This year’s Olympic uniforms are incredibly trendy
Ah, the Olympics: the victories! The tears! Celebrities !
The Olympics, like everything else, are not just a human interest story about physical achievement. They are also an exquisite branding opportunity for a fashion industry always chasing a higher goal. Since 2008, Ralph Lauren, flagship of the American style, has been making the uniforms of the American team for the opening and closing ceremonies; Roots did the same for Canada, and so on. But now, it seems, the Olympics uniforms are getting a bit fresh. Last summer, around the time the Tokyo Games were originally scheduled to take place, Kith announced that he was teaming up with Team USA for a capsule “inspired by the iconic figures of Team USA reimagined through the lens of Kith, “as the brand puts it. These pieces include a quarter zip and matching sweatpants in white and navy with a red, white and blue herringbone stripe, and “Kith” where you might expect “USA” to be. (The country arguably gets the top spot on the coordinating daddy’s hat.)
Even cooler was the news that arrived at the end of June, when Bushwick-based brand Telfar revealed they would make the uniforms for Liberia, the country where designer Telfar Clemens is from. That’s a pretty big deal: the brand is also sponsoring the country’s Olympic team, while the clothing itself will serve as the launching pad for a Telfar performance clothing line. Earlier this week, Kim Kardashian’s Skims became the official supplier of Olympic underwear, suggesting that no item in the Olympic wardrobe should be left without collaboration. (Ralph Lauren, apparently, has not traditionally provided Olympic athletes with underwear.) Kardashian added in an Instagram statement that she grew obsessively following the Olympics with her stepdad Caitlyn Jenner, and that the partnership represents “every moment that I have spent admiring the strength and energy of Olympians on the sidelines [coming] full circle. ”The post was illustrated with artistic photographs by longtime Kanye West collaborator Vanessa Beecroft, very cool!
The Olympics are a lot of things, but one thing they aren’t is cool. So why are uniforms suddenly so … trendy? On the one hand, morale is low and the Olympics are guaranteed to boost the mood – a global event tailor-made to inspire even the most cynical among us. The opportunity is too big for small fashion brands to break in and, simultaneously, the struggling Olympics need the cool factor of these young designers. (Some of these deals are simply the result of a class of younger, more connected athletes: the girlfriend of one of the Liberian Olympians suggested partnering with Telfar.) And this year, with the Trump administration in With the rearview mirror and the Covid revival quickly stumbling forward, the Games also provide an opportunity to rename patriotism as something pretty appealing. (It follows that the Costume Institute’s return extravagance will celebrate American style and design.) Could a cool product make us feel patriotic again?
Of course, Ralph Lauren is still in the game. In April, the brand shared images of their closing ceremony uniforms, which have oversized American graphics, a striped ribbon belt and white jeans. Maybe my eyes were unduly influenced by Telfar’s sweat jackets and Beecroft’s underwear, but they looked a little too icy. It’s no secret that the Olympics – defined by deeply conservative ideas about gender, performance, and recreational drug use – could use an injection of real-world youth and style. Stranger and wilder uniforms seem like a good place to start.
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