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
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)