MIA HAMM: KICKING BACK
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — For a woman whose career wardrobe consists of nylon shorts and T-shirts, Mia Hamm still sports a lot of style.
Unlike some of last summer’s Olympians, who hit the talk-show circuit decked out in their sponsors’ warmups and gold medals, the soccer champion turned out for “Late Night With David Letterman” wearing Calvin Klein — a white silk blouse and chocolate wool crepe hip-hugger pants — which she bought the day before at Klein’s flagship here. And her wedding band was the only trace of gold.
Even though many sports writers and sponsors are taking a more serious look at Hamm and her female counterparts for the first time, she remains unfazed by the fanfare.
For Hamm, being stylish doesn’t always mean being brand-conscious. Not unlike many commanders in the fashion patrol, she spent most of this winter wearing a wool peacoat. But hers was a genuine relic from the U.S. Navy, found in one of her frequent shopping haunts — a vintage store.
As an award presenter at the ESPY awards held at Radio City Music Hall, Hamm opted for a black sleeveless silk dress by another of her favorite designers — her mother, Stephanie.
Despite the big bucks rolling in from endorsements, there have been only a few minor wardrobe changes for Hamm — among her favorite wardrobe possessions is a pair of faded Calvin Klein jeans. Hamm’s husband, Christian Corey, has had to invest in diamond earrings and simple gold jewelry since Hamm is attending more black-tie occasions.
“As the functions Mia attends have become more dressy, she’s had to expand her jewelry repertoire,” Corey laughed.
On the playing fields, Hamm endorses Nike, which sponsors the U.S. women’s national soccer team. Another Nike athlete, soccer star Jorge Campos, gave Hamm her prized practice shorts made of black and red nylon.
Hamm’s soccer looks should be getting some more air time. She will compete in Nike’s Victory Tour, a six-city international competition that will be held in the U.S. beginning April 18. The event is the first of its kind.
Another first for women’s soccer is scheduled for 1999, when the Women’s World Cup Soccer Tournament will be held throughout the U.S. Hamm is negotiating with Nike to extend her endorsement contract, which expires at the end of next year, through 2000, when she hopes to compete in her second consecutive Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Given the current focus on women’s soccer and the expected growth in the sport among girls, soccer apparel is expected to become more of an everyday look.
Named “Female Athlete of the Year” last year by the U.S. Soccer Federation, Hamm is in a position to have an impact on fashion trends. She wears Nike for special appearances, including soccer camps and clinics for girls. Of the 8 million women playing soccer in the U.S., 80 percent are under the age of 18, said Roger Wyett, director of team sports for Nike.
“The fact that Mia is a pioneer in women’s soccer is indicative of her style. Without a doubt, she is a step ahead,” he said. “She is a very good barometer of what works and what doesn’t in terms of what is relevant to the athlete.”
Hamm participates in design meetings at the company’s corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., about four times a year. She also appears on Nike’s behalf.
“Mia is a low-key person who has nice, classic taste in clothes. She hasn’t been sensationalized, and her wardrobe reflects that,” said David Bober, her agent, who is a partner at Shade Global, here. “Her look is not boring, but she’s not showing a lot of cleavage either.”
Off the field, Gap, DKNY and Nine West are among her favored brands, according to her husband. Jeans, T-shirts and cotton sweaters make up her everyday attire.
Earth tones are her favorite shades. “We both wear a lot of earth tones,” quipped Corey, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps who is enrolled in flight school at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.
Last month, Hamm joined forces with Sportmart, a 59-unit sporting goods chain headquartered in Wheeling, Ill. She is serving in the retailer’s SWAT program — an acronym for Sportmart’s Women’s Advisory Team. Former Olympians — swimmer Janet Evans, softball player Dot Richardson, basketball player Katrina McClain and track star Willye White, who is the only female American to compete in five consecutive Olympics — round out the team.
In her newest role, Hamm will appear in advertising for Sportmart as well as in-store displays. Videotapes designed to promote women’s sports will play in the company’s stores. The videos feature Hamm and other SWAT members discussing challenges they have overcome during their athletic careers.
The Sportmart athletes helped devise a consumer survey to determine how the retailer can improve its service for women. It will be mailed to 300,000 of Sportmart’s female customers next month.
The retailer does not mandate any dress codes for Hamm and her counterparts.
“Soccer is certainly an up-and-coming sport, and Mia is a great role model,” said Vicki James, vice president of marketing for Sportmart. “We don’t want her to promote a product or brand.”
When selecting its SWAT members, Sportmart executives reviewed potential candidates’ athletic credentials — not photographs, James added.
Her growing list of endorsements is not solely related to sports. In addition to Nike — for which she was on location shooting a TV campaign and could not be reached for comment — and Sportmart, Hamm appears in Pert Plus shampoo ads, and has a multiyear endorsement deal with Power Bar.
Hamm will also share the spotlight with such professional athletes as Shaquille O’Neal and basketball standout Lisa Leslie in the Pepsi Stuff ad campaign — a four-month program that breaks May 19.
Hamm’s dearest endorsement, however, is not worn on her sweats. Two weeks ago, she joined the board of The Marrow Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based group that sponsors research and raises money for its partner, the National Marrow Donor Program, a Minneapolis agency. Her 28-year-old brother Garrett, whose athletic ability she idolized as a child, recently had a bone marrow transplant.
“When she was a kid, Mia used to follow Garrett around. He showed a lot of athletic ability. She wanted to play sports too, and Garrett thought that was OK,” Corey said. “He was old enough to put up with it. When Garrett was in high school, he was the athlete Mia wanted to be.”