London 2012 Olympics – the fashion of the Opening Ceremony.

After months of bated breath / threats to leave the city for 3 weeks, the Olympics have arrived in London. And like much of the world, on Friday night I found myself watching the Olympics Opening Ceremony on my tiny television from the past (it’s a VCR combi I got when I was 15 or 16).  A picture of my friend Christina actually in the ceremony, holding the Costa Rica banner, gives you an idea of the kind of technology I was working with:

Nevertheless, after praising the liberal celebration of the UK as envisioned by Danny Boyle, Emeli Sandé’s affecting performance of “Abide With Me”, the Queen’s good humour to actually play herself in a sketch (Toby and I were both gobsmacked and impressed), and Daniel Craig being his usual sexy self, the athletes started their very long parade into the stadium. Part of me was watching for Christina; part of me wanted to get the answers to the missing flags in the Countries Quiz app on my iPhone; but soon enough, my focus turned to the fashion hits and misses of the various teams.

It would appear that the vast majority of the athletes were trying as hard as possible to look like anything other than athletes: a few exceptions aside, countries cast aside any semblance of national / traditional dress in favour of giving the impression of attending a fancy dress party.  Depending on your opinion of the Olympics Opening Ceremony, this may or may not be too far off. Mexico still stick out in my mind as the prime example of chucking every vibrant colour together:

Although I admit that the outfits are somewhat hideous, they’re also also extremely festive and cheerful. The unabashed joy of the whole ensemble was like a ray of sunshine during this protracted second hour of proceedings.  I had originally forgotten about Malaysia‘s effort, which has a similar effect:

Animal prints! Je deteste! And yet… I find it exceptionally fun and frisky. The athletes are like tigers! Grr! In contrast, Germany‘s attempt at whimsy did not work:

The whole “blue for boys, pink for girls” doesn’t seem to have any relevance whatsoever, and misses the mark. Plus, the hats are ugly: Olympic headwear should be done like this:

Thank you India – Toby particularly enjoyed the bright sunniness of their turbans, and the classy fusion of traditional national dress with formal respectability. In vast contrast, but just as delectable, Fiji:

Yum yum; nuff said. Hunkiness and national pride wrapped up in one eye-catching package. Other countries preferred to look abroad from their own home nation for inspiration.  Czech Republic, while practical in their intentions to foil the typical British weather (which was curiously and thankfully absent for most of the week), look a bit appalling:

The umbrellas are fine, but I do not understand wellies. Not just in this instance, but ever. They do not hug the calf, and create an unflattering, gaping effect. This is only exacerbated by the shorts (I did not know that wellies + shorts was a viable combination from either a fashion or a practical point of view) – if athletes, who should in theory have some of the best sets of legs in the world, can’t make shorts look good, then I believe my theory that shorts are the work of the devil has been proved. Even more puzzlingly than this whole fiasco however, Spain looked not to their own spicy-sexy heritage for fashion inspiration, nor to London / the UK for inspiration, but apparently to Canada:

Due South anyone? Another example of hats not being worn for the good of mankind, or, well, anything really. While the women at least have yellow shirts to preserve some sense of  national identity, the men look like the Mounties. Not good – even Canada didn’t go that far:

Bulgaria looked like Ralph Lauren / Tommy Hilfiger WASPish Americana gone wrong:

Seersucker hunting-chic is a no-go, no matter how much the first guy might look like Josh Hartnett.  The USA themselves decided air steward(/ess) chic was evidently the way forward (with curious saluting to boot):

It would seem that Australia weren’t even mature enough to choose a profession to masquerade as – their athletes were still ostensibly at grammar school:

This bleakness of demeanour makes the Netherlands‘ outfits (normally an example of clashing colours that would make me weep) seem acceptable in their forthright fun:

I have saved the best for last. Although this might seem like some bias on my part (being half-English and half-Italian) the UK and Italy stole the show.  First of all, Italy were the talk of Twitter during the Ceremony for their fashionable outfits courtesy of Giorgio Armani:

While I understand that all of the blue in the suits and shirts is connected to Italy’s national colour, I find the outfits a tiny bit dour and officewear-like – but nevertheless, miles ahead of anything and anyone else in terms of elegance during the Ceremony. And I applaud Armani’s efforts and vision at making sportswear genuinely sexy and sophisticated – viz. these sketches:

Flawless victory! The UK on the other hand looked like bling gone wrong with an outfit that Missy Elliott would have rejected back in the day for being a bit too cheap:

Although at least it colour-matched the confetti (which served to cover up some of the offending articles):

Thanks for nothing, Next.  I cannot blame Stella McCartney for speedily distancing herself from these odd, seemingly hip-hop inspired tracksuits. Apparently, others have interpreted these outfits as the ghost of Elvis hovering over proceedings. Whatever qualities these outfits embody, they are not the apparently intended “sport, strength and youthfulness”.  If only we had followed Armani’s lead.


About alan

singer / songwriter / fashionista / aspiring novelist

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