For the first time, New Zealand’s women’s soccer team will not have a uniform that includes white shorts, the country’s soccer association announced on Monday, acknowledging concerns that some players have expressed about periods.
White shorts have been a persistent concern for athletes who are anxious about period leaks, prompting teams and competitions to review their uniform policies in recent years. The change by New Zealand was made as women’s national soccer teams were preparing for the World Cup, which New Zealand is hosting with Australia this summer.
Nike unveiled new team uniforms on Monday for the 13 women’s national teams it partners with, including New Zealand, the United States and England, whose players had asked Nike last year to swap the white shorts from their uniform. The new uniforms for England and most of the other countries Nike partners with do not have white shorts.
New Zealand’s women’s national team, known as the Football Ferns, will instead wear a white shirt with teal shorts as its main uniform and an all-black kit with a silver fern pattern as its secondary uniform, New Zealand Football said on Monday.
The new uniforms will first be used in competition for the team’s exhibition matches against Iceland and Nigeria this month.
Hannah Wilkinson, a striker, said in a statement included with the federation’s announcement that the change from white shorts was “fantastic for women with any kind of period anxiety.”
“In the end it just helps us focus more on performance and shows a recognition and appreciation of women’s health,” she said.
Teams and competitions, responding to a push by athletes, have increasingly recognized that players want more practical uniforms. White shorts can show period leaks and also are frequently see-through when wet.
The All England Club, which hosts the Wimbledon tennis tournament, said in November that it would allow women to wear dark undershorts, a departure from its traditional all-white dress code.
In March, Ireland’s women’s rugby team said that its players would wear navy shorts instead of white shorts at the Six Nations Championship, a major international competition.
In February, the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League said that it was switching from white shorts to black ones for its secondary uniforms so players would be “more comfortable and confident” when playing. The team’s main uniform is purple.
“We must remove the stigma involved in discussing the health issues impacting women and menstruating nonbinary and trans athletes if we want to maximize performance and increase accessibility to sport,” the team’s general manager, Haley Carter, said in a statement at the time.
Ahead of the World Cup, which runs from July 20 to Aug. 20, this push for change seemed to be reflected in the uniforms Nike unveiled on Monday for its partnering national teams: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, South Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal and the United States.
With the exception of Brazil, which retains white shorts for its secondary uniforms, the teams will play in colored shorts. Players on each team also have the option to play in shorts that include a liner designed by Nike to protect against period leaks.
The United States women’s team played in all-white uniforms when it won the 2019 World Cup in France. The team has used both dark and white shorts for its home and away uniforms.
The team’s two most recent uniforms have had dark shorts for both home and away games because of “Nike’s conscientious efforts,” Aaron Heifetz, a spokesman for the United States women’s national team, said in an email.
England’s Football Association did not say why it swapped out white shorts for blue ones, but its players had publicly campaigned for a change.
The association said in a statement that it wanted its players “to feel our continued support on this matter” and that their feedback would be taken into consideration.
“We have appealed to international tournament organizers to keep this subject in consideration and allow for greater flexibility on kit color combinations,” the association said.
During the women’s European Championship last July, the England forward Beth Mead said that the team had asked Nike to change the white shorts.
“It is very nice to have an all-white kit,” she said, “but sometimes it’s not practical when it’s the time of the month.”