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26 Years After Flo-Jo’s Death, Sha’Carri Richardson Is Bringing a New Wave of Fashion in Track and Field

Published 04/20/2024, 1:20 PM EDT

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Remember how Florence Griffith Joyner blazed through the track in her iconic one-legged tracksuits? Her pink costume with flowy hair and a six-inch-long manicure is in fashion even today. While she passed away on September 21, 1998, her style and fashion on the track continue to inspire many. One such person is Sha’Carri Richardson. The 24-year-old has often been compared to Flo-Jo because of her flamboyant style and achievements in the sport.

Embracing Flo-Jo’s philosophy “Dress good to look good. Look good to feel good. And feel good to run fast!” Richardson represents a fresh era of athleticism combined with style, carrying forward the torch of innovation and empowerment that Flo-Jo ignited.

Sha’Carri Richardson, much like the iconic Florence Griffith Joyner, has faced both admiration and criticism for her daring fashion statements. Despite initial disapproval, Richardson’s bold and vibrant style has now become a trendsetter among athletes, with many emulating her fashion sense. Her bright orange wig, long eyelashes, and nails have become her signature look.

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In fact, in July 2023, she tossed away her wig during the U.S. Track and Field Championships ahead of her 100m race. Why did she do that? Well, she wanted to make a powerful statement. “I want to show you guys that I am still that girl, but I am better. I am still that girl, but I am stronger. I am still that girl, but I am wiser. So I had to shed old and present new,” she explained. She used fashion to showcase a symbolic shift in the way she is perceived.

But what was the outcome of this? She became the national champion! Richardson finished the 100m race within 10.82 seconds and thus created a way for herself to go to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Florence Griffith Joyner set records in the 100-meter and 200-meter races that remain unmatched to this day – 10.49 in 100m seconds and 21.34 seconds in 200m, respectively. Sha’Carri Richardson, at just 24 years old, is also following suit, with track embellishments giving Flo-Jo stiff competition. With world titles in the 100 meters (10.65 seconds) and 200 meters (23.08 seconds), Richardson has emerged as a formidable challenger to Jamaican dominance and for Paris 2024.

As she continues to excel, Richardson’s zany fashion sense which includes her innumerable body ink, tattoos, and equally rambunctiously painted nails in addition to her other on-track accoutrements suggests the possibility of her stepping into the illustrious shoes of the three-time Olympic gold-winning champion. Moreover, Richardson embraces her natural self, much like Noah Lyles with his hair.

Sha’Carri Richardson is bold, beautiful, and zany in her own right

Flo Jo’s fashion was a unique fusion of regular sportswear and flashy fabrics. From funky one-legged bodysuits to her iconic 6.5-inch-long acrylic nails adorned with USA or Olympic themes, each ensemble exuded the same boldness that defined her running style. Her long, flowing hair, often enhanced with full hair weaves, further elevated her glamourous appearance. Similarly, Sha’Carri Richardson embraces this spirit of bold self-expression, albeit in her own distinctive manner. In fact, in 2021, Vogue called Richardson today’s Flo-Jo.

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Sha’Carri Richardson’s signature style is a captivating blend of dazzling acrylic nail designs, luxurious lashes, and distinctive tattoos, all of which serve as visual hallmarks for the 24-year-old athlete. Previously known for her vibrant hair wigs reminiscent of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s iconic looks, Richardson underwent a transformation in 2023, embracing her natural hair, a move that accentuated her innate beauty. Interestingly, even Noah Lyles, another prominent athlete, has foregone wigs.

In an article by ‘The Guardian’ (2021), Eric Darnell Pritchard, a professor at the University of Arkansas’s English department stated, “We see it in Richardson’s statement ‘I am that girl’ but we also see it in her aesthetics. It is imperative for black women to do and be supported in doing it because it is not space that is freely given to them in the world.”

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However, could Richardson’s style also be influenced by her birthplace of Dallas, Texas? “I think there is some southern sensibilities and pride within her style aesthetics… From her hair, nails, outfit and attitude, the desire to visually elicit vibrancy through personal style is southern to the bone,” shared fashion historian Darnell-Jamal Lisby.

Regardless, Sha’Carri Richardson is seen as the new torchbearer of Jlo-Jo’s spirit. Hence, NBC once took to Twitter to celebrate Richardson’s style, commending her for the perfect blend of “The Nails. The hair. The attitude. The speed.” Richardson herself holds Flo-Jo in high regard, acknowledging her grace and style by remarking, “If the amazing Flo-Jo had long nails, there was no excuse why I couldn’t have long nails.” Indeed, Flo Jo’s influence continues to reverberate through Richardson, serving as an enduring source of inspiration for generations to come.

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Written by:

Maleehah Shakeel

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Maleehah Shakeel is an Olympic Sports writer at EssentiallySports who covers equestrian sports, rodeo, bull riding, and Gymnastics. Maleehah’s stories revolve around various brand endorsement deals of athletes like Jessica Springsteen, Jennifer Gates, and Olivia Dunne. She has written in depth about the brand collaboration between Jessica Springsteen and Tommy Hilfiger.
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Edited by:

Himanshu Sridhar