There's a Major Problem with Sports Official Uniforms
When it comes to sports uniforms, we tend to think of the uniforms the actual players wear. Whether it's soccer jerseys or warmups, there's always a wide variety of options for the actual sports participants. There is a major problem, however, in the world of sports official apparel, i.e. referees, umpires, etc. And that is that female sports officials have zero options for their uniforms.
According to The Atlantic, the women that are starting to break into the male-dominated field of sports officiating are finding it very difficult to find clothing options that fit them. In 1977, when attorney Kitty Grubb decided she had enough time on her hands to become a referee, she noticed that the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) guidelines for officiating read: "Officials shall ... dress neatly and appropriately."
The supplier for the FHSAA, Gerry Davis Sports, didn't provide many options in women's sizes. Grubb had to go as far as getting her clothing tailored, which cost a lot of money and didn't exactly look ideal.
Grubb dealt with this problem for years, until last year when she finally decided to complain. Having worked as an attorney on several high-profile gender discrimination cases, she realized that this uniform debacle was, in fact, an example of gender discrimination. Grubb emailed the FHSAA, and Jeremy Hernandez, the assistant director of officials for the FHSAA, told The Atlantic that the association would do its best to look into this issue. When Hernandez decided to research Grubb's claims, he even looked into other vendors to see if anyone had more options for women. None existed.
This issue extends beyond Grubb's experience. The Atlantic pointed out that when Sarah Thomas, the first female NFL referee, was hired in 2015, the league scrambled to find a uniform for her, since none existed in female sizes.
The issue of women's sizes extends beyond pure vanity. If a woman is wearing pants that are too long, she will have a difficult time establishing her authority to a player who is 6'2". And, she will look out of place on the field if she does not look polished like the male referees do.
“They don’t know you, so your impression is what they get to see, and if what they see is equipment and clothing that don’t fit, you already have one strike against you," Ila Valcarcel, a baseball umpire, told The Atlantic. Valcarcel has had to take it upon herself to heat up her shin guards with a hot glue gun and remold them to fit women's legs.
This issue extends to female athletes, as well, and The Atlantic even pointed out that women in the medical and science fields have trouble finding lab coats that fit.
For suppliers and distributors working in the uniforms industry, there is no better time to adjust your sizing model. If women can come to your company for appropriately sized uniforms, you will have many new business opportunities, since your competitors might not offer the same advantage. Women continue to make inroads in many different industries, and it is a huge missed opportunity to neglect their needs.