Saturday, March 1, 2014

Best Sports and in Spirituality

No one could have imagined the wave of positive media attention and awards that Pope Francis has brought to the Petrine Office. He has graced the cover of TIME magazine as their person of the year, been proclaimed a rock star to the readers of Rolling Stone and found his way onto the cover of The New Yorker in the feature story "Who Am I to Judge?" But, I think the most surprising accolade of them all—and the one that is my personal favorite: Esquire magazine's "Best Dressed Man of the Year."

As written by Max Berlinger for Esquire, 

Pope Francis's sartorial decisions have subtly signaled a new era (and for many, renewed hope) for the Catholic Church. 
"His mode of dressing really does reflect the mindset behind it," says Mark-Evan Blackman, assistant professor of menswear design at FIT, of Pope Francis. "I remember when John Paul II was buried in those opulent bright red shoes. When the current pope was elected and chose not to wear the red shoes I thought that was very reflective of his approach to being a person functioning in a role." 
Pope Francis has been big on symbolic gestures—paying his own bill at a hotel owned by the Church or washing the feet of inmates (two of whom were female) on Holy Thursday—and the black shoes and unadorned, simplistic regalia are just an outward acknowledgement of his progressive orthodoxy. "Pope Francis understands that menswear is meant to express the character of the man wearing the clothes," says Mary Lisa Gavenas, author of The Fairchild Encyclopedia of Menswearbefore adding: "No rapper-style popewear for him."True, the opulent jewelry and fur-lined capes of yore have given way to humbler dress, and this break from aesthetic tradition says a lot of the man and what he hopes to achieve while doing his earthly duties. 
Ann Pellegrini, Associate Professor of Performance Studies & Religious Studies at New York University puts it this way: "The humility of his garments offers a way to visibly display his theological and material concerns for the poor. This Holy Roman emperor really does have new clothes."
I love that even the fashion world can recognize the class in simplicity, that style need not be compromised by "form following function" and that humility doesn't go out of style. And so it was in this context that I started to think about the Best Dressed athletes of the Sochi Winter Games. 
your thoughts on the USA's Opening Ceremony Garb?
Using Francis' criteria, it certainly would not go to the Americans at the Opening Ceremonies. Many referred to them as "ugly Christmas sweaters" and perhaps you agree. The multi-colored hand whip stitched cardigan retails for $595. However, some fans were so enamored with Ralph Lauren's design that they were willing to pay over $3000 as sold on eBay. 
US Curling team captain, Vernon Davis, might appreciate Norway's uniform
Maybe you thought the Norwegian curling team competed with us in the category of brash and bold. Ever since this team made a statement at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, fashion police have wondered what another red, white and blue crew would sport. I don't know if Mary Pilon is one of the The New York Times' prestigious fashion editors, but in "Encore for Norwegian Curlers and Their Pants" she wrote, 
This year, there are at least two new pairs: one that’s a zigzag homage to Norway’s flag and one that’s black and flowery and could be called grandmother-chic.  
Days after the threads were unveiled in Vancouver, an unofficial Facebook page devoted to the team’s pants collected more than 500,000 likes. (That’s about a tenth of the population of Norway.)  
“For them to do what they did in 2010, it was revolutionary to curling. It took the traditions of the sport and re-energized it for a new generation.”  
“It kind of took the edge off everything,” Svae said. “When our games were not going too well, we’d look at each other and think, Oh, you look like a clown. So it made us feel at ease.”
I suppose they should look good. Lacoste is the designer
While I appreciate the desire to re-energize, I can't help but think—like Pope Francis—that simplicity, tradition and good raw material trumps all. And that is why I belive the French and the Canadian teams stood apart at the Opening Ceremony. And if I must choose a specific team, I suppose I would identify the dominant Dutch speed skating team, but only if I can do that from the waist up. 
Tory Burch would approve.
From the "all-black" that represents New Zealand, to the all dark blue that signifiies Scotland among others in the UK, I can't help but notice the bright orange of the Netherlands. Their women's hockey team got a lot of attention above and beyond their orange skirts. Regardless, that bright and cheery color makes an impression. Also, I was intrigued by the fact that the Dutch uniform uses a color entirely different from those that adorn their flag. It's striking; it has made me question "Why orange?" I came to learn from 
Orange is the Netherlands' national colour because of the house of Orange, the Dutch royal line. William of Orange (William I, prince of Orange 1533-84) was the principal founder of Dutch independence in 1597. The current Queen Beatrix van Oranje-Nassau (of Orange-Nassau) belongs to the house of Orange and the Dutch flag, which is red, white and blue (like the French but turned 90 degrees), has an orange banner.
I wish they had stayed all-orange rather than go SF Giants.
I love that fashion can serve as an invitation to learn more about a person, a community, a team and a country. I'm grateful that in the simplicity of Pope Francis or a singular color for the Dutch, that we can uncover so much—beauty, personality, history and a way to honor the past and the present.

Photo Credits
Best dressed

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