Just Because You’re an Athlete Doesn’t Mean Your Personality Style Is Sporty

Tennis star Maria Sharapova is not only a powerhouse on the court, she is also, as the April 2010 issue of Glamour magazine notes, “a total fashionista off the court.” She’s even designed an extensive new line of handbags and shoes for the design house Cole Haan.

The Glamour magazine article entitled “4 Rules of Sporty Chic” provides a snapshot of Sharapova’s fashion preferences. Her choices include black jeans from Miss Me Jeans; a handbag of unembellished, clean design from her new line; and what is identified as her “key accessory,” a supersize watch by Tag Heuer. All of these fit the criteria for the utilitarian, unfussy preferences of the sporty personality style. However, not all her choices reflect the sporty personality style, as we’ll see in a moment. Far from it!

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Similarly, if you anticipate that the designs in her collection will be athletics-inspired in appearance, think again. Indeed, Cole Haan announces the arrival of Sharapova’s designs by proclaiming on its web site that the new line is “Sexy, sporty and inspired by her love of design and architecture.” To this description, I would add the concept “pretty.” Sexy, architectural and pretty correspond to the alluring, dramatic and feminine personality styles.

What is the sporty personality style? If you’ve been following my blog the last couple of years (or if you read the book I co-authored, Jewelry Savvy), you’ll know that the sporty personality style is one of seven categories of style identified in the Universal Style® System. These categorizations and the rationale behind the choices are useful tools in helping an individual identify and understand what designs (including jewelry designs) she is likely to gravitate toward, and why. These principles assist retailers in understanding their customers’ style preferences in the same manner.

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Illustration: Unquestionably sporty personality style in a look from Alexander Wang inspired by football, as seen in the May 2010 issue of Marie Claire.

The April 2010 issue of More magazine does an excellent job of illustrating a range of looks appropriate for a sporty style personality in the article “Get Sporty.” Athletics-inspired clothing has come a long way from velour tracksuits. (If you still own one of those, urges More, burn it now; even better, recycle it.)

There’s not much doubt that the following look is sporty in anyone’s book: a jumpsuit from OMO Norma Kamali worn with bright athletic shoes by Nike and a grouping of colorful silicon watches by Rumba.

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A great example of the sporty personality style is this sleek ribbed leather jacket from Gucci, which bears some resemblance to a wetsuit in its styling. In classic sporty personality styling, the jacket is worn with leggings and accessorized only with a set of colorful if fairly unobtrusive bracelets of gold and diamond accents on satin cords by Cartier.

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A comfy cotton-blend dress by Rebecca Taylor is accessorized simply with a nylon tote by LeSportsac and a rubber watch by Nooka. (Incidentally, the model in the photos shown here from More magazine is Paulina Porizkova).

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Notice, however, that Sharapova’s choices illustrated in the Glamour magazine article also include flower-decorated cardigan sweaters from Express, a floaty dress by Chloe, and an elaborate pair of chandelier earrings by Rimistyle. She prefers lacy underthings from La Perla to cotton classics from Jockey. These are not choices one would expect from a sporty style personality.

What is important to remember is that most individuals embrace more than one style personality. Some of this may well be situational dressing, most notably dressing for one’s profession or career. On the tennis court, you can expect that Sharapova’s last concern regarding the styling of her shoes is that they are sexy or feminine. On the court, the shoes are all about performance; anything sexy or feminine about them is strictly a bonus. Similarly, an accountant or lawyer may find it necessary to dress in the traditional personality style for work, but on her time off prefers to wear more creative, sexier, or yes, sportier selections.

Retailers, remember that you may see and think of a customer as embracing a particular personality style because of the circumstances under which she visits your store. If she uses her lunch hour from work to visit you, she will be dressing for her work environment, which may be a traditional look, perhaps much less interesting than her preferred style. If a customer dashes in on weekends when she is running chores, you are likely to see the sportiest items from her wardrobe, even if she adores getting dolled up.

Some items of apparel and accessories meet the criteria for more than one style category. For instance, consider the softly shaped unstructured jacket from Guess by Marciano, shown as one of Sharapova’s choices. It has the comfort element (sporty) combined with a figure-conforming shape that emphasizes the curves (alluring).

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Similarly, the cardigan sweaters from Express go well beyond sporty. The ruffles and floral detail reflect the feminine personality style.

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In this context, let’s consider Sharapova’s four rules, stated in Glamour magazine:
1. Own a bag that’s ‘hands-free.” (Yes, this is sporty)
2. Let your jewelry be bold. (alluring or dramatic, possibly creative, but not sporty)
3. Know what works for you. (Which personality styles resonate with you?)
4. Don’t spend too much time in front of the mirror. (Add a refreshing sense of modesty!)

Glamour magazine further notes that Sharapova’s motto is “Style should be comfy.” Now that is a concept that might be expected from a sporty personality, but it’s also a concept that women of every style personality can embrace.