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The Savvy Girl's Guide To Football

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You go, girls! Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.
You go, girls! Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.

I would like to start by laying out the obvious fact that the NFL isn’t exactly known for putting it’s feminine side on public display, just like the fashion world isn’t exactly known for being a textbook example of masculinity. I don’t believe that the breed of woman who watches pro sports and also exudes a certain level of personal style is a rare one. That being said, the September edition of Marie Claire recently hit shelves and left me in a state of total disappointment. 

It features Minka Kelly (aka Lyla Garrity of Friday Night Lights) on the cover. As I removed this from the plastic covering I realized that this was actually a mini-edition of the magazine, fully dedicated to the coming football season. This was intended to be a guide for the stylish (assumed) female subscribers looking to impress the men in their lives with their understanding of the NFL. “The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Football” it was titled.  If you are not familiar with Marie Claire, it is your quintessential fashion magazine, fully equipped with ads for stupidly expensive luxury items that most readers will never be able to afford, articles on trend forecasting, and interviews with up and coming designers and actresses.  

Upon reading the taglines on the cover I was already beginning to feel slightly offended. “Throw the Ultimate Super Bowl Party” “Rock Your Team Spirit in Style” “On-and-off-Field Player Drama Revealed!” I was already turned off and ready to just toss it. Just those small blurbs of text made my skin crawl with the idea that all female sports fans care about is the way they look and the gossip about the players (which is admittedly juicy at times). I took it to the gym with me, where I was feeling a little self-conscious about having this thing out on display. I really didn’t want anybody to catch me reading it and think I was so clueless that I needed the help of Marie Claire to understand what punting is.

The inside of the magazine was just as awful as anybody could have expected it to be. The first two pages were ads with images of impossibly fabulous women wearing their Giants and Steelers attire with high heels, a weird new incarnation of zumba pants and a barrage of bracelets and necklaces that would make Mr. T jealous. Seeing as how the controversy surrounding Ben Roethlisberger is directly correlated to his alleged mistreatment toward women, I found the use of the Steelers attire to be in poor taste. I have never felt the need to pair any of my NFL, NBA or MLB licensed tees with a “statement necklace,” a Chanel bag, stiletto heels or a $2,000 sequin skirt. It’s not to say these items (if you’re lucky enough to have them) don’t have a time and a place to be worn, but realistically nobody is wearing outfits like this outside of these ads to a football game, or anywhere for that matter.

Certainly in all of the circles of women (even the most fashionable ones) I know, I have never seen any of them show up to watch football looking like this. There was a two-page spread inside, detailing what to wear to a game. Some of the items listed as “sure to impress” had sky-high price tags (literally thousands of dollars!).

Not to mention the items listed were clothes you wouldn’t see anywhere but the runway. Now, pray tell, who are you trying to impress by wearing such designer duds to watch football? Certainly not your man and his friends, because if there is one thing dudes don’t want to know, it’s how much you spent on your new shirt.

If you want to show team spirit, by all means go for it! I firmly believe that there is a place for the fashionable female football fan, but that your fashion choices have to come from the heart, not the pages of a magazine. In more recent times, the NFL has begun to design merchandise geared toward this type of woman, although sometimes they too have made faux pas such as sacrificing team colors for more “girly” colors. The New England Patriots have never had canary yellow in their uniform palate, thus their licensed tees shouldn’t either.

That’s not to say there is anything wrong with the barrage of pink we see on the field and in the stands during October, which is breast cancer awareness month. The pink represents something beyond just being a color to appeal to women and goes one step further to support a predominantly female cause. I personally like the pink, and the players seem to have a lot of fun with the pink as well. This might be the only time that it is ever acceptable to mess with the integrity of team’s traditional colors.

I have surely painted my nails in my team’s colors on more than one occasion. I’ve added glitter, I’ve done the metallic versions, etc. I have a few shirts, a hoodie and a beanie with a pom-pom on it that make multiple appearances all year round and the same can be said for female members of my family, including my mother-in-law. I even had a lucky Super Bowl shirt that had absolutely nothing to do with any team but seemed to do some amazing things for me in the 2010 season (but has since lost its magical powers). This is the type of attire that will be appreciated at a game whether you’re in the stands or in a friend's living room. Even if you know nothing about football, you can say, “Well I keep wearing this shirt to every game and we keep winning, so I’m just going to keep it up." That is quite literally your fashion statement, if you are trying to make one. That is what will make you seem like a fun person to watch a football game with! No amount of personal style is going to make you a better football fan, so just do everybody a favor and wear something comfortable and normal.

If you followed Marie Claire’s advice, surely you would show up looking like the town buffoon. Should you need a source for inspiration, turn to someone like Erin Andrews. Please do us all a favor and avoid anything that looks even remotely like it could be found in Jenn Sterger’s closet.  

This magazine also had decidedly banished all of it readers to the kitchen to prepare meals for games and planning a crazy elaborate Super Bowl party, even though we’re still in the preseason. I nearly lost it when I read about the suggested menus. Did this writer literally just advise me to avoid chicken wings, find an elaborate way to sneak kale into my chili and serve a “sexy vegetable” like Brussels sprouts (which the last time I checked smells bad going in and worse coming out!). Some of us ladies do want to actually watch the game, not spend our Sunday afternoon heating up Brussels sprouts. Whatever the food is should just be kept simple, unless of course cooking is your thing, then by all means go for it. You shouldn’t feel as if it’s necessary to cook a gourmet meal when most guests will be probably be happy with a plate of salted meat and cheeses.

I have not always been as excited about football as I am now, but I have come to learn how inherently fun and exciting the game is. Beyond being fun to watch, it is a way to connect with friends and co-workers of all ages. If you aren’t excited about it, there is no forcing yourself into it. You have to come by it at the right time and on your own terms, otherwise you will just end up resenting it, like anything else in life you’re forced into doing. Then you will become the cliche of the brooding significant other who hates football season, which is typically an unflattering cliche to be associated with. If you want to impress somebody, the best thing to do is show an honest interest but admit you are still pretty clueless about the whole sport. The first time I joined a fantasy league it happened by accident and somewhat as a joke, but my husband helped me pick the players and manage the team to a not-too-shabby second-place finish.

It pays off to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to make newbie mistakes. You will be forgiven, I promise. Also, don’t be afraid to do a little bit of your own research. Believe it or not, this is the fastest track for getting to a point where you can have a comfortable conversation about the sport. No bedazzled team shirt, no $200 pair of jeans, no interview with a woman who played a high school football cheerleader (and she wasn’t even a cheerleader the whole time) is going to advance you to that point. I find that the NFL has been more accommodating and welcoming to its female fans than the fashion world is of both male and female aficionados. There is no specific way you need to look, dress or act to be taken seriously as somebody who likes football, whereas the fashion world is notoriously shallow and full of silly pretense related to age, race, income level and weight.

In conclusion, I’d like to say shame on you to Marie Claire for thinking that all of its readers are so vacant and one-dimensional that the only way they can connect with the complex sport of American Football is through accessorizing and cooking. This is a gross underestimation of the American female, by the American female. They have forgotten that girls like football too. Last Halloween my then 8-year-old step-daughter decided to dress as Brett Favre. She has a pink Favre (Packers) jersey that she wore with dish towels stacked up on her shoulders for shoulder pads. It was one of those moments where femininity and the NFL converged and it was incredible. I am not going to run out and burn my bra over this kind of nonsense, and to be perfectly honest I will probably continue reading Marie Claire because holding a grudge is useless and I do love clothes as much as I love football. I found it to be my social responsibility to shed some light for those women who do feel lost and confused among their friends when watching football. It is actually very easy to get acquainted with the sport if you do it your own way.

Just remember football is way easier to understand than fashion, trust me.