Tip: If contemporary sports merch is a little too much to swallow with its tendency towards garish designs, cheap fabrics, and weird cuts, GO VINTAGE (bonus effect is saving the planet)! If you can get hand-me-down clothes or borrow from the aforementioned forcer if there is one, you’ll also save money! Buying good vintage sportswear can be pricey, but it’s possible to find good deals with some trawling. If you do pay extra, it’s for great quality materials, funky designs, and silhouettes you can wear out of the stadium without an ounce of shame. Sports merch also looks cooler with a bit of wear, as if you, too, deign to move your body with athletic vigor. Ha!
Little Tip: It’s great to build an outfit around a sick vintage jersey or jacket, but it might be even more fun to center a more unexpected article of merch, like bottoms or a bandana/scarf or something!
2. Color and Fit Play
How to elevate a basic, on-theme look from Typical Fan to FILF (yes, that is what I mean)? Simply by freaking the fit and/or color scheme of the clothes.
The simplest, most low-effort, most summer-friendly way to do this is by just wearing a huge jersey and festive shoes. This is also a very affordable look if you have sports fans who are 2+ sizes larger than you in your circle. It’s the most conventional/ Instagram Baddie of any looks I’d recommend for a game but it is extremely sexy (cosplaying a groupie who just slept with their favorite athlete) and pragmatic, so I endorse it! The duo below kills this look, the on-theme sneakers and glasses put in WORK here.
The look below is not as exciting as the others I’ll show here, and I don’t really believe sports games are a time for “restraint” or “minimalism” with their inherent campiness, but dude looks unimpeachably cool. The glasses and the watch sanctify this fit, while the beanie does the heavy lifting to make it look like a “fit” rather than just a walking jersey. Even if you’re going to be “mature” and “cool” about your look (ew), matching accessories is a pretty major key to not looking like a dud.
Below, still simple, but a huge level up: An obnoxiously bright jersey (or perhaps a sweatshirt in an unexpected color?) with staid but chic bottoms. This look begs for a classy belt. Loafers are perfect, and I think this look could work with either a cropped leg and elegant socks, as below, or a gently puddling trouser with loafers peeking out. The striped, structured collar and sleeves help the shirt to look less incongruous with the fancy bottoms. I like that this person is just carrying a water bottle, though that couldn’t be me as I need basically an entire cabinet of supplies to sit through a sports game. A watch, glasses, or simple but funky earrings would do this look justice without sullying its appealing simplicity.
Below right: The oversized c-curve and lush texture of the coat makes the pops of red from the logo even more invigorating, and the unexpected shock of cobalt at the feet also energizes and lifts what could have been a bulky, heavy-looking, look. I’m not a fan of the cap, it just seems random, it’s not horrible but I would have gone with something a little weirder in black, like a furry toque or skullcap or an aviator-ish cap with a chin strap.
Below left: The almost knee-length jersey over the just-past knee-length shorts over the leggings creates a delicious tier proportion, I’m a huge fan of the “long abdomen” look for some reason even though I am 5’1.5 and that’s allegedly the biggest sin against short people style I could possibly commit. Though it does visually sever the leg, the white over black plus proportion fuckery lends a sense of humor to the look that the Michael-Cera-in-Juno-esque sweatband reinforces. The distressed denim jacket brightens up the look but its slim profile keeps all the underlayers contained in a way that doesn’t let this fit veer into JUST silly, sans drip.
Below: The colors kill. Red + hot pink will always be ingenious. The blue hair makes me miss being a teen with blue hair. The clear sandals to let the socks (hot pink tie-dyed socks would be perfect here) shine: brilliant. The jersey tucked into boxers… Everything is perfect except the shades, which are too boring to be worthy of this otherwise genius look.
Two more uses of color in spirited fits from Tokyo that brought me to my knees (the MARIO BAG in pic 1, the STRIPES in both pics, just everything ahhhh):
3. Maximalism and Contrast
In the two looks below, the otherwise-kinda-played-out pattern of tie dye shows its utility in a sporty fit! Dye a white team tee or white jeans yourself, though, because buying pre-tie-dyed is usually a scam and is less fun and personal to boot. Tie-dye would also be great in team colors on socks, on a plain baseball cap, or on a long sleeved shirt to layer under a jersey. Speaking of undershirts, love the slightly incongruent stripes below, as well as the animal print on the shoes. Don’t be afraid to add dissonant touches of pattern and non-team-colors to a look that has enough spirit: the clutter is a good look as long as the centerpieces are on-theme.
Below: This is just a snippet of a look, but I like the idea of layering sheer fabric/lace as a capelet, collar, bolero, or even a whole sheer top, over a casual (perhaps tie-dyed?) tee. This is a great femme-y alternative to those heinous “women’s cut”/garishly bedazzled/pink instead of team colors sports tees that are almost impossible to not look like a Xanned-out mom in. Choose a contrasting color (the yellow below works great to round out the primary color scheme) or match the dominant color in the tee (e.g. a white lace bolero over a mostly-white baseball tee).
A mesh tee over a bball jersey or other sports tank would be a less femme but still sick version of this look!
Below: Don’t love gun iconography, but the idea of doodling to customize a jersey is very enticing, and jersey + skirt/kilt + pants is a winning combo in my books.
There you have it! This post was a real labor of love and is dedicated to my boyfriend who loves some sports dearly and, happily, now loves Kuroko’s Basketball almost as much as I do.
Hit my line on Instagram, throw me a bone (and get seriously incredible prices on personal styling services) on Patreon, and if you have anything negative to say about the Red Sox, keep it to yourself, cause I grew up in a Sox family and am totally brainwashed! If you read this far, your reward is the dark secret that I always cry during the climax of Fever Pitch with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore.