Let the fashion policing begin
NEW YORK CITY, New York (AP):
Let the fashion policing begin.
The Olympics in Tokyo open tomorrow, when the world’s athletes will march behind their flagbearers. And when they do, the peanut gallery on what they are wearing will be open, too.
Olympic gear makes for lively social media fodder, starting with the hours-long Parade of Nations. The year-long wait due to the pandemic has given enthusiasts extra time to ponder what they love or hate.
There is the Czech Republic and its traditional indigo block-print design with matching fans, already the butt of some jokes. It follows the country’s loud umbrellas and neon-blue Wellington boots of 2012 in London, along with its ‘Beetlejuice’ stripes in Rio in 2016.
Israel’s athletes have see-through nylon jackets with huge pockets, while Emporio Armani decked out Italy’s team in track suits with a reinterpretation of Japan’s rising sun in the colours of the Italian flag: red, green and white. Liberia received the gift of designer Telfar Clemens, the buzzy Liberian American who makes sought-after bags and created their kits for the first time.
Things used to be a lot simpler for the athletes, fashion wise. In the beginning, there was no parade, or opening ceremony for that matter. Athletes wore whatever they chose, often walking with the equipment of their sports.
“In the early days it was no big deal,” said David Wallechinksy, executive board member and past president of the International Society of Olympic Historians. “People would just come on. If a team wanted to dress alike, they did.”
Wallechinksy unearthed an image in an archival film showing the 1924 British curlers walking in the Winter Games parade in Chamonix, France, their brooms held high.
In the beginning, clothes were optional altogether, during competition anyway, according to scholars. Athletes often performed in the nude in Ancient Greece. In more modern times, parade uniforms often pay homage to a host country, in addition to traditions, athletic feats and patriotic flourishes.
This year, the pandemic has brought on another element: masks.
Australia have on offer for athletes a sand-coloured blazer lined with the names of the country’s 320 Olympic gold medallists. For the closing ceremony, Canada’s Olympic organisers teamed with Levi’s to produce a denim “Canadian tuxedo” jacket alive with Japanese street-style graffiti to be worn with white denim pants.
“This is the gang that comes after you if you say you tried watching Schitt’s Creek but couldn’t get into it,” New York Times culture writer Dave Itzkoff tweeted of the look in April, several months after the jacket was unveiled with Team Canada’s other gear.
Alison Brown, host of the Olympic fans podcast ‘Keep the Flame Alive’, said outfitting Olympic teams, including those competing in the Paralympics, is not easy.
“They have to fit all kinds of body types. Think tiny gymnasts, brawny weightlifters and lanky basketball players. They have to convey something about the nation, honour the host, be serious enough for the solemnity of the occasion, but practical enough to be comfortable for hours of standing in the heat,” she said.
Whole collections for sale to consumers are built around what Olympic athletes wear during opening ceremonies.
“It’s a great moment for these brands to show their team spirit and their innovation in new technologies,” said Ted Stafford, fashion director of Men’s Health magazine and market director for Esquire.
That includes a cooling unit Ralph Lauren built into a white denim jacket for the Team USA flagbearer.
“It’s the world stage and it sets the tone,” Stafford said. “It’s more than just a big fashion show.”