Commentary

Someone's out of sequins

What if skaters wore a Team USA uniform? Reactions run hot and cold

Updated: January 30, 2014, 2:57 PM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

Jeremy Abbott, Zach Parise, and Ashley WagnerGetty Images, AP Photo, Getty ImagesSome figure skaters feel a red, white and blue uniform would take away from the story of the performance.

The proudest moments for Olympic athletes are when they pull on their team uniform and take the track, ice, field, snow, platform to represent their countries in their nation's colors.

Olympic figure skaters, however, take the ice wearing often flamboyant costumes with sequins, corsets, stones, tassles, feathers, boas and studded tiaras. And I'm not just talking about what Johnny Weir wore.

But instead of these elaborate designer costumes, how would figure skaters feel about representing their country at the Olympics by wearing a Team USA uniform like their fellow athletes?

"That's a very interesting question because costuming really is a big part of our sport," Olympic skater Jeremy Abbott said. "It has to be theatrical as well as athletic. So we costume ourselves to the story we're telling or the art we're performing. But honestly, it would be awesome to wear a team uniform to compete. If Nike wanted to outfit us with U.S. gear to go out and skate in, I would be more than happy with that. I think that would be awesome.

"And if Nike is listening, black is the most flattering color."

[+] EnlargeMeryl Davis, Charlie White
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesSome like the idea of wearing a Team USA uniform, not ice dancing pair Charlie White and Meryl Davis.

Or, if not black, then at least vertical red and white stripes, ala Captain America's costume/uniform. Because, you know, horizontal stripes might cause skaters to stress even more over their figures.

"I like my costumes but I wouldn't mind wearing something that represented my team better and Team USA," Olympic pairs skater Marissa Castelli said. "I think that definitely would be a great thing but the costumes are what make our sport unique. We bring an artistry to the sport by wearing costumes and, with the music, that makes it more exciting to watch.

"If we all wore the same thing and we're skating to the James Bond theme and someone else skates to 'The Nutcracker,' it's not going to look as good in Team USA unitards."

"It's all about the whole package -- from the hair and the makeup to the outfits and the music to the personality and the emotion you bring," said Castelli's partner, Simon Shnapir. "That's what makes our sport unique."

OK. The costume expresses individual artistry and personality more than a spit tobacco stain on a baseball jersey. But how about uniforms for the new team competition? Jason Brown thought that might work, but not Ashley Wagner, who skates to "Romeo and Juliet" in her long program. She said she doesn't think wearing a U.S. team uniform on the ice would make sense "unless I was skating to the national anthem."

"I don't think it would go very well with 'Romeo and Juliet' because I don't think Juliet was American," she said. "The unique thing about skating is we can represent a county but at the same time we can show people who we really are and show a sense of our own style."

Still, there would definitely be a financial benefit to team uniforms. Shnapir said while a man's costume can easily be less than a $1,000, he's heard of women's costumes going for several thousand dollars. And more, if they are designed by Vera Wang or Ralph Lauren as those of Michelle Kwan and Eva Lysaek were.

"Skating costumes are ridiculously expensive," Abbott said. "And I don't even stone my costumes. Girls get thousands and thousands of dollars [for making a costume]. Essentially, they're making one-of-a-kind couture. They've got crystals and feathers and it's crazy. It gets really expensive."

True, but that doesn't matter to ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who are solidly against team uniforms under any circumstance.

"I personally think it would be a huge drawback from the performance," Davis said. "There's no denying that figure skating as a whole and ice dance in particular are very much based on performance as on athletics. I don't think figure skating sport [would be the same] without the performance, without the glitz and the glamour."

"And without being able to tell a story," White quickly added, "I think in theater it is very much the same thing. In theater, a lot of times you use your outfit to get the story across. And that's certainly what I feel like we're doing. We're not just trying to look nice, we're really trying to be the characters we're trying to embody."

Besides, Davis said, skaters may compete in costumes but they gain pride wearing official U.S. warmup clothing and colors off the ice.

"Even though we wear our costumes on the ice, we very much feel our team uniform is part of the competition," Davis said. "It's hard to feel more pride than when you're wearing you Team USA uniform warming up or walking around the Olympic village."

Oh, and by the way, White did look quite dapper at U.S. nationals in a Victorian tuxedo for the pair's long program set to music from "My Fair Lady." Although I'm not sure how many fans could afford the replica costume.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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