A woman wearing a tennis outfit with long sleeves smiles as she holds a racquet.

'Looking the Part' Has Different Meanings

It’s definitely important to look the part.

When I went for my checkups after my stem cell transplants, I always tried to look good. I never wore makeup, but I put on something nice. I felt like if I looked good, I would get a good report. By this, I mean that my blood counts would be normal and I would show no signs of a relapse of my blood cancer. This of course is not a cause and effect kind of thing, but looking good helped me to get through the day with more ease.

Dressing the part

This brings me to the issue of 'looking the part' on the tennis court. You don’t see that many women wearing tennis dresses anymore, but those cute dresses definitely made those who wore them look the part. Now the “dress code” is mostly a sleeveless or short-sleeved shirt and a tennis skirt. That kind of leaves me out.

What about sun protection clothing for tennis?

After I started getting squamous cell carcinomas on my arms and neck, I gave away most of my sleeveless tops. That put me at a disadvantage for looking the part. I kept two short-sleeved shirts with collars, but most of the shirts I wear for tennis are long-sleeved. Their high UPF factor is good for protecting against skin cancer, but their design is not good for 'looking the part'. I do have one sleeveless mock turtleneck that I occasionally wear.

As for the bottom half of me, I’m good to go with the tennis skirts. But the leggings that I wear make me feel overdressed. I know their worth, though on super hot days they make me uncomfortable. They will (hopefully) keep me from getting more skin cancers on my legs.

Looking the part vs. skin cancer risk

On certain days, though, I’ve become keenly aware of ways I don’t 'look the part'. That’s because I’m comparing myself to a woman who plays with a different group. We used to be on a tennis team together. She is a great player. And she always wears a sleeveless shirt. When I pass her on my way to the court where I’m playing, or if I’m on a court near her, I say hello. And I think about how much more she 'looks the part' than I do.

But then I make myself step back and remember that I also look the part. It is the part of someone who knows about the risk of getting skin cancer from sun exposure. And honestly, if you have good skills, your game isn’t going to be affected by the length of your sleeves…or the absence of sleeves.

The pros are moving toward protection too

I found it interesting, when watching the US Open (tennis), that some of the top female players were wearing long-sleeved shirts. That is not the norm. I don’t know why they were doing it, but possibly it was for sun protection. They get so much sun, from an early age, that making it “in” to wear long-sleeved shirts is good for the cause of cutting down skin cancer incidence.

And today when I turned on the French Open, (also known as Roland-Garros), I noticed that Romanian star Simona Halep wore a long-sleeved shirt AND black tights under her tennis skirt. I think that it was due to the cold weather. She looked good. Also, she crushed her opponent, Irina-Camelia Begu. This made me remind myself that you don’t need bare arms and legs to be a winner.

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