Another Olympics, Another Blue Ralph Lauren Blazer for Team USA

While there’s no shortage of internet outcry around Ralph Lauren’s fifth and latest navy blazer for Team USA’s opening ceremony look, aesthetic appeal may be taking a backseat to a larger attempt to signal diplomatic power on a global stage.

Credit: Ralph Lauren

For the fifth Olympic Games running, Team USA will don navy blazers by Ralph Lauren at the opening ceremony. Critics have pointed out that the brand’s boxy blazers are starting to feel past their heyday: more “vacation in Newport” than the slightest bit subversive, prompting questions of whether the parochial prep school look and outmoded tailoring of the red-and-white-piped sport coats will really put the country’s best foot forward in Paris. In a recent interview, the company’s chief branding and innovation officer, David Lauren, noted the brand will have tailors “on the ground” in Paris to help fine-tune the fit. And that’s to say nothing of the closing ceremony uniform, consisting of red, white, and blue moto-jackets emblazoned with “U.S.A.” patches that look like a car mechanic’s coveralls.

In the absence of sartorial splendor akin to Telfar’s ensembles for Team Liberia in Tokyo, Ralph Lauren has rather anticlimactically played up that Team USA’s polo shirts are made of fully recycled cotton and the entire uniform kit is manufactured domestically. (The latter fun fact distances the company’s present from a controversy surrounding its 2012 uniforms, which were made in China).“The eyes of the world will be on us at the Olympics,” Katie Ioanilli, Ralph Lauren’s chief global impact and communications officer, recently told Fast Company. “We’re very strategically using this opportunity to shine a light on this recycled cotton, because we need the rest of the industry to support it so it can be a viable option in the future.” An image spin like that might be enough to make up for a single design swing and miss, but considering that they’ve been panned since 2012, it rings hollow.

Credit: Ralph Lauren

Reading between the lines of Ioanilli’s quote, the design world might be looking at this all wrong. The uniforms’ aesthetic appeal may be besides the point—a sort of ‘suit jacket diplomacy, style be damned’ strategy, if you will. “The directive we get is to have the athletes look like ambassadors,” Lauren told the New York Times. “To have a certain sense of formality and to feel comfortable.”

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