Team USA's Olympic speed skating uniforms have raised some eyebrows. The inner-thigh area of the uniform is a large gray circle, which is, you know, basically highlighting the athlete's crotch.
Viewers have had a little trouble understanding why the uniforms have this particular design, uh, feature. It turns out, the gray oval wasn't as much an aesthetic choice as a decision aimed at improving athlete performance. Under Armour, the company that designed the suits, outfitted that area with what it calls "ArmourGlide," reports Yahoo! Sports.
It's a slick material that reduces friction, and, in speed skating, the athletes are looking for every little advantage they can gain. The new design is in part a reaction to the 2014 Olympics when the suits were given partial blame for the US not taking home a speed skating medal for the first time in 30 years. In fact, the team ditched their suits halfway through the Games.
"The contrasting material in the inner thigh (friction guards) has been commonplace for speed skate skins for decades, to reduce friction," Under Armour told InStyle in a statement. "The 2014 UA skin had one panel instead of two, but in testing the new skin, the addition of a second panel reduced friction even more—by 60 percent."
Why the color? UA had an answer for that as well. "We tested a multitude of friction guard materials to find the material that reduces friction the most. Altering the color or using a material that comes in a different color would have rendered it considerably less effective," the company said. Though, it didn't address why that color isn't just spread across a larger area of the suit.
So, there's a good explanation for the crotch situation, but that hasn't stopped people from feeling like it looks pretty weird.