Winter Olympic Uniform Design - For God, Country, Fashion & Sport

By Joe Duffy Feb 12, 2010

The Olympics are a spectacle that is part world sporting competition, part cultural festival, and part global media extravaganza. There are so many angles of these games to be fascinated with. As a designer, after the competition and the opening/closing ceremonies, what captures my attention is the way the countries present themselves in uniform and the role the uniform takes in projecting national imagery, sporting culture and fashion. First, of course, is team USA.


The 2010 Winter Olympic ceremonial team uniforms are designed by Ralph Lauren, classically American styled with a sense of casual athletic ruggedness. I think team USA and also the Canadian’s team attire, by Hudson's Bay Company, do a good job of combining today’s fashion, with a competitive athletic feel and a nostalgic look of both countries winter sports cultures.


The freestyle ski and bobsled uniforms, both designed by Under Armour®, are said to be inspired by stuntman’s Evel Knievel’s aesthetic and feature compression and sew-free sonic welding technology materials. I’m thinking something beyond red, white and blue with stars and stripes is in order here. It seems the individual sports team uniforms either go too far – grey and fuchsia plaid graphics plus Spiderman for downhill skiing - or not far enough, like these two examples.


Nike’s hockey sweater designs have a simple, almost retro look, which some say harkens to team USA’s golden hockey moments. The blue sweater incorporates a ‘we the people’ graphic pattern into the arms and back of the garment, featuring elements such as the Statue of Liberty’s torch, and the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence as well as symbols of Celtic, African, Native American, and Hispanic cultures. The third jersey offers a lace up alternative.


The Nike design team is also behind the jackets that will be worn for medal ceremonies.


And then there are the Burton designed uniforms for the snowboarding team. While they’ve been creating controversy with the casual, distressed denim pants, they undoubtedly reflect the fashion sensibilities of the boarding community and culture. They’re my favorite for those individual sport characteristics combined with USA iconography like the colors and crest.


As I consider these uniforms and the many others for each of the sporting teams representing team USA, I feel there’s a missed opportunity to find a design expression that can represent the team in a more unified way without compromising the individual needs of each sport. What a great challenge it would be to find a design language that is broad enough to reflect the various sporting cultures, yet represent a common team character combined with an eclectic representation of our country’s culture.


Once the games are underway it will be interesting to see how the other countries have approached their visual representation. Seems as though a follow-up blog is in order. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m pretty confident about how a diverse design language could be established for almost every sport…but I’m kind of scared to go anywhere near figure skating.




1. Team USA - Ralph Lauren

2. Team Canada - ROOTS

3. Team USA Bobsled & Freestyle Skiing

4. Lindsey Vonn (photo from NYT Magazine)

5. Team USA Hockey

6. Team USA Hockey detail

7. Team USA Medal Ceremony Nike Jackets

8. Team USA Snowboard

9. Team USA Figure Skating (photo from NYT Magazine)










What others think:

  • I mean I just read through the enitre article of yours and it was quite good but since I'm more of a visual learner,I found that to be more helpful well let me know how it turns out! I love what you guys are always up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the great works guys I've added you guys to my blogroll. 

    Semso Jan 20, 2013 — 5:01 pm

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