Does What You Wear Affect Your Athletic Performance?

Fact Checked

iBunch of Runners on Pavement image by pamtriv from

Athletes are constantly looking for any advantage that will help increase their performance. There are several ways in which clothing can affect an athlete’s performance. A runner may reap the physical benefits of wearing the latest high-tech footwear. Or an athlete may gain a perceived psychological edge on his opponents by wearing certain color, like when Tiger Woods wears red on the final day of a golf tournament.


In some sports the difference between winning and losing can come down fractions of a second. Cyclists, skiers and other athletes that race against the clock seek clothing that will make them more aerodynamic and shave those few precious fractions off their time. Comfort also plays a key factor. Wearing clothing that fits well allows an athlete to move more naturally. Similarly, clothing designed to wick moister away from the body also benefits an athlete’s performance.


Sometimes equate a lucky color with success. The July 2010 issue of "Psychological Science" profiled a study conducted by Lysann Damisch and others in the psychology department at the University of Cologne, Germany. The study showed that a good luck charm can help a person improve her confidence in her own abilities. Experiments concluded that good luck charms and good luck-related sayings, such as "break a leg," helped performance.


What an athlete wears can affect his self-perception and the perception of others. The Oakland Raiders have used black uniforms to help build an intimidating reputation around the NFL. Tiger Woods traditionally wears red on the final day of a tournament. In October 2009, a young fan asked Woods why he wears red on his website. He answered that his mother considers red his power color.


Color may do more than affect an athlete’s performance. An article published in the August 15, 2008 issue of "U.S. News and World Report" profiled a study done by lead researcher Norbert Hagemann of the University of Muster. Tae kwondo referees were shown taped matches in with one competitor wore red. The study concluded that the officials gave those wearing red 13 percent more points than their opponents.

Compression clothing

Compression clothing is used by some athletes to stabilize muscle groups and increase performance. However some research has not supported these claims. In an article in the June 4, 2010 issue of "Science Daily," two studies at the Indiana University argue that compression clothing does little to affect an athlete’s performance. Researcher Abigail Laymon found that compression socks did not help an athlete's running performance. Doctoral student Nathan Eckert's study concluded that compression clothing did not enhance leaping ability.