The XX Factor

A Loving Tribute to Abby Wambach’s Androgynous Style Evolution

This lucky World Cup trophy got an up-close look at Wambach’s hair in L.A. this July.

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday, after a meet-and-greet with President Obama, the highest-scoring international soccer player of all time announced her retirement. “It’s been an amazing, wonderful ride,” said U.S. Women’s National Team forward Abby Wambach, who’s scored 184 goals over her 15-year career, in a statement. “I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings.”

The preceding chapters have brought Wambach a World Cup championship, two Olympic gold medals, and an unstoppable ball faculty some have called talismanic. And though it’s been a gift to fans of sports and powerful women alike to see Wambach become the world’s most reliable goal-maker, watching her come into her own on the style front has echoed and affirmed the often awkward evolution of androgynous dressers everywhere. At nearly six feet tall with delts for days and a head that’s scored as many goals as Pelé did with his entire body, Wambach has given interested parties plenty to kibitz about with her off-field wardrobe and steadily improving hair game.

In 2002, Wambach’s abbreviated mullet betrayed the conflicted sensibilities of someone who was looking for a short cut but needed something to pull into a ponytail when the field demanded it.

Wambach, of the Washington Freedom, plays the San Jose CyberRays in San Jose, California in May 2002.

Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

There is no reason for anyone to ever wear a leopard cowboy hat, and I can only imagine that Wambach consented to this photo under duress.

Wambach holds the 2003 WUSA Goal of the Year Award in August 2003 at San Diego’s Natural History Museum.

Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

As one-percenter and presidential candidate John Kerry tried to prove he could relate to the average khaki-wearing American, soccer godsend Wambach dressed like every girl on your sister’s high school soccer team.

Wambach and team member Julie Foudy pal around with Kerry in October 2004 in Brown Deer, Wisconsin.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This is pretty much the only publically available photo of Wambach in makeup and dangly earrings. Call this her femme-sperimentation period.

Wambach does the red carpet at the October 2005 Salute To Women In Sports Awards Dinner in New York City.

Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

My sixth-grade self would have killed for Wambach’s 2008-era ponytails, with nary a bump in sight.

Wambach in Chicago, 2008.

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Even in game play, with the help of a headband, Wambach’s talismanic ponytails remained pristine.

Wambach’s hair refuses to fall in her face during a World Cup qualifying match in November 2010 in Padova, Italy.

REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

The headband worked just as well for one of Wambach’s most adorable ‘dos, this crazy tousled mess. This return to the short cut marks the dawn of the modern Wambach hair age.

In July 2011, Wambach has soccer fun in Frankfurt.

Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Like every lesbian under 40 in 2011, Wambach tried out the side-swept bangs some have compared to those of a pre-pubescent Justin Bieber.

Wambach accepts an award at the Salute To Women In Sports Gala in October 2011 in New York City.

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Wambach’s 2013 red-carpet look was a big step up from her previous fancy get-ups. Pros: Slicked-back hair, interesting blazer, power-patent shoes. Cons: Ill-fitting pants, white T-shirt. Almost there, Abby!

Wambach at the 2013 ESPY Awards in L.A.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for ESPY

This outfit suited Wambach well, but it was a little too fireside-with-the-boo for a press conference. And those baggy, wrinkled pants look like they might have cargo pockets, an unequivocal no-no.

This January, Wambach held court in Zurich.

Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

2015 was a big, bold year for Wambach’s hair. She got it cut high and tight, a hip look that’s also practical for the field, and grown enough for a superstar in her mid 30s.

Wambach prepares to beat Mexico in a May 2015 match in Carson, California.

Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Newly blonde and more confident than ever, Wambach looks like she’s about to stomp this red carpet to smithereens with her iridescent high-tops and a worthy display case for her guns.

Wambach joins teammates Christie Rampone, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris at the July 2015 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards in Westwood, California.

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

“This team taught all America’s children that playing like a girl means you’re a badass,” President Obama said at yesterday’s press conference. With a helping hand from Megan Rapinoe, Wambach showed the kiddos that blazers and bleached hair are a badass pairing, too.

Wambach, Carli Lloyd, and Rapinoe hung with Obama at the White House on Oct. 27.

Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

After four more matches, Wambach’s soccer career will end in mid-December. Her contributions to the sport will live on in the history books and halls of fame, but her contributions to the androgynous celebrity hair-and-wardrobe canon will always hold the gold medal in my heart.