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The Olympic Fashion Review – SZ Magazine




The postponement of the Olympic Games by one year, underground approval ratings among the Japanese population, an event in front of empty stands: The Summer Games in Tokyo 2020/21 are already among the most memorable sporting events ever. And so it only fits into the picture that the prevailing dress codes there also provide material for discussion. Among them: The little inclusive ban on swimming caps specially designed for natural Afro-hair, the exclusion of swimsuits with bear motif for the Russian synchronized swimmers competing under neutral status (»too Russian«), the pleasing permission of a bandage in rainbow colors for the German hockey captain Nike Lorenz.

What is worn at the Olympics is political – including the selection of country-specific Olympic uniforms and those who design them. Refreshingly, this year, the best don’t come from the big sporting nations, nor from those who traditionally commit wealthy fashion expertise to their looks (like Armani for Italy, Lacoste for France, Ben Sherman for the UK). We took a look at the most interesting designs.

The Olympic team of Liberia at the opening ceremony.

Photo: Getty Images

Most read this week:

Telfar for Liberia
Telfar Clemens is currently one of the hottest fashion designers ever. Especially the designer’s »shopping bags« made of artificial leather have been worn up and down for years by Bella Hadid, Dua Lipa, Oprah Winfrey and anyone else who holds anything else in the fashion world and have therefore earned the model the nickname of the »Bushwick Birkin« (in allusion to the hip district of Brooklyn, where Telfar is based).

Now the Liberian-American designer has taken over the equipment of the Liberian Olympic teams – the largest external investment his still up-and-coming company has ever made. The result? Unisex designs such as a tank top with spaghetti straps, a floor-length basketball tunic with matching palazzo pants or an asymmetrical top with a free shoulder. Liberia competes in Tokyo with just one runner and two runners and is one of the poorest countries in the world, but no one can take the title for the coolest Olympic outfits ever away from the West African state.

Worn by: Fluid Brooklyners of Gen-Z, soon fashionably informed worldwide
Worn without: Bra, long-established gender ideas

Kim Kardashian for the USA
The official outfits for the U.S. Olympic team have been by Ralph Lauren since 2008 and look exactly as you’d expect: Preppy, American, made for a performance at the elite college or on the golf course. More interesting is the outfitter of the underwear and pajamas for Team USA – none other than Kim Kardashian with her shapewear brand Skims will be responsible for this in 2021. The designs are typical skims: tight-fitting, in rather restrained »Greige« tones and designed with discreet prints, staged in a contemporary way. Of course, social media pro Kardashian used the announcement for an emotionally charged story on Instagram (her stepfather Bruce Jenner won gold in the decathlon in 1976, through him she supposedly understood the devotion of Olympians) and of course you can also buy the parts directly via the brand online shop – but isn’t that somehow also part of the (modern) American dream?

Worn by: All members of the Kardashian/Jenner clan and thus very soon their millions of followers
Worn with: Lots of make-up (also from our own house), extensions, protein shakes

Denim for Canada
Yes, the combination of denim jacket and trousers is also called »Canadian Tuxedo«, but that’s why you design your own Olympic outfit from the blue fabric? Great idea, thought the Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay, which is officially responsible for the equipment of the Olympic team, and came with a streetwear-like collection including Levi’s denim jacket with graffiti print around the corner. “Tokyo is known for its street art and fashion. We pay tribute to this with the must-have of the collection – the eternally cool denim jacket,” said the official statement on the launch last summer. Especially the very intentional scribbles met with little enthusiasm on the Internet (“With this jacket, Canada has already lost the Olympics,” it was said, among other things). Youth culture for printing in series has rarely worked well.

Worn by: Britney Spears & Justin Timberlake 2001, footballers on holiday in Ibiza
Worn with: Prolliger luxury watch, Dsquared2 cap, Banksy prints in the living room

Bermuda for Bermuda
Bermuda has implemented the motto »Poster Garment of the Nation« much more tastefully for the Olympics. The British overseas territory with just around 64,000 inhabitants is best known worldwide for the shorts worn there as business attire. To march into the Olympic Games (including the Winter Games), the athletes usually wear red Bermuda. In Tokyo, the male athletes now appeared in fashionable models in light pink (also a textile sign for more queerness?), paired with knee socks, lace-up shoes and dark blue jacket with shirt and tie, looking like freshly hopped off the Thom Browne catwalk. And the sporting yield is also impressive: A few days ago, triathlete Flora Duffy won the first Olympic gold ever in Bermuda’s history.

Worn by: Thom Browne, Pharrell Williams, Ella Emhoff, school uniform wearing students in the summer
Worn with: Tight calves

Japan: For the first time, the Olympic and Paralympic teams wear the same uniforms.

Photo: dpa

All together for Japan
The fact that the IOC has just extended its old Olympic motto »citius, altius, fortius«, i.e. »faster, higher, further« to include the word »communis«, i.e. »together«, seems above all like a gesture that must first be filled with life against the background of recent criticism (the rigorous enforcement of the Games in Tokyo against the will of the local population, the non-transparent allocation of the venues). At least in terms of clothing policy, however, a step towards inclusion has already been taken in Japan. Although the Olympic outfits of Aoki, one of the largest clothing retailers in the country, are visually rather unspectacular (a combination of light blazer with trousers, skirt or culotte in red), for the first time there are exactly the same uniforms for the Olympic and Paralympic team of Japan. A nice step in the field of adaptive and barrier-free fashion.

Worn by: Without exception, all Japanese participants in the Olympic and Paralympic Games
Wird worn with: Wheelchair, prosthesis – or without


Arjun Sethi
Passionate guitarist, gamer and writer. Lives for the perfect review, and scrapes texts until they are razor-sharp.
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