The Uniform Effect: Collegiate Student-Athletes' Experiences with Competition Athletic Apparel and Self Perception

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Competition athletic apparel plays a large role in the world of NCAA Division I college athletics. New and innovative designs, styles, and fashions are continually introduced by athletic apparel manufacturers as they attempt to find the latest and greatest uniforms, footwear and protective equipment. Still, little research exists on the impact that athletic apparel has on college athletes. What does an athlete feel as they don their competition athletic apparel to compete at this top level of collegiate sport? The purpose of this study was to examine student-athlete experiences with competition athletic apparel in relation to self-perception. Did the apparel worn in competition by student-athlete's play a role on their mental state as they entered competition?

Sixteen participants from a large NCAA Division I athletic program participated in this study during the spring semester of 2011. A stratified sample of eight female student-athletes and eight male student-athletes was used. The participants were drawn from the sports of Men's Soccer, Women's Soccer, Men's Basketball, and Women's Basketball.

Participants completed face to face interviews that employed a semi-structured approach. Interview questions addressed aspects of the Functional, Aesthetic, Expressive (FEA) consumer needs model as well as Self-Perception Theory. All interviews used a grounded theory approach to foster the emergence of data as interviews progressed. Data was analyzed using qualitative methods that stressed the importance of true lived experience.

The results of the study revealed that student-athlete self-perception was indeed impacted by various aspects of competition athletic apparel. Each participant revealed one or more concerns about their competition apparel in relation to the different categories of the FEA. Further, many of these concerns followed important aspects of Self-Perception Theory.

The results of this study further revealed that coaches, athletes, and competition apparel manufactures would benefit from understanding the impact that competition apparel has on athlete self-perception. Results showed that athletes wanted competition apparel that looked good, felt good, and fit properly.

Self-Perception, Athletic Apparel, Uniforms, Student-Athletes, Self-Esteem