The runners’ uniform is a simple one: short shorts on, tank top tucked in, spikes tied tight. The only thing more efficient than the gear they wear is their stride. Jewelry or accessories are generally only seen as a distraction, breaking up the sleek flow of the runners’ ensemble.
One place where runners are able to add some expressive flair, however, is across their forehead.
In a sport where aerodynamics and fractions of a second are prioritized over style points, the headband is an accessory that runners can justify adding to their uniform.
Nick Ciaccia, a senior cross country and track runner at East Carolina University, sports a headband while competing.
“I always follow the ‘look good, feel good’ motto and I think the headband is what really completes it for me,” Ciaccia said.
The headband is part of his signature look, and with black hair that reaches almost down to his shoulders, the headband is as functional as it is stylistic. Putting the headband on is the finishing touch to his race day preparation routine.
With his hair is out of his eyes and the knowledge that all eyes are on him, he is ready to go.
“The headband is just that last piece of the uniform that brings it all together and completes the look,” Ciaccia said. “The headband is always the last thing I put on before a race and I feel as though once I put it on, it’s show time.”
For high caliber athletes, no part of their race routine is done on accident. So the choice to don a headband has several underlying motivations, including functionality.
“The first time I started competing with a headband was during my very first college cross country race,” Ciaccia said. “My hair was starting to get longer and I needed something to help control the flow. The most important function of the headband is obviously to keep the hair under control, but there are plenty of other functions to it as well. Another function of the headband is the fact that it absorbs all my sweat and prevents any sweat from getting in my eyes.”
Ciaccia is not shy to admit that he just liked the way the headband looked, too. American Olympian Evan Jager, a runner almost as notorious for his luxurious locks as his lethal track speed, helped inspire the appearance.
“When he first started running professionally he rocked a headband and I just thought it was dope so I wanted to sort of imitate that style,” Ciaccia said. “My main thing with the headband is I just want to be different than everyone else and I felt like the headband was the perfect style to separate me from everyone else.”
With those reasons in mind, Ciaccia donned the headband. And four years later, it hasn’t left his race day routine.
Ciaccia is certainly recognizable on the track for both his success and his iconic look, sporting the thick, white headband to contrast with his lengthy dark hair. He hopes that the headband look is one that will catch on in running.
“The aesthetics and comfort of the headband are why I continue to rock it every race and I'm hoping it’s a trend that I can get others to start joining as well.”
Athletes in many sports rock the look, but few other sports necessitate as much of a minimal uniform as running.
But for Ciaccia, he has his race day routine down pat. Short shorts on, jersey tucked in, spikes tied tight. And, the all-important last step to get him ready for competition: headband strapped up.