How Olympic Uniforms Changed Over Time

usa gymnastics 2016

For this year’s Olympic games in Rio, the athletes have been outfitted in sponsored clothing by designers and brands who best represent each country. This includes Lacoste (France), Stella McCartney (Great Britain), Giorgio Armani (Italy), Christian Louboutin (Cuba), H&M (Sweden), and Ralph Lauren (USA).

In the past, Team USA has worn Olympic garb supplied by a variety of designers and brands, including Roy Halston and Levi Strauss. But Ralph Lauren has held the title of the official outfitter of the U.S. Olympic team since 2008.

From preppy blazers to cowboy hats of years past, where did this year stand in comparison? Take a look and judge for yourself.

1980, Lake Placid (Levi Strauss)

Levi Strauss & Co., one of the most recognizable names in American culture, stepped up to provide uniforms for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that evoked national pride by symbolizing the “Great Out West.” Not to mention, this was the same year Ronald Reagan, a former old Hollywood Western cowboy, took presidency.

For the winter games, each U.S. athlete received a 30-piece uniform kit valued at $1,200. It included a white Western hat, shearling jacket, plaid shirts, jeans for men, bibbed denim skirts for women, cowboy boots, wool sweaters, and a variety of other pieces.

The US stuck with this cowboy hat and/or loud accessory formula nearly every year for the next 20 years.

2002, Salt Lake City (Roots)

As we eased into the new millennium, we eased out of the cowboy hat. But, that meant exchanging it for the ill-fitted flatcap design that saw such popularity in the early-00s.

You can blame Canadian fashion brand Roots for this very tonal look. Somehow, they were chosen to continue outfitting the U.S. team through 2006.

2012, London (Ralph Lauren)

Fear not, in 2008, Ralph Lauren, whose brand heritage is rooted in Americana, took over in an attempt to create more polished Olympic garb that evoked wealth and prestige. The New York-born fashion designer would undoubtedly offer up an assortment of patriotic and particularly preppy uniforms.

However, people voiced their aversion to Lauren’s Polo player logo being almost as large as the Olympic ring logo on the structured blazers. On top of that, controversy swirled around the fact that the uniforms were made in China.

Fortunately, Lauren has since made sure that Team USA’s uniforms were produced in the States.

2014, Sochi (Ralph Lauren)

Since it was the winter games, Lauren eased up a bit on structure and let loose with these bold patchwork cardigans featuring scattered stars and stripes. Even the typical pressed white pants were more relaxed and loose-fitting. Though it may have appeared too sloppy to some, we appreciate the easygoing, approachable nature (not to mention, those cozy beanies!).

2016, Rio (Ralph Lauren)

The 2016 Olympic uniforms displayed some of the classic hallmarks of Olympics past: Clean white jeans, navy blazers, and a distinct combination of red, white and blue.

We don’t know what we like about our country’s uniforms more: the patriotic boat shoes or the fact that the “USA” lettering on the back of Michael Phelp’s jacket glows in the dark.

That’s right, the flag bearer jacket fused fashion with technology as it lit up with the use of electroluminescent panels, literally lighting the way for Team USA as they marched into the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

In the future, we hope to see more forward-thinking fashion choices like this one (and maybe a reinvention of the opening ceremony outfit by a new, fresh American designer).

It’s not too late to show your patriotism! Scoop up these Team USA-themed polos and hats:

team usa polousa olympic shirtteam usa hat

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