Designer Giorgio Armani predicted that the London Olympics would be the most stylish ever, but fashion experts say there has been as much bad taste as elegance on display.
From the Stella McCartney-designed British kit that omitted most of the red of the Union flag, to the US team’s Chinese-made Ralph Lauren uniforms, couture has collided with controversy throughout the Olympics.
The opening ceremony offered up a riot of costumes and colors that gave a taste of things to come.
The striking yellows and greens of the Jamaican team’s kit designed by Cedella Marley, the daughter of reggae great Bob Marley, won many fans, while the Czech Republic’s striking outfits provoked mixed reactions.
Fashion journalist Carolyn Asome in The Times newspaper said the Czechs sported “the most hideous plastic blue boots known to mankind,” while Hadley Freeman in The Guardian awarded them her fashion gold medal for the Games.
Even when the temperature went up on Thursday, Czech athlete Zuzana Hejnova donned her boots to collect the bronze in the medal ceremony for the 400m hurdles.
The Mexican team added a ring of authenticity at the opening ceremony with their multi-colored ponchos — which Asome said were in keeping with this season’s trends.
Armani himself was roped in to design the outfits for his homeland, Italy.
The Spanish athletes were however the first to malign their own red and gold kits complete with go-faster flames, which were provided — for free — by Russian sportswear company Bosco Sport.
“It’s not at all Latin, it’s clearly more Eastern European,” canoeist Saul Craviotto grumbled on his Twitter account, next to a photo of him trying on his uniform.
Russia’s 1980s football shirt-style outfits were also designed by Bosco.
The US delegation — decked out in Ralph Lauren as they had been during the 2008 Beijing Summer Games and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics — raised eyebrows with their very French-looking berets.
But while the rest of the uniform looked patriotic enough there was a furore in the United States when it emerged ahead of the Games that the uniforms were made in China, stirring up an inevitable debate in this US election year.
For outfits worn during competition itself, the French won style points — if not medals — by bringing in luxury fashion house Hermes for their equestrian team, who wore navy and red blazers made of a special fabric to aid movement.
The beach volleyball outfits of all the participating teams have attracted much attention for their sheer skimpiness, particularly in the sometimes British summer.
The Stella McCartney-designed vests for the British team received the “gold medal for riskiness” from L’Officiel, a French fashion magazine, for their variation on the Union Jack.
McCartney — whose father Paul of The Beatles fame performed at the opening ceremony — had “clearly kept white and the blue as the dominant colours, minimising the presence of red, only using it on the shoes and collars,” the magazine noted.
British athletes have kept quiet about their outfits, but during their biggest gold rush since 1908 many of them have been notably keep to drape themselves in a real Union Jack after their victories.
Meanwhile the British opening ceremony outfits, consisting of white tracksuits with gold collars and armpit patches, attracted flak at home as they were produced by high-street brand Next.
“Britain, you suck,” wrote Hadley Freeman in The Guardian.