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Urban Athletic Fashion Through the Decades: From Flo-Jo to Serena Williams, Simone Biles, and Sha’Carrie Richardson

Jul 15, 2021 09:00AM ● By Nana Ama Addo
Black women have been killing the game in the sports arena for decades, and as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaches, we find it worthwhile to bask in the glory of Black athletic femininity. In celebrating Black female athletes and their contributions to the world, we are exploring urban fashion styles displayed by Black female athletes through the decades, from the legendary ‘Flo-Jo’, to Serena Williams, Simone Biles, and up-and-coming game-changer Sha’Carrie Richardson. Let’s get into it.

 Florence Joyner, also known as Flo-Jo, was an African American sprinter who broke international records, and even after her passing, remains the fastest woman in the world.

The Los-Angeles born runner extraordinaire was known for her athletic abilities, hair styling, and fashion design, and brought international appreciation and respect to fashion trends such as long, curved acrylic fingernails. She was also the first American woman to be a four-time medal winner at an Olympic game. The year after Flo-Jo won four gold medals and a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, and set the world record for the 100-meter dash at 10.49 seconds, she retired from competing, pursued her fashion dreams, and coached her husband, Al Joyner.

During her career, she designed sports costumes, including her own, and donned exquisite and colorful one-legged suits, gold bangles, and other extravagant displays of awesomeness. Some of her clients included the Indiana Pacers uniforms of 1990. She also opened her own boutique in Japan.

 Serena Williams, the embodiment of strength, resilience, talent, and persistence, has been in the public eye since she was a youth. Throughout her tennis career so far, Williams has won 30 Grand Slam titles and countless other accolades. She and her sister, Venus Williams, served looks on and off the runway, mixing preppy tennis styles with hair beads, curve-appreciating aesthetics, braids, weaves, and kinky realness.

In the picture above, the 39-year-old Saginaw, Michigan native pays homage to Flo-Jo’s iconic one-legged suit.

 Simone Biles, the world’s most decorated gymnast, has won 19 world titles, 5 gold medals, 25 World Gold awards, and 7 national championships. The 24-year-old Columbus, Ohio native adorns her competition outfits with outlined images of goats, just in case anyone forgets that she is the G.O.A.T, or greatest of all time, of gymnastics. She is also the first American gymnast to win an award at every gymnastics competition. Watch out for her in the Tokyo Olympics! We are sure she won’t disappoint.

 Sha’Carrie Richardson is the 21-year-old breakout track and field athlete who won the 100m race at the US Olympic Track & Field Trials on June 18th, 2020.

After winning the 1st round of her division’s 100m race at the US Track & Field Olympic Team Trials, Richardson waved her long fingernails in true urban girl fashion and flicked the ends of her glorious orange lace front wig like no other could.

The Dallas, Texas native, now recognized as the fastest woman in America, is unable to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after HTC was found in her system. However, her imprint has already been made on the world, as she has been named the ‘Flo-Jo of our time’, and she is only getting started.

 (Flo-Jo Monument at Mission Viejo, California. Image by Pete Morris via Flickr)

Learn more about Flo-Jo’s fashion and athletic contributions here.

Watch content creator Femi Beauty recreate Flo-Jo’s iconic curve acrylic nails here.

Watch Serena Williams’ highlights here.

Watch Simone Biles break records here.

Watch Sha’Carrie Richardson win here.

Works Cited

 Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Nana Ama tells stories of entrepreneurship and Ghana repatriation at her brand, Asiedua’s Imprint ( ).

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