Opening Ceremony Ensembles Revealed

2012 U.S. Opening Ceremony ensembles by Ralph Lauren, photo from Ralph Lauren via Fashionista

Preppy is the look for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. On Tuesday, the ensembles Ralph Lauren designed for our athletes were revealed. The navy blazers and white bottoms will be worn while U.S. athletes parade into the Opening Ceremony stadium.

The men will be decked out in double-breasted blazers, a red, white, and blue tie, a white button-front shirt, and white shoes. The women will be wearing a blazer, a white, button-front shirt, a white, knee-length skirt, a red, white, and blue scarf, and white shoes and socks. Both men and women will wear blue berets. The Ralph Lauren polo logo is prominent on both the blazer and the beret.

I’m not sure how I feel about these outfits. There is no doubt that Lauren was channeling East coast prep, and while the look is definitely American, I have trouble understanding how it is representative of the whole U.S.A. I feel prep constitutes a small percentage of U.S. style and insufficiently sums up the look of American sports. There is something troubling when American style is condensed into a look that originates from primarily white, wealthy elites.

I realize dressing our athletes is a huge conundrum to undertake. Do I have a better solution to what they should wear? Off the top of my head, I don’t. American style is wide ranging. There are many American looks (prep, western, Hollywood, hippie, etc.), but nothing immediately comes to mind as being representative of the whole country touching on all socio, economic, and cultural groups. But shouldn’t our best minds in fashion and apparel design be able to create something that is more inclusive than this?

However, the athletes will look sophisticated, so at least we can take solace in that even if the ensembles aren’t a good representation.

Unfortunately they put them in those silly berets again. Honestly, I’d rather they marched in wearing cowboy hats than berets. When has the beret ever been a major element of American style?

UPDATE: And then there’s all the controversy that the uniforms were made in China. Members of Congress and many critics are saying the uniforms should have been made in the United States. But those who are arguing that the uniforms could have been made in the country for the same price clearly don’t understand the status of the American textile industry. Maybe if Congress wants to ensure that manufacturing isn’t outsourced, they wouldn’t force our Olympic team to rely so heavily on corporate sponsors who do things their own way.


  1. See, I would have said that the ones from four years ago were flat caps rather than berets (or a “bunnet”, as they’re known in Scotland). Not that it particularly matters, because frankly they’re both kind of ridiculous and don’t exactly scream “America” to me either. Plus, I know that the Olympics has basically become a black soulless void of corporate marketing and has next to nothing to do with sport any more, but the prominence of the RL logo still makes me feel a bit icky.

    Maybe each cultural group could take it in turns to style the outfits? I vote cowboys for next time.

    I dread to think what team GB will be wearing. Everyone knows the Italians will be taking home the gold in the style stakes anyway (har har).

    • jacqueline says:

      The U.S. Olympic team is mostly funded privately, so you are going to get partnerships and results that feel icky. I can understand Ralph Lauren wanting their logo featured prominently on the ensembles, since they weren’t paid (as far as I know of). Philanthropy is now a form of advertising, so it’s no wonder they want their logo big so that everyone knows who made them. However, the made-in-China backlash might end up hurting them more than the philanthropy helps them.

      • Mrs. W says:

        This was a very timely topic. I woke up this morning to C-Span discussing this topic. There seems to be quite the furor over the fact that the uniforms were made in China and criticism of the US Olympic Committee. A senator said that all of the uniforms should be gathered, put in a big pile and burned. Then I flipped over to CBS and they were also talking about the topic. The anchor said that Ralph Lauren has said that from now on, the uniforms will be made in the USA. His contract to provide uniforms for US Olympians runs through the 2020 olympics.

  2. Agreed. The East coast prep look is specifically representative of a particular region and socioeconomic class — I know it’s hard to come up with something that represents everyone, but this sort of feels like they didn’t even try. There isn’t even anything that distinguishes those outfits from, say, the outfits that Ralph Lauren sells in every Macy’s. Except maybe the berets, but the berets are silly.

    • jacqueline says:

      I would like to see what Donna Karan would come up with. I know she’s a busy lady, but I think she could tackle the American style issue without making our athletes look like they all grew up yachting and playing polo.

      Or the American brand I’d really like would be Calvin Klein. I bet designer Francisco Costa would come up with some incredible, minimal-chic Opening Ceremony ensembles that have a nod to athletics while maintaining a level of sophistication that would make us proud.

  3. Beth says:

    The outfits aren’t a good representation of the US as a whole–but then again, do we want Walmart manufacturing the uniforms for our Olympians? (Actually, we should be doing the blazers with jeans. No cowboy hats please. But nice dark jeans.) I also like the preppy look so perhaps I’m not the best look.

    I liked our casual athletic look at the 2002 Winter Olympics and 2004 Summer Olympics but the clothing was by Roots, a Canadian line. ( I actually had a much bigger issue with a Canadian design firm doing the uniforms than them being made in China (what ISN’T made in China)?

  4. Carrie says:

    It’s good you said East Coast Prep, because my first thought was “British Boarding School”. I think the outfits are fine, crisp and clean, although more formal than I think of Americans as being generally. My main thought is… all the women have to wear skirts? I can imagine there are some female athletes that would prefer to wear pants.

    • jacqueline says:

      I wonder if they will give women the option of pants, but for brevity are only showing a skirt in the concept photos and illustration. Fingers crossed that they do, but I don’t think we should hold out too much hope. After all, sports and gender is a whole other can of worms.

  5. Terri says:

    Yes, cowboy hats would be more representative…as would jeans and cowboy boots. And that ensemble frequently represents folks from all over the economic spectrum.

  6. Very good article. I will be going through many of these
    issues as well..

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