As a lifelong soccer player, I have a clear memory of the panic that rippled through my soccer team of teenage girls when we had to wear white shorts as part of our uniforms. We were in various stages of puberty at that point, but we could all agree that white shorts for athletes who were either menstruating or soon-to-be menstruating was a bad idea. Alas, decisions for our team were made by a cohort of older men who ran our soccer club, and who likely had never even considered some of these pitfalls of white shorts.
For menstruating athletes, feeling comfortable while on your period can be no easy feat. Considerations of menstruation aside, the fit of most athletic uniforms is designed with an assumed cisgender male form in mind, with straight-cut tops and low-crotch shorts that don’t allocate for hips or curves. While many athletic clothing brands have been offering “women’s” cuts at increasing rates, it hasn’t been until recently that menstruation is being directly considered within activewear.
At the end of last month, Nike announced their innovative new shorts design that features an ultra-thin, absorbent liner to prevent period leaks. Nike Leak Protection: Period is a proprietary material technology that went through significant validation and wear testing to ensure top performance. Nike Leak Protection: Period will be available to the 13 national teams wearing the company’s uniforms in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup this July in Australia and New Zealand.
“Fear of bleed-through is real— and not just through the teen years, but through the entire journey of menstruation,” says Lisa Gibson, Senior Project Manager, Nike Apparel Innovation, and a key player in developing this new activewear technology. “Nike Leak Protection: Period is for people with periods across all life stages, designed to give them an added layer of confidence so they can feel secure during all forms of sport and movement. It’s an innovation that we believe will change people’s lives.”
Aside from Nike tackling what has been a taboo topic for too long, other soccer teams are keeping menstruation in mind when considering the color of their uniforms. Earlier this spring, the NWSL’s Orlando Pride became the first team in the league to ditch the white shorts in their away kits in an effort to bring comfort to their players and destigmatize talking about menstruation, particularly within sports. The Manchester City women’s team of the Women’s Super League in England had previously made a similar switch from white to burgundy shorts, and even the traditionalists over at Wimbledon now let women wear undershorts in colors other than white. Most recently, the England Women’s National Team and reigning champions of Europe have swapped their white shorts for blue substitutes.
This English side is one in the handful of squads who will don the Nike Leak Protection: Period shorts in the upcoming World Cup, keeping their players confident, comfortable, and able to focus their attention on what really matters: the sport itself.