KIT-icism | From ruffled panties to panties in bunches

Wimbledon 2016 has been dominated by a delicate swatch of white fabric. The “NikeCourt Premier Slam” tennis dress. Comprised of polyester, spandex and a dash of boudoir chic, Nike’s little number is proving that “sexy is powerful”.

It’s been 35 years since Tracy Austin took to the Wimbledon grass with ruffled panties peering out from beneath an embroidered “Holly Hobby” special. Her girlish innocence punctuated by pigtails.

Canadian Genie Bouchard and an army of Nike foot soldiers, including Donna Vekic and Annika Beck, are making it clear that on-court swagger can include a generous amount of sex appeal. The kind of sex appeal that gets both hard-core tennis fans and casual observers up-in-arms. Even Andy Murray’s “Mum”, Judy, has been undressing Nike and Bouchard in the press.

Are today’s stars of the game being exploited by Nike’s mega-marketing machine? Or, are these empowered, young women embracing their sexuality in the most public of forums? Now more than ever, “star female athlete” is synonymous with “sexy star female athlete”. But who is driving it? The marketers trying to advance their brands? The athletes trying to cultivate their images? Or the public’s willing acceptance that “sexy is powerful”?

As Wimbledon’s fortnight continues, they’ll be lots of opinions about the failure or success of Nike’s “little white dress”. Of course, Nike is hoping Miss Bouchard can manage to get deep into week 2 of “The Championships”.  Then, we’ll be seeing a lot of “The Dress”. And, perhaps by design, seeing a lot of Miss Bouchard.

Eric Panke has worked 20+ years in advertising and is known as “America’s last tennis fan”. Follow on Twitter: @twoPANK

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