Alison Brown stands in front of a Ralph Lauren outfit from his Paris 2024 consumer collection. Photo was taken at the 2024 Team USA Media Summit.

Team USA and Ralph Lauren: Not So Perfect Together

Release Date: June 26, 2024

Category: Blog | History

Last week, Ralph Lauren debuted the uniforms Team USA will wear at the Olympic and Paralympic Opening Ceremonies in Paris. Ralph Lauren has been the official clothier for Team USA since 2008, so this marks the fifth Summer Olympics uniform the company has created. Let’s take a look back and score all the incarnations that Ralph Lauren has created for Team USA for the Parade of Nations. Find pictures of the uniforms by clicking the link of each Games.

 

Beijing 2008

Before Ralph Lauren took the reins, Roots clothed Team USA’s athletes for Salt Lake City 2002, Athens 2004, and Torino 2006. In Athens, Roots had created a very casual uniform for Team USA. Some critics derided the matching athletic gear as looking like pajamas. For 2008, Ralph Lauren went in the opposite direction. The team was outfitted in navy single-breasted blazers, crisp white dress shirts, summer white trousers, and flat-top white newsboy caps. Men wore red, white, and blue ties while women sported matching scarves.

 

The team looked sharp, though the blazer/long sleeve shirt/long pants/hat combination could not have felt good in the heat, and pants and shirt looked rumpled by the humidity.

 

Score: 6/10

 

London 2012

 

The following Games, Ralph Lauren made a few minor tweaks, but basically recycled the 2008 Opening Ceremony uniform. This one had more differences between men and women. Men wore a double-breasted navy blazer with peak lapels, cream-colored cuffed trousers, white oxford shirt, red and blue tie, and blue cap. Women wore a single-breasted blazer and knee-length cream skirt, a red and blue scarf and the same blue cap. For footwear, men and women both donned white crew socks and white bucks, which were very unflattering with the skirt. In practice, some of the women opted for the slacks.

 

The trousers and skirt seemed to hold up better in the heat this time.The skirts, however, were an awkward length and unflattering style on most body types. The women’s scarves were excessively long and thick (think Tom Baker’s Doctor Who) and looked to swallow their necks. The caps were a bit silly. Overall, prep school uniform gone wrong.

 

Score: 5/10

 

Rio 2016

Oh look, another blue blazer/white trousers combination! This time, they were paired with a long-sleeved striped t-shirt and red, white, and blue boat shoes. The single-breasted jacket had a narrow collar, and the white denim pants were on trend with a skinny cut. No hat, no tie, no scarf. The flagbearer (Michael Phelps) stood out in a different jacket, which featured a luminescent “USA” across the back.

 

White jeans are fun in the summer, and these looked good throughout the long ceremony. The shoes were particularly sharp. But who thought it was a good idea to have another long sleeve/blazer combination? Do the designers think the Opening Ceremony takes place in a freezing hotel lobby?

Score: 7/10 (mostly for those shoes!)

 

Tokyo 2021

You have to be kidding me, another navy blazer? Yes indeed, and this one includes an enormous Polo pony, the Ralph Lauren logo. That said, Lauren finally ditched the white pants, in favor of blue dark wash skinny jeans. The striped t-shirt made another appearance, though thankfully this one was short-sleeved. White leather sneakers anchored the outfit. Accessories were back–athletes wore a neckerchief printed with the Stars and Stripes. Again, flagbearers had a special look: A white denim jacket featuring high-tech cooling technology (designed to beat Tokyo’s hot weather) replaced the blue blazer.

 

Does Ralph Lauren have an oversupply of blue blazers they need to off-load? Once again, the shoes are the highlight of this outfit. Bonus points for flattering many different body types with this look. The shirts, jeans, and jacket are all mostly navy blue, but (at least on camera)  they’re each a slightly different shade of navy blue, which is worse than clashing colors. This one could have been so much better if everyone got the white denim jacket, and the pants were a lighter weight fabric.

 

Score: 6/10 (mostly for potential)

 

Paris 2024

Am I stuck in an infinite time loop? Another navy blazer? The latest iteration of the Ralph Lauren formula includes another navy blazer, this time with red and white trim, a blue and white striped oxford shirt, light wash boyfriend-cut jeans and white bucks. Men add a navy knit tie, while women sport an open collar.

 

Were they wearing a blindfold while they pulled random items off a rack? The Polo pony logo on the breast pocket is even bigger than before and completely outsizes the USOPC emblem on the opposite side. The blazers feature wide lapels and an unstructured fit, and the knit ties cannot hold a knot. Even in the official photographs, the shirts are rumpled and the jeans look sloppy. And why did you bring back those awful white bucks?

 

Score: 2/10

 

There are the Opening Ceremony looks. What about the Closing Ceremony uniforms? Blog on that coming soon!

– Alison Brown