Cocktail Crossfire: How Ridiculous Are the U.S. Olympics Uniforms?

It's that time of year again, time to analyze the U.S. Olympics uniforms! Are they faintly laughable, gold-medal ridiculous, or just fine and dandy? We discuss.

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It's that time of year again, time to analyze the U.S. Olympics uniforms!Are they truly worthy of all the reactions—like, gold-medal-worthy? Are they just faintly laughable, a fourth place, at best, in the pantheon? Or are they a shining example of what we hope to achieve for years to come? We discuss.

Score: A Ten for Ludicrous

Berets! Berets at the Olympics, on real, live, red, white, and blue-blooded 'Mericans! This is either an outrage, if you are a person quoted by the New York Post, or highly silly, even laughable, given that the last real American beret of note was the one worn by Monica Lewinsky, and can't we finally just put that behind us at this point once and for all?

Could these uniforms be worse? Perhaps. There could be Crocs, for instance, or those horrible sneakers that look like hands. There could be puffy paint sweatshirts, or full-body pleather—so constricting, and don't even get me started on the issue of odor. But every time we get another one of these Olympics, world records are broken; those twisty-turny gymnastics kids jump a little higher; the racing whippets of the human world manage to hurtle faster. Whether they could be worse is not the question: The question is, could they be better? The unequivocal answer is yes.

This is how I feel when I look at the U.S. Olympics uniforms, circa 2012: Oh dear. Who ripped that kid from the Smirnoff Tea Party video he's been stuck in on repeat since 2008 and dressed him in the church clothes of his uncle, the former Ralph Lauren model who got hit with a surfboard and can't remember his name but thinks he used to be a sea captain during the Napoleonic Wars who dressed as a Ralph Lauren model? Who, pray tell, allowed him to wear white pants? What is the rule, in fact, for wearing white pants in countries that don't even observe Memorial Day? Who made that poor girl tie so much material around her throat, as if, perhaps, she's been in some hideous pole-vaulting accident and the scarf is doing double duty as a tourniquet? If she is her own flag, that is a problem, we think. And then there are the wee horsies on the blazers, the gold buttons, the white shoes, the bobby socks and that horrible, universally unflattering skirt length. This is 1950s stewardess meets poodle skirted prom date on an episode of Welcome to the Love Boat hosted by someone I saw on a recent episode of Glee. In fewer words, it is an abomination! It is at best, a Halloween costume which will have your friends asking you "What the hell are you supposed to be?" The dour expressions of the models can only reflect the feelings of anyone who sets eyes upon these ensembles. As for those who seem to be enjoying wearing these outfits...I'm not convinced there's not some sort of fashion doping scandal at work.

For more intellectual minds, there's the geopolitical question: Is this an image all of America can relate to? Of course, because we've seen it for years in the stereotypical depictions of "preppies" on the big and small screen. Ralph Lauren himself is no stranger to this look—it's a look he's been doing for years. If we were on Project Runway, we would call this look "derivative." You know what that means, we don't even need to say it. Further to that: Is this the image of America that we truly want to be putting forth to the rest of the global universe? It's one step away from Nantucket Reds, and those have been known to start, if not wars, regrettable bar fisticuffs to be sure. Seems a dangerous slippery slope upon which to be treading in white (are those suede!?) bucks.

Then there are the practical concerns we have about these outfits. White really is a problematic color, isn't it? We're always wearing it and then accidentally ordering spaghetti and accidentally dropping a bowlful of marinara on ourselves, and boy, is that not a good look for a promising young athlete. On the plus side, at least the girl can mop her skirt with her mouth-bib.

So yes, these win the gold medal for ridiculous, at least, until the next Olympics. —Jen Doll

(inset via AP, @TimMorehouse)

The U.S. Olympic Uniforms Are Pretty Okay

We must not consider the opening ceremony uniforms in a vacuum. These are not "hanging out with my friends" uniforms, or "expressing what's hip with the youth" uniforms. These are uniforms for the moment when 530 incredibly muscular young people will walk into a stadium in London, represent American athleticism, wave to adoring fans on TV, and walk in a circle while spectacular things happen in the middle of it. Its form perfectly follows its function.

Wait, you say. This is an outrage! How could we represent America with uniforms that are so stupidly preppy?! There's an inexplicable beret! Well guess what: The uniforms have always been preppy. They have to be. For opening ceremonies, the countries often wear something that reflects their traditional dress, and in America, that's casual sportswear, or business casual, or whatever. They can't wear jeans. So what other national costume could an American wear that wouldn't also be a little... politically charged? Preppy is the only option. And that's what we've always done. Here's Beijing 2008:

(Photo via Associated Press.)

Oh, you think preppy jacket + beret looks silly? Maybe you would prefer a the nautical short-sleeved track suit Roots designed for Athens in 2004. Martina Navratilova doesn't look like she's enjoying her backwards beret thing.

(Photo via Associated Press.)

Or there's the preppy + cowboy hat we wore in 2000:

(Photo via Associated Press.)

Further, compared to other countries, America is looking tasteful as eff. Many Chinese are appalled at their "tomato and scrambled egg" uniforms, or what we Americans would call a McDonald's uniform:

The poor old Australians will have to greet the world as cruise ship waiters:

(Photo via Associated Press.)

Here are members of the Russian Olympic team, posted on Facebook.

Rusian TV says this is the official uniform, and another site says that's their opening ceremony outfit, but I'm still not sure. It could also be this, which is also ugly, as  you can see from the sad face of gymnast Aliya Mustafina:

Either way, the point stands: It could be worse. Why are they all so bad? The athletes need to be in peak physical condition, so they need to be comfortable while they're paraded around. So the clothes must look tailored but not be tight. That's hard because athletes' bodies are not like our bodies. They have wide shoulders and thick necks and little waists, for the most part. It's hard to pack those muscles in a blazer, especially when high-cut armholes are fashionable. This is especially true for women, who are expected to look feminine despite having broad shoulders, muscular cores, and slim hips. A jacket is expected to carve out a waist that says "I can bear many children for you, male viewers" instead of "One time I tried to see how many sit-ups I could do in a row and I just kept going until they turned off the gym lights so I stopped." The 2012 uniforms are as good as we're going to get. —Elspeth Reeve

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.