What in the world should I wear?


There seems to be some controversy about whether or not Roller Derby skaters should take on a different persona for the games.  Should they wear face paint, have numbers on their arms, excessive tattoos,  torn nets, etc?

It never bothered me because as long as the competition is real (and my over 25 years in the world of rock and roll where bizarre dress has always been part of the genre), it kind of added fun to the event.

However, it seems as though a number of leagues feel that if they are to be taken seriously as a sport, not only do they have to “professionalize” operations, but also use real  names on the backs of tops and cut down on the other aspects.

I hope you are all familiar with Patch.  Go to patch.com, sign up, and when you log in you will get local information daily.  It is like a home town newspaper on line.  And it is a great place, since they are looking for local stories, to get word out on your league.  If you go to Patch in Petaluma California you will  find a nice feature that is on some local women who compete on the team at Cal Skate in Rohnert Park.  It is a good piece, but I don’t think the writer has seen Roller Derby in over 30 years and talks about how these local women become the wild and crazy girls of Roller Derby.

Now I am writing this from the perspective of someone who didn’t skate, doesn’t skate now, but has been around Roller Derby for a significant part of my life.  I enjoy the fact that the fans who watch the games aren’t looking for crazed, wrestling type behavior from the skaters, but are there to enjoy themselves and the game.  And since the B.A.D. Girls have been around for a while they have definitely built a fan base.  When I was at Craneway several weeks back I couldn’t tell who had on face paint or other garb, but I was fascinated by the skill of the players that night and watched a wonderful, strategically played game that wasn’t decided until the last play of the night.

Can our game be accepted as a real sport by the “establishment” as it is presently portrayed?  I am torn with my own answer.  Many of the players, men and women, are sacrificing their time and money and bodies to really enjoy themselves.  Should we even wonder what others think?

As the game grows and progresses, and it becomes even more widespread and is in more commercials, features, major arenas you will all have to make your own decisions.  Some leagues (TXRD) have made it clear that girls (and boys) just want to have fun.  Others like OSDA and OSDAPRO are skating the original rules on flat and banked track; the WFTDA had pretty much established the flat track game and there are the Renegades and others out there.  So every one will have different opinions on the subject.  What is yours?

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14 comments on “What in the world should I wear?

  1. I hold no opinion on how skaters should present themselves, that is entirely their choice.

    However, I do believe that Referees should ALWAYS present themselves as professionals and not have any of the “decorations” visible to the crowd.

    How is a crowd going to perceive the officiating of the game if a referee is skating in costume, stage make-up or has a name on their back like “Womb Raider”.

  2. Take us as we are or leave us the hell alone. I don’t care to be embraced by the establishment any other way. If I wanted to be straight laced and “normal” then I’d play basketball or soccer or something else within the norm. I was attracted to derby in the first place because finally I had a sport that attracted the weirdos and non-athletic athletes of the world. I like us the way we are and do NOT want to look like everyone else on my team.

  3. Thanks for the post Jerry.

    I agree that there are different “agenda’s in the sport which is exactly why I’m starting the rec leagues in Seattle and Bellevue.

    I hope that we can help train some skaters who can find like minded folks, whatever that looks like to them. Groups should be able to either be athletic, be badass,scrimmage just for fun, put on events for a show or any combination of the above. If there are more venues for people to learn the sport, skaters can figure out for themselves how they want to do it.

    The way I look at it there isn’t a right way or wrong way as you say, but within each league I’m sure there are differences of opinion on this!

  4. I love it when the ladies paint their face.
    Much like derby names, the creativity excites the fans & helps the player get into their persona as a badass derby lady. Face it, many derby ladies actually lead normal daily lives and this is a great outlet for us to ‘sock it to me baby, let it all hang out,’ and add some excitement to a sometimes otherwise mundane existence. It makes for exciting photos and can have an intimidating effect on the opponent. There is no need to not take derby as serious as any other legitimate sport with face paint, costumes and derby names. It adds to the colorful personalities that derby inevitable attracts. We are the music makers and dreamers of dreams. I say screw the establishment & let us make & keep what is ours: inventing & re-inventing as we see fit.

  5. I tend to think it’s a judgment call kind of thing. There’s a balance between being something new, different, interesting and being something the “normals” can accept.

    A lot of the “weird stuff” is what brings the fans in the door. I’ve not really been a sports fan since I kind of pretended to be one as a kid to fit in. Some of that stuff was what drew me to the sport.

    Of course, some of that stuff also hurts us a good bit. I was discussing with a friend tonight a league that SERIOUSLY needs a name and logo change, because what they’ve got now casts a bad light on themselves and the sport.

    I think down the road that derby names will become more like the nicknames of old. Except that ours won’t be chosen by the announcers. In the meanwhile, the ones that aren’t media-friendly could get left by the wayside or changed.

    Now that I think of it, there’s probably at least three or four venues around the country I couldn’t even wear my typical bout garb to. The owners kind of frown on non-members wearing fezzes there.

  6. Six years ago the average derby skater was wearing something along the lines of a tutu and a merch shirt with her name and number ironed on the back. What we’d now call a “scrimmage shirt.”

    Nowadays the typical derby uniform is a college/HS volleyball uniform top, and a skirt or shorts. Tights are tending to replace fishnets, or at the very least go under them.

    Would that I could change anything with my league’s uniforms, I’d make the font of the numbers less stylized/easier to read and require matching helmets with the name on the back and number on the sides. Texas Rollergirls, Denver Roller Dolls and Rose City Rollers have uniform helmets for their travel teams, it looks really sharp. My former league was one of the ones that pioneered uniforming the helmets, I was sorry to see them let it go when they changed theme and uniform.

    A bunch of skaters in randomly colored helmets with worn/torn/faded stickers all over them just doesn’t cut it for me. Save that mess for practices or for home teams.

    • While I tend to agree that doing away with boutfits is not entirely necessary, I have been seeing a lot more of what you mention, Poobah. The league I am affiliated with bought new uniforms this year, the very same volleyball style tops you speak of, in home and away colors, to add to the uniform helmets each skater wears, with their number on the back, and the sponsor on the sides (which is how they were paid for). Most girls now wear plain black tights with black shorts over them, or yoga pants, while a couple have held out for the fishnets, but still wear tights underneath.

      Like you said, this is a far stretch from the days when tutus were the norm. In fact, I even saw one skater wearing the team uniform (a short skirted dress) with only a thong underneath. Sure, anyone attracted to that sort of thing would love it, but it was wholly inappropriate as a bout uniform (not to mention highly impractical for falling).

      As for derby names, personally I’d just like to see them become a little more family friendly on the whole, but the derby name debate also clashes with the derby name registration issue, and multiple people coming up with the same name, etc. So in all honesty, the more people start using real names by choice the less registering names and being super unique becomes an issue.

  7. I grew up watching Roller Derby Saturday mornings after cartoons. Yeah, I’m a little older;) Watching a chick getting thrown to the rail as I’m skating around in my K mart skates was pretty damn exciting when I was 7. I love roller derby! I’m 100% pro the sports side of it but can’t we still have fun? Don’t get me wrong skating is always fun! Everyones concept of uniforms, persona’s are all different. Why not embrace that? I think a team can still be a team without looking identical. As for using real names, I already do. I have a derby last name:)

    • OK, so “we” don’t have to conform to what everybody else is doing……a new sport, a new attitude.

      Gerald E. Seltzer

  8. Regarding your quote: “However, it seems as though a number of leagues feel that if they are to be taken seriously as a sport, not only do they have to “professionalize” operations, but also use real names on the backs of tops and cut down on the other aspects.”

    Obviously the Denver Roller Dolls come to mind. However, I don’t think they felt like they HAD to use their real names or standardize their uniforms to be taken seriously. Anyone that knows anything about derby I think would look at them and recognize them as top-level, strategically-minded athletes because of their skill on the track and knowledge of the game, not because they chose to use their real names or all wear the same silver shorts and helmets.

    I personally have nothing against the face painting, although of course the one incident of what was perceived as blackface by Amanda Jamitinya of Rocky Mtn. at last year’s West Regionals did cause a stir.

    More and more top-level travel (all-star) teams seem to be gravitating toward standardized uniforms, and I think that is just fine, as well as a natural progression. But there is certainly no lack of “personality” in derby, and I suspect it will always be that way.

  9. I am relatively new to roller derby and at 32 this is the first sport I have ever participated since trying to skip P.E lessons at school. I think over here in the U.K roller derby isn’t as well known as it is in the USA and over here it’s appealing to a huge spectrum of people many from the alternative scene and many who the image of roller derby appeals to in a way that no other sport ever has. As someone who likes to colour my hair and pierce my body there is no other sport out there that would accept people like me and the hundreds of other UK skaters that have tattoos, piercings or less than “normal” hair. There’s also the fact in roller derby size and shape don’t matter which also appeals to a larger spectrum of people. If you start pushing “athletic” and “professional” down people’s throat at this stage I think you will loose the appeal to a huge majority of people who at the moment it appeals to, not only potential skaters but audience.. When people start to think all the skaters have to be in tip top condition “normal looking” no tattoos or piercings on show etc your going to loose a huge majority and appeal to your current audience and future participants.. Roller Derby has got this far on its own and it’s fab at what it does why commercialise it and risk ruining its individuality?? I know myself and the majority of my league would not have looked twice at roller derby had it been a sport full of young skinny athletic average looking people all wearing normal boring sport uniforms skating around in silence… <Just saying and no offence meant but your not going to see a tattoo clad roller girl with bright colours in her hair and facial piercings skating round at the Olympics (only "NORMAL" people may apply)

    • it will evolve for some, for others they love the way it is now and there is certainly no way that every league will only skate and behave in one way…..don’t worry, what you love is not going away.

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