I just finished my evening run yesterday and was charging up my front steps, my mind firmly set on making and consuming a cherry and protein powder smoothie. Then I saw it- a brown package on the front steps. Smoothie thoughts evaporated. Could it be? A package? For me? I picked it up, flipped it around, read the label and... it was addressed to Mary Whipple. Not a total surprise, she's my roommate. Anyway, a little bummed, I left it on the counter and made my smoothie.
Later I heard the door open and instead of the struggling-to-get-the-bike-through-the-door noises I usually hear after Mary opens the door I heard her shout, "shoes!" The happy sounds of ripping tape and rustling tissue paper followed. I rushed in to find that indeed Mary had just received some rather awesome heels with subtle snake-skin patterning. In Mary's words, "from far away they look like nice brown shoes, but get a little closer and kapow!" (more on these at the end of the interview)
That "kapow" quality has helped Mary Whipple win multiple World and Olympic medals. I sat down with her to talk about what goes kapow and what goes kaplooey when it comes to rowing fashion.
JL: Rowing invites some pretty ridiculous looks- full body lycra, bizarre color combinations and patterns. Is there a time and place for giraffe spotted trou?
Mary Whipple: When it comes to ridiculous trou, I'm all for it. However, the rower must not take themselves too seriously in their ridiculous trou. They also either need to be rowing really fast or have a great attitude for competition to make up for it. They have to be enjoying their time on the course. When I see someone with crazy hair that matches their crazy print trou walking around with a serious look acting tough- that's too much, they need to relax. I personally leave the lycra for race-day.
JL: Any rowing fashion pet peeves? White trou? Backwards hats? Fashion glasses?
MW: Well, you better be in really good shape to pull of white trou. Backwards hats are a little frat boyish for the boat, but at a baseball game- game on! As for rowing in fashion glasses, I guess it just depends on whether you're wearing the glasses or if they're wearing you. If they fit your personality and you pull your butt off while looking good, then go for it!
JL: Each sport has its own particular styles- which other sports' styles do you admire?
MW: I really like yoga pants. For cross training, running clothes are comfy and cool. I've lately become addicted to cycling and some of their leg and arm warmers are interesting. I like cool looking bike shorts except the whole diaper feeling on your butt, but they do make long rides more doable. For winter sports I really like snowboarding gear. I tend to wear a lot of snowboarding clothes in the launch when the girls are rowing small boats.
JL: What gets you excited in terms of off-water fashion?
MW: Since I hang out with a lot of tall girls heels get me excited. I just got some really cute heels from Nine West. They are brown with a hint of snakeskin print. You'd have to look close to see the detail so I wear them to work. I just got a new hoodie that's awesome because it has a Washington logo silkscreened on the back. It is going to be perfect for watching my Dawgs race down the cut this spring!
I get all my style advice from my teammate Ali Cox. She is a fast rower and a fashionista. I think something a lot of people don't know about training on the national team is that retail therapy does wonders when things get tough.