February 16, 2010

Olympic Catwalk Of Fame

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The Olympics. Probably one of my all-time favorite occurrences, although the spirit of plunking myself down for hours watching just about any sport NBC has decided to cover is decidedly squashed this year, as I do not own a TV. But never fear, the beauty that is the Internet has provided me with video of several different events and articles chock full of information: about clothes. Yes, the Olympics are about— among other things, the glory of which generally makes me tear up during at least the opening ceremony— clothes.

Let’s start with the Opening Ceremony. The Ceremony is one of the only times that a country’s delegation is seen as a whole, and the effect is to present the athletes in a prideful and representative way; this is the face of the country for this time period. While many countries went for black or navy pants with a dark jacket or a jacket in their main flag color, there were some pretty awesome— and a few awful— deviations.

Among the best was team Bermuda, who for the first time at a Winter Games wore their trademark Bermuda shorts in red with a navy blazer and black knee socks. This was probably the only country whose athletes were comfortable or even cold; a challenge in uniforms this year was to represent the spirit of the wintery, snowy sports being displyed, but not sweat to death in the indoor, unusually warm stadium; some reports put the temperature at up to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty toasty for down parkas. The small European countries represented with charmingly handsome knit sweaters, Monaco with a red and white argyle with a shawl collar, and Andorra had a Scandinavian yoke in black white, and red.

The most adventurous teams were Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic, both wearing white jackets and deliciously patterned pants. The Czechs’ pattern was an abstract repeating pattern of small circles and rectangles in white, a grey/blue and red, with the same pattern trimming the jackets. The Azerbaijanis were my favorite though; their pants were a white background with bright blue, red and bright green overlapping paisleys, and huge white furry hats with ear flaps. The pattern of their pants reflected both a common design theme for the Azerbaijanis, as well as the colors of their flag.

Among the more unfortunate outfits (boring certainly qualifies as unfortunate, but doesn’t warrant further comment) were Ireland and Algeria’s choice of a limey green, the Irish for their pants and the Algerians for their parkas. Neither choice would have been bad in isolation, however each country has a Kelley green and a red/orange stripe in their flag, and the combination was kind of nauseating. Also in the unfortunate category, I would have to put Finland. While I applaud their choice of a patterned jacket to top their black pants, their squiggly black-outlined graphics, I am afraid to say, kind of reminded me of entrails.

Our fair country came out in a classic Ralph Lauren ensemble: white pants, white turtleneck, a knit hat with flags, moose, and trees and a navy short puffy parka with red stripes on the arm and a white Polo logo so large it prompted some commenters on the blogs to wonder “Isn’t polo a summer sport?” The host country, our neighbors to the north, had a basic base of black pants and red jackets, but scored with their accessories; red mittens with a white maple leaf on the back of the hand, and totally awesome reversible scarves. On one side the scarves had a red and black buffalo plaid, and on the other side a white background with, in huge red letters, CANADA. Many athletes held the printed side up as a kind of banner declaring their team’s name as they walked through the stadium.

Two other interesting Olympic fashion stories center around pants. Snowboard Cross is a relatively new sport to the Olympics, having been prevalent in the X-Games- type circuit first. Unlike other sports which have streamlined their suits, snowboard cross has generally had uniforms that look much like what an average person would wear snowboarding, including relatively baggy pants. At the X-Games, if you wear too tight pants, you risk not being invited back to compete, as you would have violated the “gentleman’s agreement” to not wear tight pants. There have been complaints this year, mostly by the Americans, that the Canadians’ pants are not only unfair but laughable— much too tight.

In curling, however, the Norwegian team is dazzling with their unusual pants; curlers typically wear black pants, but the Norwegian team is sporting golfer’s pants from Loudmouth Golf, in a delicious pattern of grey, blue, red and white diamonds (I think they’re pretty sweet, actually). While there are no rules that dictate the style or pattern of either of snowboard cross or curling pants— although the curlers do have to be in team colors— the fashion police may soon be operating in conjunction with the IOC.

And lastly, we should note with great sadness the black armbands worn by many of the athletes in the Opening Ceremony and throughout the games in honor of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. They are a reminder, perhaps, even in the midst of the Olympics, whose motto is ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, of the danger of the human obsession with perfection.

Original Author: Alex Harlig