When it comes to Olympic style, there’s no competition: Florence Griffith Joyner didn’t just clock in as the fastest woman of all time, she was also one of the most fashion-forward.
The track and field icon, better known as Flo-Jo, captivated the sports world in the 1980s when she set the still-unbroken world record for women’s sprints in the 100-meter and 200-meter races at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
But people watching at home didn’t just want to be as fast as Flo-Jo, they also wanted to look as cool as her, said Darnell-Jamal Lisby, a fashion historian and curator.
“Flo-Jo’s style fused and updated traditional runners’ functional athletic apparel with jazzy fabrications, like lace, and refreshing silhouettes that emitted a sense of showmanship with her eclectic energy,” Lisby told HuffPost. “She designed many of her own uniforms, so they were personal to her.”
The California-born Olympian stunned in brightly colored, asymmetrical one-legged track suits and sported bold 6-inch-long acrylic nails, often with USA- or Olympic gold-themed designs. (In that arena, it didn’t hurt that she was a former hair and nail technician.)
“Every Black woman who wouldn’t normally see nail work and nail art outside of the magazines, the nail salons they frequented or their neighborhoods could turn on the TV and see Flo-Jo sporting those looks,” said Cieja Springer, a style expert and host of the “From the Bottom Up” podcast. “It was epic. She was fierce and bold, yet refined.”
Griffith Joyner’s untimely death in 1998 hasn’t dulled her shine or legacy. Homages to the late track star are frequent. Beyoncé dressed up as her for Halloween in 2018. For her first match in the 2021 Australian Open, Serena Williams honored the legendary sprinter by wearing an asymmetric black, red and hot-pink color-blocked tennis unitard. And 21-year-old sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson’s affinity for long acrylic nails ― not to mention her speed ― has led to plenty of comparisons to Flo-Jo.
But let’s take it back to the legend herself. Below are some of Flo-Jo’s most glam and memorable looks.