Am I good enough to wear a bandana? Answering the accessory question f | Athletes Collective

Am I good enough to wear a bandana? Answering the accessory question for rec league athletes.

We recently read an interesting post on a tennis enthusiast message board that asked the question “how good do you have to be to wear a bandana when you’re playing a match?” Essentially the discussion centered around a club players’ self consciousness over whether their skill level allowed them to wear a bandana while playing tennis.  We here at Athletes Collective can attest to this internal struggle and are proud to admit that our level of self consciousness has dissipated over the years with the justification that the accessories we wear when we play sports are in fact practical. We are club level players and we wear bandanas, wristbands and elbow sleeves.  Yet we believe the question posted on the message board is more than valid, as adult athletes at the club level constantly struggle with the “am I good enough to try to wear what the pros wear” question. This in essence is what this internal struggle is all about.

In the early to mid 90s the extent to which you could wear or even purchase accessories was limited to a headband, and even that wasn’t prevalent on the court or in the field. Michael Jordan was the most highly accessorized pro athlete, sporting a calf sleeve and wristband on his upper right arm.  Andre Agassi sported fluorescent headbands below his now infamous weave.  Copying the pros as a kid meant you wore Air Jordans or if you were a tennis player, wearing acid wash jean shorts over fluorescent compression shorts. 

 Jordan in his signature calf compression sleeve and Andre Agassi in his early 90's Challenge Court Nike gear.  Nike had yet to figure out how to put the swoosh on his bandana.


Fast forward to the early 2000’s with Allen Iverson pioneering compression accessories. Around 2005-2006 every NBA player was sporting a headband, and a guy named Rafael Nadal hit the tennis scene sporting a bandana and two wristbands at every match. As the years went by the accessorization of pro sports became more and more prevalent due in large part to sportswear companies realizing there was money to be made by putting their logo on every wrist, head, leg and arm of pro athletes around the world. Now at the high school and pre-high school level, there’s hardly an arm without a sleeve, a head without a band and a leg without ¾ length compression pant. To kids and their friends there’s nothing wrong with that, you look like the pros and you look cool (or at least they think they do).


Allen Iverson brings compression accessories to the NBA, Carmelo Anthony and countless others continue the trend with no less than 4 accessories while Nadal continues to sport matching wristbands and bandanas.

As adults at the club or rec league level however, some of us feel it’s not so cool, and we not only ridicule our friends, teammates and the opposing teams players for sporting said accessories, we internally ridicule ourselves. So how do we rectify this internal struggle? We believe this can be done by assessing the type of accessory you’re sporting, the activity in which your partaking and the amount of accessories you’re choosing to wear at one time.

If you’re going to accessorize at the club/rec league level, here are a few guidelines to alleviate some of that internal conflict.  

  1. If you’re going to dress like the pros, own it: If you’re playing a sport like tennis and choose to use the same brand/colours as a particular tennis star, Nadal for instance, and your friends poke fun and say "hey I didn’t know I was playing with Rafa," the appropriate response is not to get mad, it is to calmly state “Rafa wishes he looked as good as I do.”  You gotta be able to joke about your fashion sense on the court if you’re purposefully trying to look like a specific pro.  Also, colour matching your accessories is awesome, don’t let anyone tell you any different. If you’re really worried about seeming like you’re trying to copy a pro, stick with basic colours like black, white or grey.
  2. Accessory specifics #1 - Bandanas and headbands: Wearing a bandana or headband doesn’t mean you’re trying to look like a pro, it’s actually a useful accessory that keeps sweat out of your eyes better than hats do.
  3. Accessory specifics #2 – Wristbands: Useful for any sport where you’re going to sweat a lot.  It’s quite simply an easy way to wipe the sweat from your brow and keeps your hands from getting slippery from sweat.  
  4. Accessory specifics #4 – Arm sleeves: Studies have indeed proven that compression sleeves do have useful medical benefits like increasing blood flow and helping with recovery time. HOWEVER, if you do chose to wear them to your friendly pick-up game with your buddies, ridicule is acceptable and you’re just going to have to take it. If you're over 35, wear all the sleeves you like, joints get sore with age, it's medical at that point.  If you're under the age of 30 and find that it really helps your play and reduces soreness, be prepared with explanations that you’ve seen a noticeable difference if you get it from your friends.   
  5. Accessory scenario 1 – rec league softball: If you step to the plate with two extra long wristbands on each wrist, an arm sleeve, eye black, sunglasses, baseball socks and tight baseball pants, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best player out there, it can be seen as a bit excessive, your name is not Bryce Harper. If you feel it makes you a better player then by all means go for it. The placebo effect is a real thing and we fully endorse the look better play better philosophy, just know that you may get it from your teammates and that’s OK. Embrace your accessories. 
  6. Accessory scenario 2 – basketball: Lots of sweating going on here, wristband and headband are completely acceptable, arm sleeve optional as stated above. 
  7. Accessory scenario 3 – the gym: You have access to a towel the entire time, no need to go overboard here, one wristband one headband MAX.
  8. Matching outfit to accessories: There aren’t any real rules here this is a comfort level situation. **Warning, shameless product plug ahead…. If you’re looking to go head to toe matching, a good way not to overdo it is by choosing not to go head to toe with one brand.  If you’re a Nike or Under Armor fanatic, wear the branded shoes, socks, shorts, wrist and headband and break it up with an unbranded basic performance Tee-shirt (we have a great suggestions on where you can find one). To be honest, one of our motivations for making an unbranded tee-shirt was this exact scenario.  

For some reason we believe that as a kid it’s acceptable to want to dress like the pros (it’s actually considered cute, see photo below for proof), but after a certain age we’re not supposed to want to dress like them anymore. 


    We must however let go of our insecurities; go out and buy your accessories because for the most part they have a functional purpose. As we age we sweat to a greater degree and are more easily susceptible to injury, so why not do something about it? Forget what your teammates or opponents might think, it's not about being good enough to dress a certain way, it's about being smart enough to wear what helps you when you're playing.  


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