6 Iconic Beauty Looks From Unforgettable Female Athletes

From heavily beaded braids to wild manicures on super-long nails, these women's signature looks are almost as famous as their athletic accomplishments.

Serena Williams’s triumph in New York on Sunday marked a few notable milestones: This was her fifth US Open victory, she is now tied with Roger Federer for 17 Grand Slam titles, and she is officially the oldest Open champion at the absolutely geriatric age of almost-32.

I chuckled at the age thing for a millisecond before I remembered that she won her first Open 14 years ago. Fourteen years of being a super-badass is a major, big-time thing in the world of professional sports; not to mention she has launched her own line of performance wear called Aneres, hawks her own brand of handbags and accessories on HSN, and became a certified nail tech in 2010. I’m going to maintain my stance that 32 is young, but I will concede that this lady has had quite the sizable career.

In honor of Our First Lady of Rock Hard Tennis Legs and Shocking Black Bodysuits, I’ve compiled a list of other stylish women whose looks have solidified into beauty-icon status.


I might as well pay tribute right off the bat. The Williams women have grown into take-no-prisoners fashion moguls, but there was a time, long, long ago, when they rocked the beads.

This is how I like to remember them. You mention beads and tennis in same breath, and this is who you think of.


Before the Rachel shag and the Kate Gosselin upside-down hedgehog, there was the Hamil wedge. Every girl from age two to 16 during the years of 1976 to 1984 had this haircut. It’s a fact.

This haircut is so dated that it could be cool again. When your local fashionista shows up with a Hamil, remember you heard it here first.


Gymnast hair has become such a thing that I could probably do a list of the top 10 gymnastics hairstyles ever and be done with it. I thought, instead, that I would highlight the first “personality” to really emerge from the sport.

Olga Korbut became a household name during the 1972 Olympics in Munich. She was childlike, spritely, adorable. She overcame heartbreaking mistakes in the all-around to win three medals in the individual exercises.

She charmed the world and opened the door for other household names and hairdos such as the Nadia Comaneci hairbow, the Shannon Miller bubble bangs avec scrunchie, the Mary Lou Retton tomboy chop, the entire 2012 women’s team and their controversial “messy” ponytails, and all the glitter hairspray a girl could want. (Oh gosh, maybe an entire spinoff article is appropriate.) Here’s to you, ladies.


Jennie Finch, you’re like, really pretty.

Jennie won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2004 Olympics. She is THE softball pitcher. She also had no problem rocking eyeliner and look-at-me lashes to the big game.


I’m sorry I can’t name a famous synchronized swimmer. But I say, “synchronized swimming and makeup,” and you know where I’m going with it, right?

These women are just breathtaking, literally (sort of). I mean, they can hold their collective breath for quite some time. They look super fierce doing it, too.


Florence Griffith Joyner. Flo Jo. The world’s fastest woman and goddess.

I became closely acquainted with Ms. Jo during the 1988 Olympics when I was glued to the television and she set records in both the 100 meters and 200 meters. Her relationship with heptathlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee taught me about sister-love and name hyphenation and how the term “in-law” works. It was a memorable time in my life as it sparked my interest in running.

She became known for her nails before nail art was a mainstream thing. She wore one-legged bodysuits and put it out there. (Imagine I’m snapping my fingers when I say that. Out. There.)

I recently finished a half-marathon while wearing decidedly not-me red zebra stripe nail strips. I credited Flo Jo (and a little bit David Lee Roth) for the inspiration.

Who’s your favorite sports beauty icon? Can it be me?