The Olympics have become as much about sports as it is about Olympic apparel. "Big-time" designers covet the opportunity to be able to dress an Olympic team. In 2014, Ralph Lauren was the "big-time" designer that landed the contract that would cloth the team that America would send to Sochi.
There is so much happening in this outfit. Including the background of the jacket, I'm counting 6 American flags and the word America at least 3 times. It looks a little bit like a boy scout was trying to get their sewing badge.
"The Last Dance"
Following a controversial third-place finish at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Italy's Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio knew they would need up their game if they hoped to medal four years later.
In front of their country folk at the Torino 2006 Winter Games, the two skated to a 6th-place finish, however, the costumes they wore for their final competitive performance together were second to none. I didn't know that anyone other than George Costanza had aspirations to wear a velvet outfit.
"Good-Eye-Might" (say it quickly)
When most people heard that Australia would be sending an ice hockey team to compete in the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, they probably thought it was a joke. Little did the Australian hockey team know at the time, but the joke was really on them.
Over the course of 6 games, the Aussies scored 10 goals but had 87 scored against them. The goal differential wasn't even the ugliest thing about their performance, those hockey sweaters were.
"You Can't Stop Art"
There is no denying the talent and commitment to her craft that Katarina Witt had as a figure skater. She is one of only 2 ladies figure skaters to win multiple gold medals in the discipline, which she did in 1984 and 1988. Her first-place finishes weren't the only thing people were talking about though...
The figure skating world had to implement the "Witt rule" as a result of some of Katarina's costume choices. The "Witt rule" required the ladies of figure skating to ensure that their skirts covered their crotch and buttocks. Katarina's response to the rule was what we see above. It's perfectly clear why, East Germany's, Katarina Witt was known for her risque costumes and sultry personality.
"I Can Be Your Hero"
Yun Sung-bin was given the opportunity to represent his country at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and in his home country of Korea nonetheless. Sung-bin knew that he had to make sure that the suit he would be wearing, while speeding down the skeleton course headfirst at speeds of over 80mph, was indicative of how he felt.
Yun Sung-bin's custom Iron Man helmet fits the rest of his ensemble perfectly. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought it was Tony Stark himself flying through that course. Yun Sung-bin clearly channeled his inner superhero, he demolished the course winning by 1.63 seconds in a sport that's usually decided by milliseconds.
"Ko E 'Otua Mo Tonga Ko Hoku Tofi'a (God and Tonga Are My Inheritance)"
Pita Taufatofua is a uniquely talented individual. All Olympic athletes are talented, but Pita is not like every other Olympic Athlete. He competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics, in the field of taekwondo, and in the 2018 Winter Olympics, as a cross country skier. His performances in both were nothing to write home about, but for some reason, the world still couldn't stop talking about Pita.
Oh yeah! It's because he wore nothing but a ta'ovala mat, oil, and the pride that he has for his nation, as the flag bearer for Tonga, during the opening ceremonies for both Olympics that he's competed in. That's right, not even the below-freezing weather in Korea, in 2018, was enough to dissuade Taufatofua from donning the traditional mat the way it is meant to be worn.
"La Patria Es Primero (The Homeland Is First)"
Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg is one-of-a-kind. He has competed in 6, that's right 6 Winter Olympics in his lifetime (it would have been 7 but Mexico didn't want to send a one-man team to the Olympics in 2006), with the first being all the way back in 1984. For the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, however, the Mexican Olympic Committee changed their tune and, at both Olympics, Prince Hubertus was sent as the sole representative for Mexico.
At the age of 55, Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg participated in what will probably be his final Olympic Games, and he decided to go out in style! Designed by Kappa, the Prince wore a custom-made Mariachi ski suit, and it just might be my favorite outfit from the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
"Einigkeit Und Recht Und Freiheit (Unity And Justice And Freedom)"
When Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy arrived in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, they had one goal in mind, to win the gold medal. By the time the Olympics were over, they hadn't won the gold that they had hoped for, but they did win the bronze medal while making quite the fashion statement.
I'm not 100% certain, but this might be the pinkest outfit ever worn at, either the Summer or Winter Olympics.
"Less Is More"
The women's 3000m race at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, was one of the most anticipated 3000m races in modern times. Three of the fastest women in the history of the 3000m event were competing for head to head on the biggest stage in the world. A series of collisions between two of the women, Mary Decker and Zola Budd, cost both of them their chances at medaling, however, it was Budd's choice of footwear that Olympic fashionistas were focused on.
Most of the time, Zola Budd had a habit of training and racing barefoot. While running barefoot, Budd set the British record for the 1-mile race, a record that still stands today. Imagine what that time could have been if she had worn shoes...
"Would You Like Fries With That?"
When the Spanish design team came up with the concept for their country's 2008 Olympic uniforms, I'm not quite sure they considered what it would look like to have the whole team marching together.
I'm all for keeping to the colors of one's flag, however, these athletes look like they're attending the "Condiment Parade" not the Olympics. They look like a sea of ketchup, mustard, and mayo. I think it's safe to say that no one will be "relishing" the idea of redoing this look anytime soon.
The 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, were the first that Russia would compete in following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. With that being said, we won't hold them accountable for what they had their athletes wear during the opening ceremony.
Clearly, whoever designed these uniforms used to design military apparel. With these oversized trench coats and crisp-brimmed fedoras, it looks as though the red army is about to square off against Al Capone and his men.
"Closer To The Heart"
In order to achieve their greatness, Olympic athletes spend a lot of time away from their friends and families. However, that doesn't mean that home is now always on their minds...
At the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, the Canadian Snowboard team must have been feeling a little bit homesick, because they had their uniforms designed to look like an old snowsuit, and their jackets styled to look like one of the holiday sweaters that their grandma would have made.
"Kia Orana (May You Live A Long And Fulfilling Life)"
For some of the smaller countries around the world, the Olympics are the one chance every few years that they have the opportunity to show the rest of the world that the country is more than just a name on a map.
At the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the Cook Islands chose to make quite a fashion statement with its green printed team uniforms, and that statement was well received. Rounding out their ensemble, the team wore festive floral tiaras that truly brought the "island feel" to Rio.
"They Come From The Land Down Under"
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has made some fairly questionable decisions with their choices in team uniforms over the years. After the debacle, that was the 1960 Australian men's Ice Hockey team sweaters, it took the AOC 24 years, but it looks as though they finally got one right.
In 1984, at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, the Aussies went back to the basics by mixing a little bit of "Annie Hall" with "Leave It To Beaver". The result was this "day-at-the-races" look. Everything about this is fantastic, right down to the gentleman's 'stache.
"Here I Come To Save The Day"
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi brought us some very memorable outfits, few more memorable than the superhero basketball player costume that Spain's Javier Fernandez wore.
If someone is going to dress like Mighty Mouse, they better back up the look with a stellar performance...and Javier Fernandez did just that! The performance that led to his 4th-place finish was spectacular, but it's his costume that is unforgettable.
"Freedom And Justice"
When Ghana's Akwasi Frimpong was a kid, qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics, as a skeleton racer, was probably the last thing he would have expected to happen. A sprinter from a young age, Akwasi had aspirations of partaking in the Summer Olympics, but an injury caused a shift in his plans. Frimpong transitioned to the skeleton and became Ghana's first Olympic skeleton competitor, and second Winter Olympic athlete ever.
At the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, Akwasi wore a helmet that has become a symbol for the underdog. Frimpong's helmet is more than just a fantastic work of art. In interviews, Akwasi has told reporters that the rabbit escaping from the lion's jaws is a metaphor for his life.
"May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favour"
Following a colorful career, that, unfortunately, did not lead to any Olympic glory but was full of incredible skating outfits, former professional figure skater Johnny Weir took his incredible style to the commentary booth.
At the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, Johnny Weir sported an elegant gold and black coat with one of the most magnificent pompadours that the Olympics has, and probably will, ever see. It almost looks as though Weir is preparing to announce the start of the "Hunger Games".
"L'Union Fait La Force (Union Makes Strength)"
For someone who comes from the islands of the Caribbean, spending time in a city as large and loud as Rio could be quite overwhelming. It's a good thing professional athletes thrive during pressure situations.
These folks from Haiti are looking calm, cool, and collected. They come across as though they are ready for a bit of a fishing trip and then a little bit of a backyard BBQ to celebrate their participation in "Rio 2016", and the straw hats will supply some much-needed shade from the heat of the Brazilian sun.
"A Guy Who Wants To Play Sports, Not Watch Them"
Saying that, at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Shaun White came prepared to defend his first-place finish from 4 years earlier, is an understatement. He already had the highest score in the snowboard halfpipe, without even needing to attempt his second run, but he did it anyway. He used the second run, as somewhat of a runway, to show off his gold medal skills as well as his gold medal attire.
His plaid winter coat and ginger locks are exactly what fans of Shaun White expected him to wear. All because it was the biggest stage in the world, that didn't mean that he should be anything less than comfortable as he made his way down "the pipe".
"Throw Some More Prawns On The Grill Mate"
Australia's flag is blue, red, and white. It has a Union Jack in the top left corner, and stars that form the Southern Cross across the rest. The colors that are said to represent Australia are green and gold. In 1992, the Australian Summer Olympic team decided to go with something a little different and chose not to wear any of the nation's colors or symbols.
These athletes are either getting ready to go on an outback safari or on their way to the local beer-can regatta. Whoever is responsible for sending the Australian Olympic athletes to Barcelona looking like this should be ashamed of themselves.
"Real Men Wear Pink"
In the figure skating world, Canada's Dylan Moscovitch and Kirsten Moore-Towers were known for their playful routines, stylish costumes, and some of the best lifts the sport had seen. Following a successful season, the two took their energetically engaging personalities to Sochi and competed for their country in front of the world.
With their costumes, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch made pink hot again. The only thing better than Dylan's vest is his yellow bowtie. The two went on to help Canada claim the silver medal in, the inaugural Team Figure Skating Event, and a, not-too-shabby, 5th-place finish in the pairs event.
"They Are The Watchers Of The Wall"
When the Kiwis of New Zealand found out that they would be sending a team to Brazil in 2016 for the Summer Olympics, the New Zealand Olympic Committee got to work designing an outfit that would help its athletes survive whatever the amazon could throw at them.
I guess no one told them that Brazil's landscape is a bit different from the "Lord of the Ringsesque" mountain range that they'd find back home.
"One People, One Goal, One Faith"
By not overdoing its design, Senegal is another one of the countries that brought in the 2016 opening ceremony with a quiet elegance.
The Senegalese have proven that not every color of a country's flag must be accounted for in its team's outfits. This gold and green evening wear, although rather bright, doesn't stand out as much as it would if they tried to incorporate some red into the outfit's trim.
"The Man With The Golden Shoes"
Leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, American sprinter, Michael Johnson was the favorite to win the gold medals in both the 200m and 400m races. Never one to shy from the spotlight, Johnson dressed to the occasion.
Knowing that there was no option, other than to back up a statement as big as the one he was making, Michael Johnson wore custom-made golden Nike shoes. As the record books show, Johnson, nor his shoes, disappointed anyone. Michael Johnson set new Olympic records in both races that he competed in, with the 200m record also being a new world record.
Norway has become known for a few things over the years: salmon, Vikings, and a mediocre-at-best ice hockey team. That was, at least, until the Norwegian curling team decided to make a name for themselves.
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the Norwegian men's curling team was impressive throughout the course of the tournament, earning themselves a silver medal, but not as impressive as their argyle-patterned pants. Their play was good, their style was great!
"Play A Part In History"
In 1984, when the Summer Olympics took place in Los Angeles, the American team could have walked into that stadium dressed as fast food attendants during the opening ceremony, and the crowd would still have been behind them.
That's pretty much what they did. Aiming to be "a cut above the rest" this ensemble didn't quite "cut" it. In fact, I'm almost certain that the delivery driver from Dominos was wearing this exact outfit the last time they delivered a pizza to me.
"From Sea To Sea"
It wasn't until 1988, that Canada first hosted the Winter Olympic Games, and Calgary, Alberta, was the lucky city. The western Canadian city, among other things, is known for hosting one the largest rodeos in the world every year, so it was only fitting that the Canadian team decided to dress the part.
In the opening ceremony of the 1988 Winter Games, an army of the warmest and friendliest red and white cow folk took the stage and left a message for their rivals "this is our turf".
"Preparation Is Everything"
Four years after they made waves, not for their silver medal performance but for their argyle pants, the Norwegian men's curling team was at it again.
Just when we thought they couldn't out-do themselves, the men came through for all their fans who flew to Sochi for the chance to see them curl. Sadly, the fellas from Norway weren't able to repeat their silver medal success, however, the men were so well-prepared for the tournament that they even brought a heart-patterned outfit with, to wear for their Valentine's Day match.
"He Came, He Swam, He Conquered"
Less than 2 weeks before his 18th birthday, Ian "Thorpey" "Thorpedo" Thorpe made waves with his sleek, one-piece, body-tight swimsuit, and his affinity for breaking records. And he was fortunate enough to do all of this in his hometown of Sydney, Australia, at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games.
There were some critics who believed that "The Thorpedo" was only as fast as he was due to the Fastskin swimsuit that he wore. They claim that the suit gave him an advantage over his opponents. At the end of the day, with and without the suit, he has broken world records and has won 9 Olympic medals, including 5 gold, 3 silver, and a bronze.
"Unité, Travail, Progrès (Union, Work, Progress)"
At the Olympics, Burundi has not historically been as accomplished as some of its East-African neighbors. That being said, with a record number of its athletes being sent to Brazil to compete in the Summer Olympic Games, there were hopes that 2016 would be the year the world took notice of this small, yet very populated, nation.
For the opening ceremony, the (record) 9 Burundian athletes arrived in traditional East-African clothing and even came armed with hunting spears, in case any amazonian beasts decided to interrupt the festivities. One of the 9 athletes won a silver medal in the women's 800m race.
"Back In A Flash"
When the majority of Americans reminisce about the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, they think of the one gold medal the "Miracle On Ice" U.S. men's hockey team won, and not the five gold medals that Eric Heiden won in speedskating.
16 years prior to Michael Johnson donning his golden shoes in Atlanta, Eric Heiden wore, what looked like, a painted-on golden suit. Heiden, like Johnson after him, didn't let the pressure of wearing gold get to him. Heiden went on to win gold in all 5 major speedskating categories that year and looked like a golden version of The Flash while he streaked his way to victory.
"Oh, The 80's"
It appears as though the uniforms the American sprinters wore at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, were made with one goal in mind, to make the athletes as aerodynamic as possible.
It looked like the runner's normal sprinting spandex was stretched over the back of their heads. In no way did these uniforms look comfortable, but Florence Griffith Joyner proved that comfort wasn't everything. She went on to win gold in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m races.
"Unity In Diversity"
At the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the Indonesian team decided to keep it simple, while not forgetting to show a little class.
The intricate simplicity of the nation is evident through the use of the two colors of their flag, red and white, and what appears to be an artistic interpretation of Indonesia's coat of arms on the jacket.
"Libre, Soberana E Independiente (Free, Sovereign, And Independent)"
As we've seen, some countries employ the assistance of multi-billion dollar companies in order to design the clothing that their athletes will be wearing, while representing their nation on the biggest stage in the world. Honduras is not one of those countries.
I'm not quite getting an athlete vibe from these Hondurans. A group of fans trying to find their way to the meet-and-greet at a Jimmy Buffett concert maybe, but not a bunch of athletes who are ready to compete in the Summer Olympics.
Although, as a skater, Uzbekistan's Misha GE never cracked the top ten in the rankings, his style was never lacking for greatness.
The floral tuxedo bodysuit that GE wore for his performance at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, was every bit as flashy as the skater himself.
"Alright, Thank You"
Back when Russian athletes were still allowed to compete as part of the Russian team at the Olympics, their team's uniform designer appears to have been taking more banned substances than a number of the Russian athletes were...
There doesn't seem to be any type of logical pattern to the design of the jackets that team Russia wore at the London 2012 Summer Olympics. If it weren't for the word "Russia" printed across their chests, those not from Russia wouldn't have known what country these ladies were representing. Perhaps, the white pants were a nod to the Wimbledon tennis tournament that takes place in London and only white clothing is permitted.
"Out Of Many, One People"
Back in 2008, Usain Bolt became a household name when he won the gold medals, by breaking the world records, for both the 100m and 200m races in Beijing (he was also a part of the Jamaican gold medal-winning 4X100 relay team). After sweeping the races again at the 2012 London Olympics, Bolt arrived in Rio, in 2016, with a chance to be the first person to win the elusive triple-triple, all three races at three consecutive Olympic Games.
Taking a page out of the book of the former 200m record holder, and 1996 gold medalist, Michael Johnson, Usain Bolt wore custom-made golden shoes. Bolt would go on to win three more medals that year, all of which were a perfect match for the shoes he wore. Unfortunately, one of Bolt's teammates from the 2016 4X100 relay team tested positive for a banned substance. The team was stripped of their gold medals and given a disqualification instead. Usain just missed out on the triple-triple, but 8 Olympic gold medals will still look great on the fireplace.
"Heroiam Slava! (Glory To The Heroes!)"
For the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the team from Ukraine decided to design a uniform that brings some of its rich histories into the present day.
This is a wonderfully modern twist on a classic Ukrainian look. It's not too "out there" but also not overly subtle. All three outfits look like they'd be great to wear on a regular, and that can't be said for very many team uniforms from this list.
With the world attempting to rebound from the pandemic that postponed the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to 2021, Japan's flag signifies "the Land of the Rising Sun", and is as symbolic today as it ever has been.
The Italian Olympic and Paralympic teams have taken note. They've adopted the Japanese flag, but with a twist. They've taken the idea behind the symbol, and after everything that their country has gone through over the past year or so, they look ready to bring Italy out of the darkness and become the shining light that their country needs.
"...Of The People, By The People, For The People..."
It was not too long ago that team U.S.A. unveiled the clothing that their Olympic athletes will be sporting for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The Olympic gear was met with a mixed reception.
The latest installment in team America's Olympic apparel repertoire comes in the form of...navy clothing? The American Athletes are going to look like they are in the music video for The Village People's "In The Navy". With an extra year of planning, I think we all expected a bit more from Ralph Lauren for these Olympics.