In a little over a week, the Winter Olympics will begin. And pretty soon all the talk will be about triple axels, super Gs, and the luge. That's a shame, because there's just not enough time to talk about all the fashion.
The Mariachi Prince
Hubertus von Hohenlohe's name looks like a vulgar anagram or a Bond villain, but he's actually a veteran skier from Mexico and 2014 will be his last go. That's why he'll be wearing a mariachi-inspired racing suit. Hohenlohe told NBC News that the suit will convey the elegance and rich culture of the Mexico. "The power to have your own identity is so strong and something I believe in so I want to give it a go in a very cool, elegant way. I want to celebrate who they are, but of course in my own style," he said.
Proud to Be Americans
Last week, Ralph Lauren unveiled the opening ceremony uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team. And they were met with some shock and awe. "Welcome to the ugly sweater party, America," the San Francisco Chronicle wrote. Deadspin chimed in too: "A generous interpretation would say the patchwork stylings are reminiscent of certain Russian folk dress. But it's totally just an ugly Christmas sweater."
I was on the same train, and even uncovered an industry of patriotic patchwork sweaters which look very similar.
But I spoke with a friend, a menswear stylist, who explained that I might be looking at the sweater all wrong. "What's important to understand about Ralph Lauren is that he cultivated his particular brand of old-money Americana from without, not from within; as such he has a tendency to overdo it at times, not unlike a modern-day Gatsby," he said. I was hoping to rope him into ugly sweater talk, but he kept on with this idea of obnoxious Americana being so inherently American. He added:
If your initial reaction is one of disgust, you need to stop thinking of how these clothes look on the human body and start thinking of them as cultural relics. It's not a coincidence our society is embracing nostalgic dress at a time when we're more stressed, more "wired" than we've ever been—and at an event that's so very modern and so very slick, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the pageant garb is a pendulum swing into a different century.
These uniforms force us to confront the idea that maybe being American is not always the same thing as being cool. And I can buy that.
There was a more serious American pride controversy. U.S. Olympic goalie Jessie Vetter wanted to wear a helmet which featured a bald eagle and an image the U.S. constitution. The International Olympic Committee said the helmet violated the rules of "propaganda", and forced her to repaint her helmet:
For what it's worth, the closing ceremonies are more subtle, perhaps an attempt to let our gold medal haul speak for itself:
Germany's Accidentally Gay Outfits
One of the biggest story lines underscoring the Olympics has been Russia's anti-gay laws. Each day brings new, confusing quotes from officials saying how they will or they won't respect gay people. Enter Germany, with these rainbow-ish winter outfits: