Women's College World Series: Hair bows and grit co-exist on the softball field

Eye black can make a player look intimidating. But the hair bow remains a symbol of the softball subculture.
BY CODY STAVENHAGEN Published: May 29, 2014
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photo - Oregon's Nikki Udria (3) and Sammie Puentes (5) wear ribbons in their hair during the Women's College World Series softball game between Florida State and Oregon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday, May 29, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Oregon's Nikki Udria (3) and Sammie Puentes (5) wear ribbons in their hair during the Women's College World Series softball game between Florida State and Oregon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday, May 29, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Oregon pitcher Cheridan Hawkins is intimidating.

She stares hitters down with eye black smothering the sides of her face.

She strikes them out at an alarming rate — a school-record 313 times already this season.

See her from the batter’s box, and it’s easy to tell she’s all about grit and competitiveness.

But take a look at the back of her head and you’ll be reminded that yes, she is a college girl and yes, she is playing the only sport where it’s acceptable to wear a bow in your hair.

“I wear yellow, black or green,” Hawkins said. “Some people like the big bows and some people don’t. For our team, we’re just more of the little bows.”

Extravagant or not, the bow is still there, part fashion statement and part symbol of the softball subculture.

Especially in recent years, softball has faced an all-out bow craze. All colors, all shapes and sizes.

At this year’s Women’s College World Series, Florida, Oregon and Kentucky are sure bets to rock bows.

UK’s Kara Howard has one of the most creative, patterned with blue cheetah print. The Florida Gators even showed up to their Wednesday practice wearing decorative orange flowers in their hair.

Regardless of the bow choice, the fad certainly isn’t limited to college. Visit any major youth tournament, and there’s a good chance you’ll find a vendor selling homemade bows featuring everything from zebra print to rhinestones.

“More in my travel ball days before college, I’d see girls with bows that were bigger than their heads,” Kentucky pitcher Shannon Smith said.

Sure, there are teams that tend to stay away from bows. Patty Gasso’s Oklahoma squad is among them. But that doesn’t mean the Sooners are against fun.

“I don't think it's because of me, but just our style our personality is not quite as ‘big,’” Gasso said. “I've seen props in dugouts, and I've seen wigs and costumes and things that are going a little overboard, but that's the style of that team. That works for them. Maybe it doesn't work for us, but it doesn't take away from our passion for the game.”

Gasso said she loved playing against Louisiana-Lafayette, whose players are prone to drum along the dugout railing.

“It made me feel like we were at a big event,” she said. “It brought atmosphere.”

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