The XX Factor

Ralph Lauren’s Olympic Uniforms Are Straight Out of Prep-School Hell

Australian Olympic team members sport their nearly-as-preppy Rio 2016 uniforms in Sydney on March 30.

Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Olympic team has unveiled its costumes for this summer’s closing ceremonies, and boy are they preppy. Our nation’s finest physical sporting specimens will bid farewell to Rio de Janeiro clad in striped Ts, button-down shirts, white shorts, red-white-and-blue boat shoes, and “striped cotton bracelets.” The look is straight out of private-school central casting, bursting with enough moneyed leisure vibes to make Ryan Lochte—sport’s doofiest, fist-pumpiest, archetypal bro, for chrissakes—look even douchier.

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These country-club digs come courtesy of Polo Ralph Lauren, major general of “WASPy bullshit,” in Jezebel’s apt parlance. The designer has pulled together outfits for Team USA in the past five Olympics, including the London 2012 games, for which Lauren’s uniforms were manufactured in China.

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Outsourcing garment construction to underpaid foreign workers is pretty darn American, but Lauren’s 2016 designs out-Yankee all of his previous Olympic work. D-ring rope belts? Boat shoes?! The uniforms couldn’t play more into the world’s most unflattering stereotypes of Americans unless they added cigars dangling out of the athletes’ mouths, Bibles tucked under their arms, and $100 bills falling out of their pockets. Or maybe some unthinkably ridiculous accessory, like ten-gallon hats.

Oh wait—we already did that! Team USA strutted proud in cowboy hats and sheepskin jackets at the 1980 games in Lake Placid and the 1984 Sarajevo games. The “SAD” sign at the latter’s opening ceremonies reportedly stood for Sjedinjene Američke Države—the Bosnian translation of United States of America—but it also functioned as a poetic reflection of the dearth of imagination and taste that resulted in this getup.

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But even in the realm of winter Olympics, so far removed from the temperate climes of the clambake and the yacht club, Ralph Lauren found a way to top the gaudy Americana of his predecessors. See: his ugly Christmas sweaters from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

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This year’s actual sports-playing uniforms are suitably cool; high-tech speed garments abound, and Nike came up with some kind of socks bedecked with tiny spikes, which will be perfect for the live-action Mario Kart races. Still, Great Britain has us beat. Stella McCartney’s swim brief, designed in cahoots with Adidas, is a study in minimalist grandeur. It is made of a gigantic block of swimsuit material from which McCartney, like Michelangelo before her, hacked away everything that wasn’t Tom Daley’s groin.

At least this year’s U.S. Olympians will have a natural partner for croquet matches and shorts swaps: Team Australia, whose pastel striped blazers with a seal on the breast pocket look like they were plucked off the back of the most self-important jerk on an Ivy League sailing team. Our athletes may have to wear an alarmingly magnified polo player logo on their chests, but they can thank the gods of chinos and seersucker that Lauren spared them an insignia patch. 

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