BWF: Skirting is the issue

May 1st, 2011 will be an important milestone for many of the current world-class badminton players.  For just about everyone, it marks the start of the 2012 Olympic qualifying period.  […]

May 1st, 2011 will be an important milestone for many of the current world-class badminton players.  For just about everyone, it marks the start of the 2012 Olympic qualifying period.  But in addition, for just about half of the world’s top echelon, it will also be the day when the new competition clothing rule will take effect.

By Serla Rusli, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

The rule, which can be found in section 19.2 of the new General Competition Regulations, requires all female players to wear strictly skirts or dresses in Grand Prix tournaments and above.  The Badminton World Federation () states that this new rule will serve ‘to ensure attractive presentation’ of the sport.  Though perhaps drawing inspiration from the many women players who have been labelled fashion icons, interestingly, no such rule can be found among the Women’s Association regulations.

Badminton ‘fashion’ has evolved dramatically over the past few decades.  Up until the turn of the millennium, badminton attire has always been known as usually very short shorts along with unisex ‘polo’ shirts decorated, in the 1990’s, by colourful splashes (1996 example here).  It was not until the earlier part of the last decade that the sport started to experiment more with its attire.  The ladies started wearing more body fitting outfits with variations in the neck cutting instead of the standard buttoned collar shape.  More recently, males and females alike have been seen donning sleeveless shirts.  Furthermore, dresses and ‘skorts’ (skirts combined with shorts) started to make more noticeable appearances in the court.


Tennis star Jelena Jankovic © Yves Lacroix

Though this progress in badminton fashion is generally seen as major improvement in the aesthetic aspect of the sport, a considerable number of female players still prefer to stage their badminton showdowns wearing polo shirts and shorts.

The passing down of this new requirement came through voting by BWF Council members.  Though the body is predominantly male, it is not entirely without representation from the women of badminton, as two former world-class women players are included among its 25 members, which also includes one representative of the Athletes’ Commission.  The ruling will definitely rock the boat for many of the women players – some harder than others.

Some may seem unaffected by the addition of section 19.2 into the regulation.

“I feel that there is no difference wearing a or shorts.  The most important thing is to play a great game,” said world #3 women’s singles shuttler Wang Xin.

While some may take an indifferent attitude towards this change of rule, others have voiced their concern as this rule strips them of their choice in attire.

Indonesia’s world #5 mixed doubles player Vita Marissa described the change in rule as ‘against human rights’.

“The point of going into competitions is for us to be champions, and we have to feel comfortable while playing.  I’m not used to wearing skirts with tight shorts inside.  It makes me feel different and I will not feel confident,” Vita commented.

“I think I will still continue playing wearing shorts.”

Across the continent, 23-year-old Imogene Bankier from Scotland is outright with her disapproval against the rule:  “I would like to have the choice whether to wear a skirt or shorts.  I think this rule is ridiculous and is so dated.”

Badzine readers have also had the opportunity to express their opinions on this topic through the latest poll on this website.

So far, 66% of readers who have responded have disagreed with the mandatory skirt rule in tournaments despite the fact that 40% of the voters agreed that female players do look more attractive in skirts compared to 4% of the readers who think that players look better in shorts than skirts. 28% of the voters believe that players look equally attractive in both shorts and skirts while the rest of the pie belongs to those who think this issue is irrelevant as badminton is not a fashion show.

Even though it is clear that the underlying purpose of this rule is to boost popularity of badminton through ‘attractive presentation’ of the sport, this may dangerously be a double-edged sword due to the negative reactions that this rule seems to have generated. Readers are somewhat equally divided in thinking that ‘attractive presentation’ of badminton players will have a positive effect on badminton’s popularity (58% for yes and 42% for no) but almost half of poll participants (49%) are also concerned that negative publicity may have some effect on badminton’s popularity.

Attempts to solicit the views of BWF Council members on the feasibility of implementation of this rule were unsuccessful as of press time.

Perhaps at the moment, the questions we are left to ponder are as such: is it necessary for such rules to be implemented?  Will having all female players wearing skirts or dresses deem the sports more aesthetically appealing?  Is ‘ensuring attractive presentation of Badminton’ a step forward to promoting the sports or merely going back in time where everyone looked the same?

To read our guest editorial piece on this issue, CLICK HERE

To cast your vote on the rule itself, you may do so by visiting our Badzine Mandatory Skirt Poll page

For the official BWF statement on the new regulation, CLICK HERE

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About Serla Rusli