FRANKFURT – The US women's soccer team, which plays Japan in Sunday's World Cup final in Frankfurt, Germany, has riveted fans of both sexes this year with nail-biting wins over Brazil and France, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
But the excitement has some men particularly worked up as they fret over one of the finer points of fandom: What in the world is a beer-drinking, chest-hair-sporting Abby Wambach fan supposed to wear?
Tom Bush, a 29-year-old advertising copywriter and avid soccer fan from Rochester, N.Y., framed the dilemma earlier this week on Twitter, writing, "Is it weird that a woman can buy a men's US soccer jersey, but they don't make a male version of women's jersey?"
Despite the women's team's transcendent appeal, Nike Inc., US Soccer's official jersey and apparel licensee, doesn't sell a stitch of team-specific clothing to suit the team's male fans.
Until now, looking like the players was not such a problem for guys. The women's uniforms, with their formless, masculine cuts, were essentially "sized-down versions of men's jerseys," according to Nike. This year, the team's sleek cap-sleeve jerseys zip up the front, hug the bust, taper in at the waist and jut out at the hips, drawing comparisons on soccer forums to Halloween's ubiquitous "sexy nurse" costumes.
Nike spokesman Tim Yu says any such resemblance is purely coincidental. "We were just making sure they have the lightest, most comfortable [jersey] -- it was really just trying to provide the greatest range of motion," he says.
Brian Bober, an executive director at Morgan Stanley from Pelham, N.Y., who coaches his eight-year-old daughter's soccer team, says the situation has left him frustrated.
"I've been trying to think of a way I could buy a jersey or something without looking like Freddie Mercury," said Bober, referring to the late lead singer of British rock band Queen, who wore a lot of tight clothing. "I generally dress with complete disregard of what people will think of me, but based on what's available I would get ridiculed right out of my town."
Alexi Lalas, a former US men's player who is now a TV analyst, took the bolder approach. On Tuesday, he tweeted a photo of himself posing in sunglasses, a cowboy hat and his own US women's official white top. "It's designed specifically to show the female silhouette, though I think it works wonders for me," Lalas said. (He says he has no plans to wear the bottoms).
This soccer fashion crisis is a consequence of the US team's surging popularity among men. Nearly 2.7 million men tuned in to see the US women take on Brazil last Sunday, while only 1.2 million female viewers watched. Chris Rampone, the husband of US captain Christie Rampone, said he has been blown away by the interest from his male friends. "These are guys that don't usually watch soccer and women's soccer and I've just been bombarded with questions about the team and the players," he said.
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