The Beijing Olympics kicked off on Friday with an opening ceremony full of pomp, circumstance, and extremely puffy outerwear. Hundreds of athletes from around the world marched around a stadium in below-freezing temperatures for the sole purpose of showing off their home countries’ most patriotic winter gear.
Those of you who’ve shelled out for Peacock Premium may have watched the Parade of Nations live this morning; the rest can watch on NBC at 8 p.m. tonight. The opening ceremony included plenty of projections and dancing surely laden with historic symbolism, but I’m here for the fashion. Lest the best athletes on Earth have shivered in vain, let us appreciate them!
The first best look of the parade came from Jamaica, whose representatives include the returning storied men’s bobsled team, as well as monobob competitor Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, and alpine skier Benjamin Alexander. The team sported casual beanies—more streetwear than athletic gear—and an ever-so-slightly daring color combination: olive drab and highlighter yellow. I love a country that takes a bit of a sideways interpretation of the colors of its own flag.
Ukraine’s delegation—which had to march through the stadium under the gaze of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently threatening to invade Ukraine—showed up with a bold power clash, with intricately patterned parkas and a scarf-hat set emblazoned with what looked like the Cool S we all doodled on the soles of our sneakers in middle school.
Some countries have their flag-bearers walk in traditional garb, while the rest of the team marches in modern snowsuits. The nation of East Timor’s flag-bearer, alpine skier Yohan Goutt Goncalves, is the nation’s only competitor at these Games, but he wasn’t alone at the opening parade, and the nation dressed its entire delegation in gorgeous fabrics and feathered headwear, seemingly trying to show off as many of the country’s different textile motifs as would fit on a handful of bodies.
Will you look at Nigeria’s inspired coupling of tie-dye and glitter?? Pairing a trendy-retro pattern with a youthful texture in this head tie, or gele, and adding drapey swaths of tie-dyed fabric to a performance parka is exactly the kind of meeting of tradition, modernity, and celebration one would hope to see in Olympic fashion. Athleisure designer Actively Black understood the assignment.
Finland’s all-gray getups brought to mind a cozy, cloudy winter day, and they included a species of hat I’ve never observed in the wild before: a pom-pom beanie with a visor brim. I won’t say they looked cool, but they did make a statement! Finland, you have my attention!
France took a minimal approach to the majestic drapeau français. The slightly warped French flag on these jackets recalled a snowy pathway (a ski trail?) receding into the distance.
Latvia’s dual-tone ribbed beanies produced a subtle holographic effect, and the delegation’s simple white jackets were elevated by silver-lined hoods. (Serbia and Lithuania had silver hoods too—must be a warmth thing?)
Excellent wardrobe choreography, Kazakhstan! Or, excuse me, Qazaqstan? Love the retrofuturistic typeface. And the detailing on the coats is a beautiful, unusually soft touch for athleticwear.
The delegation from Haiti (also including only one competing athlete, alpine skier and flag-bearer Richardson Viano) wore snow suits that looked a little like NASCAR uniforms—so busy!—but in a good way, because there’s not a lot of representational illustration on view at these things. This is the classic look of someone who is not accustomed to a cold climate and is just cobbling together an outfit based on things they’ve heard about winter: baseball hat (“I was told to wear a hat?”), pants with a snowflake print, whatever boots are lying around.
I have a soft spot for camo gear that does not fulfill its raison d’être. Australia’s sea-green parkas would give away the delegation’s location on any snow-covered mountain (or anywhere in the outback, for that matter), and I appreciate that kind of audacity.
Pita Taufatofua got a lot of press in previous Olympic Games for being a glistening, shirtless athlete from Tonga. This year’s glistening, shirtless athlete to watch is skeleton competitor Nathan Crumpton, of American Samoa, who hopefully had a warm bath waiting for him back in the athletes village, or maybe a cardigan to throw on backstage.
The sugar skulls on Team Mexico’s jackets and hats looked rather sinister, what with the gaping mouths and vacant eyes. A perfect, vaguely threatening start to the competition for a country that’s never medaled in a Winter Olympics.
Team USA’s wardrobe could be so much better (Telfar sweatsuit when?), but it’s always one of the corniest in the literal world. Cinched waists, quarter-zips, so many patches and cords and flaps. Bleh. The blue shoelaces are a quirky touch, though!
Iran’s jackets looked warm (long), with a modern silhouette and a slit for easy walking. The busy print and contrast zippers took it a step above the baseline. I’d wear this!
Some members of Team China had the guts to wear furry bucket hats, a trend that many of us could never pull off on a walk to the bus stop, much less in a televised parade with millions of viewers.
Like France, Italy chose not to mess with an icon. The stand-up collars and dual-direction zippers on these ponchos mad them a versatile choice. They also looked a lot like a flag wrapped around a victor in one of the forthcoming events. Nice flex, Italians, but aren’t your heads cold??