Janetta Mackay: This sporting life

By Janetta Mackay

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Usain Bolt of Jamaica wears a tartan hat after competing in the men's 4x100 meter relay race during the Commonwealth Games. Picture / AP
Usain Bolt of Jamaica wears a tartan hat after competing in the men's 4x100 meter relay race during the Commonwealth Games. Picture / AP

At most Auckland cafes you'll see women decked out in high-performance sports gear that would leave the trackies our New Zealand Commonwealth Games athletes wore for dead.

I know the Games wasn't a fashion competition, but in Yummy Mummy-ville being seen in the latest workout gear sure is. The days of exercising in daggy T-shirts and baggy leggings are long gone, and not playing netball in Bata Bullets has presumably saved quite a few ankle injuries. Still, it intrigues me how sportswear has become such a status symbol.

Fair enough to take active advantage of high-tech fabrics, both for comfort and compression, but for lunch?

Guess it is one way of getting value for money from shelling out on the stuff in the first place. As you may have gathered, I'm a bit of a sloth in climbing aboard the exercise wear juggernaut. This rather parallels my overall approach to exercise, with a gentle dog walk not requiring much beyond sensible shoes and a scarf.

I get it that the yoga and tennis toned enjoy showing off the fruits of their labour, but if your outing is for a latte and a muffin do you really need Stella McCartney for adidas?

As a sideline supporter and a regular contributor to the coffers of several sports stores in outfitting a teenager, it's hard not to stay up with the play. But when it comes to needing to wear sportswear myself, I like to get it over and done with. Showered and back into civvies. This could be because, as with jeans, I'm not sure athletic attire does me any favours. As to finding flattering golf gear, don't get me started, although that I'd like to see Stella give a go.

Fellow Viva columnist Noelle McCarthy wrote recently of her bafflement that some survey of women had shown that jeans and a T-shirt were their first choice for 'The first-date uniform'. I feel similarly bemused about lycra and lounging about.

Got to say, though, I enjoyed lazing on the couch watching the Games, dressed it might be said in daywear, with slippers my only concession to couch potato comfort.

Since my now hazy childhood memories of the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, I've been a fan. Aside from the obvious appeal of watching athletes try their utmost, the Games doubles as a family lesson by stealth in geography and culture.

Fashion-wise, not so much to be learned, except that, curiously, the sportswear revolution appeared to have bypassed those New Zealanders who had earned the right to the best. Doubtless, the purpose-designed black gear our athletes performed in was top-notch, but the look of the rest of the uniform was hardly inspiring.

The practical pieces, including merino knits, puffer jackets and hoodies, were apparently popular across the range of shapes, sizes and ages who had to wear them, which is the main thing, but the overall impression was dour. A touch more design flair wouldn't go astray next time.

An example is the difference between the netballers' dull Games uniform and their altogether smarter Silver Ferns strip.

It's tricky getting too "fashiony" where national identity is concerned, but supplementing basic black with clever cut and appropriate accent colour is the way to go.

Ask any yummy mummy. Don't ask the Scots team, whose made-up tartan and bright blue opening ceremony outfit was awful, although the thistle-purple swimsuit was inspired.

My favourite fashion moment of the Games was seeing Usain Bolt and the rest of his gold medal winning Jamaican 4x100m relay team decked out in tartan tam-o'-shanters. Pulling off a singlet, hat and scarf combo shows world-beating style.


- VIVA

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