Alex Morgan can simply rattle off the colours of the headbands worn by her United States teammates.
She wears pink, as does Rose Lavelle. Sophia Smith likes black. Julie Ertz prefers a shade nearer to Tiffany blue. Lindsey Horan wears crimson, largely as a result of Morgan doesn’t.
“One of the first times I wore pink, someone said I’m trying to copy Alex Morgan,” Horan stated.
Morgan laughed. “I never knew that,” she stated.
Soccer’s favourite headband, although, isn’t a scarf in any respect. The sheer coloured strips preserving a number of the world’s finest athletes’ hair in place is definitely what is called pre-wrap — a skinny, stretchy medical gauze supposed to be wrapped round injured knees or ankles earlier than they’re taped, partly to guard the pores and skin.
And whereas each women and men way back co-opted the athletic dressing for a extra outstanding objective of their hair, Morgan and different ladies’s soccer gamers have turned pre-wrap into an emblem of ladies’s sports activities — and soccer particularly — to accent their crew kits and specific individuality on the sector.
“There is a kind of unique, almost strategic use of pre-wrap in women’s soccer,” stated Rachel Allison, a sociology professor at Mississippi State who has studied how the game has marketed itself. “Obviously, wearing the headband can be functional in terms of holding your hair back while you’re playing the sport, but I think it’s become far more than that.”
Morgan, for instance, started carrying pink pre-wrap in order that her dad and mom may choose her out in a sea of ponytails on the soccer discipline, and later selected the colour to honor her mother-in-law, who’s a breast most cancers survivor. Morgan is now even sponsored by one of many major producers of pre-wrap, Mueller Sports activities Medication.
“These are forms of individual self expression, but they’re also really important to how we’re marketing women’s sport,” Allison stated. “They become part of the storytelling that we do around who these women are, not only as players, but also people in ways that help to connect to the audience.”
The pre-wrap options prominently within the branding of the gamers, together with how they’re portrayed in varied merchandise. Earlier than the match, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher shared an image of a figurine clipped to her bag that depicted Becky Sauerbrunn, the defender and former captain of the U.S. crew who’s out of the World Cup with a foot damage, full with a pink strip throughout her brow.
Brett Mueller, the chief govt of Mueller Sports activities Medication, stated the corporate initially started producing pre-wrap within the Nineteen Seventies to be used within the N.F.L. and N.B.A., however it turned in style as a hair accent for ladies and women after referees stated they couldn’t put on arduous plastic barrettes or clips due to damage dangers. Shortly, he stated, his firm needed to develop its shade choices from the unique tan, first to in style faculty colours after which to a brighter, wider vary — together with pink.
“It’s exciting that these athletes — and our team is so good, too — are using our product,” Mueller stated, including: “But we didn’t design it for that.”
Allison stated that when she performed faculty soccer at Grinnell Faculty in Iowa, the place she graduated in 2007, a few her teammates wore the gauzy headbands. Many extra folks do now, she stated.
“It’s not uncommon to see other people, especially girls or young women, wearing pre-wrap when they’re in the stands watching,” Allison stated. “It’s a way for them to symbolize their fandom.”
There are two camps of pre-wrap headbands: those that roll it into skinny, tubular strands that arise barely on their heads, like Morgan and Horan, and people who unfold it flat on prime of their hair, like Smith and Ertz. The strategy issues — midfielder Rose Lavelle wears pink pre-wrap, however as a member of Workforce Flat, she’s protected from comparisons to Morgan.
And whereas it’s most blatant within the gamers’ hair, Morgan stated the crew additionally makes use of pre-wrap for its initially supposed objective: beneath their shin guards and likewise to tape up ankles.
“Pre-wrap is everywhere,” Morgan stated. “You look in the bins, and it’s endless pre-wrap.”