By LEANNE ITALIE, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) – Let the fashion police begin.
The Tokyo Olympics will open on July 23, when the world’s athletes parade behind their flag bearers. And when they do, the peanut gallery on what they’re wearing will also be open.
Olympic gear is a living food source for social media, starting with the hour-long Parade of Nations. The one-year wait due to the pandemic has given enthusiasts more time to think about what they like or hate.
There’s the Czech Republic and its traditional block-printed indigo pattern with matching fans, already the butt of a few jokes. It follows the country’s noisy umbrellas and neon blue Wellington boots in 2012 in London, as well as its “Beetlejuice” stripes in Rio in 2016.
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Israeli athletes have see-through nylon jackets with huge pockets, while Emporio Armani dressed the Italian team in tracksuits with a reinterpretation of the Japanese rising sun in the colors of the Italian flag: red, green and white. Liberia received the gift from designer Telfar Clemens, the hip Liberian American who makes sought after bags and created their kits for the first time.
Things were much simpler for the athletes, from a fashion point of view. At first, there was no parade, nor an opening ceremony for that matter. Athletes wore whatever they wanted, often walking with their sport’s gear.
“At first it didn’t matter,” said David Wallechinsky, board member and former president of the International Society of Olympic Historians. “People were just coming. If a team wanted to dress like they did.
Wallechinksy unearthed an image in an archival film showing the British curlers of 1924 marching in the Winter Games parade in Chamonix, France, their brooms raised.
At first, clothing was completely optional, at least during the competition, according to the researchers. Athletes often performed naked in ancient Greece. In more modern times, parade uniforms often pay homage to a host country, in addition to traditions, sporting achievements and patriotic flourishes.
This year, the pandemic brought another element: masks.
Australia offers athletes a sand-colored blazer lined with the names of the country’s 320 Olympic gold medalists. For the closing ceremony, Olympic organizers for Canada teamed up with Levi’s to produce an urban-style Japanese graffiti-animated “Canadian Tuxedo” denim jacket to wear with white denim pants.
“It’s the gang chasing you if you say you tried to watch ‘Schitt’s Creek’ but couldn’t get in,” New York Times cultural 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 “Keep the Flame Alive” Olympic fan podcast, said outfitting Olympic teams, including those competing in the Paralympics, is not easy.
“They have to adapt to all kinds of body types. Think tiny gymnasts, muscular weightlifters, and gangly basketball players. They have to convey something about the nation, honor the host, be serious enough for the solemnity of the occasion but practical enough to be comfortable for hours in the heat, ”she said.
Count Brown among the fans of Czech uniforms, made by Zuzana Osako in Prague. They include the mainstay of the team, a gymnast, built into the design. Men will wear blue vests with white pants and women will wear blue blouses and white skirts.
“They managed to blend elements of Czech folk tradition, traditional Japanese indigo dyeing techniques and an appeal to the great Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, while keeping the outfit wearable and comfortable for the heat,” said Brown.
Of Canada’s denim jackets, she said: “I think I was wearing something similar in 1987. I wonder if anyone over 12 really wants to wear it.
Lucia Kinghorn, vice president of fashion at Hudson’s Bay, who helped create Canada’s uniforms and other Olympic gear, is aware of the contempt.
“For so many opponents, we have even more fans,” she said. “We are proud of the thoughtful design of Team Canada apparel and happy that so many people are talking about it. “
Brown was also not impressed with the appearance of Team USA. They include blue denim pants for the opening parade and white denim pants for the closing ceremony.
“The United States stuck with the same designer, Ralph Lauren, as they have for years, leading to a different look of yachting. Yawn, “she said.” Plus, it should be very hot in Tokyo. Jeans, a mesh top, a scarf and a blazer? Who wants to wear denim in this kind of heat and humidity?
Denim is lightweight in a stretch fabric.
Japan’s uniforms are reminiscent of those worn by the Japanese team at the opening ceremony of the last Olympic Games held in Tokyo in 1964. At the time, the jackets were red and the pants were white. The colors are reversed this year.
“This is in line with the many recalls that organizers included up to 1964,” Brown said.
Her favorite runway look so far is Mexico. The Mexico City Olympic Committee held a nationwide online vote to choose the opening ceremony looks from among three designs created by High Life. The winning design honors Oaxaca in a unique, vibrantly colored lapel.
“The blazer features a floral lapel in traditional Zapotec embroidery. So beautiful without being in costume, ”said Brown.
The embroidery was done by Oaxacan artisans, making each lapel among the 150 blazers a different custom design, said Jeannette Haber, Marketing Director of High Life. The artisans, she said, were “happy to be a part of the project, and that their creations and their work could have this global exposure.”
Entire collections for sale to consumers are built around what Olympic athletes wear at opening ceremonies.
“It’s a great time for these brands to show off their team spirit and innovation in new technology,” said Ted Stafford, fashion director for Men’s Health magazine and market director for Esquire.
This includes a Ralph Lauren cooling unit built into a white denim jacket for the American team flag bearer.
“This is the world stage and it sets the tone,” Stafford said. “It’s more than just a fashion show.”
Follow Leanne Italy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/litalie
Associated Press writer Berenice Bautista in Mexico City contributed to this story.
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