You wouldn’t arrive at a prom without a ball gown, so it goes without saying that the greatest sporting event of the last four years demands a similarly stylish arrival. This year, countries have again teamed up with some of the best designers in the world to create iconic, stylish, practical, and, in some cases, high-tech outfits that are grabbing the attention of fashionistas across the globe.
This year’s uniforms have been designed by Ralph Lauren, the fifth time that the United States has turned to the designer to create its outfits. The 2016 designs are in an all-American style with an elegant finish, and they include an innovative surprise: the first- ever illuminated flag-bearer jacket. The pants for the opening and closing ceremony are chino-style shorts that end just above the knee, worn with a nautical striped shirt beneath a navy jacket, which bears the distinctive Polo Ralph Lauren logo on the front and a patriotic “USA” on the back. Boat shoes, stripy belts, and cotton bracelets complete the red, white, and blue ensemble. In competition, athletes will wear high-tech, Nike-designed apparel that was tested in wind tunnels to ensure the clothes were streamlined and light.
The South Korean team’s uniforms are in a prim and proper style: navy blazer, stark white trousers, striped socks, deep blue boat shoes. The cut and color contrast is strikingly clean, giving the uniforms a look of precision and professionalism. However, what truly stands out is the use of high-tech Zika– (or mosquito-) repellent fabrics, intended to prevent the Korean athletes from being bitten. Combined with long sleeves and pant legs, this uniform reflects a concern for both style and safety, as many athletes’ biggest fear this year is the Zika virus. All of the clothes, from “downtime” wear to the formal ceremony ensembles, are carefully woven with a mosquito-repellent formula.
British designer Stella McCartney collaborated with Adidas to design the UK Olympic kit. In a classic bit of national branding, the clothes incorporate the British national colors with navy blue leggings, white sweaters, and red accents. One of the most patriotic clothing designs in the Olympics, the British uniforms are boldly imprinted with the letters “GB.” A distinctive aspect of these clothes are the materials: the synthetic fibers of this year’s uniform are 10% lighter than in the London Olympics. The design team also used athletes’ feedback to enhance comfort and, most importantly for the team, performance.
As one of Sweden’s largest fashion brands, H&M was a natural choice to design the country’s uniforms. With golden-yellow hues and deep-blue prints in sharp lines and shapes, Sweden’s uniforms are arguably among the most attractive of this year’s Games. Even without the country’s name on the clothes, the use of the Swedish flag’s colors lend the uniforms a clear national identity. A modern feature of the attire is the use of sustainably produced fabrics, which make for clothes that are both stylish and environmentally conscious.
Representing one of the fashion capitals of the world is a high-pressure task. Yet Lacoste, the designer of the French team’s uniforms, effectively captured the sophistication and elegance that is associated with French fashion. For outerwear, athletes have white rain-resistant ponchos with hoods and zipped pockets in the front, as well as deep blue trench coats and white pants cropped just above the ankle. The signature Lacoste crocodile is a subtle detail in red, blue, and white. Simple yet eye-catching, these clothes are inspired by the catwalk.