Team USA parade uniforms include touch of American frontier
By LEANNE ITALIE
Jan. 22, 2018
NEW YORK (AP) — Polo Ralph Lauren unveiled Team USA's Olympic parade uniforms Monday and social media haters can leave the ugly sweater jokes back in Sochi.
Roundly mocked in 2014 for a chaotic, patchwork cardigan sweater, the brand went classic red, white and blue this time around for the opening ceremony and white for the closing parade of athletes in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Both have a cozy bit of technology built in to keep athletes extra warm.
Athletes will be treated to stretchy skinny jeans and a far less busily designed sweater for opening, with a stretch knit pant — think structured sweat pant — for closing. The jeans have moto-inspired seaming. Accessories include a navy wool ski hat and USA-themed navy bandanna. On the athletes' feet will be brown suede mountaineering boots with red laces for the outdoor opening.
And then there are the gloves. They're more Ralph than Ralph himself, a Western style in suede with fringe in rawhide brown and decorated in hand-beaded Olympic rings and an American flag. They're lined in white and fit over the wrists. Warm, yes. Yee haw! Lasso not included.
David Lauren, the youngest son of the brand's namesake and the company's chief innovation officer, was proud of the technology for the tri-colored parkas in mostly navy blue and the bombers for the end of the Winter Games.
In a process developed exclusively for the brand, the heating system is made of electronic printed conductive inks in silver and black in the shape of an America flag and bonded to the interior backs of the jackets, he said. Athletes can control basic settings using their cellphones for up to five hours of heat on high and up to 11 hours on low, fully charged.
A limited number were released for sale to fans and were selling quickly, Lauren said. All garments are American made.
The brand has been the official outfitter of the U.S. Olympic Committee and Team USA since 2008. The uniforms will also be worn by the Paralympic Games teams.
"Every season we learn from the athletes," Lauren said. "We work very closely with them, where we find out what makes them comfortable as they're walking out on this amazing stage in front of the entire world."
The story Lauren is trying to tell this time around is a celebration of the past, he said, "so we have gloves inspired by the frontier movement, we have jeans that celebrate another era of American entrepreneurship and jackets that heat up, which show that America is continuing to evolve."
The jacket technology displays the temperature inside the garment to help the athletes decide on settings.
The company was looking to display a boldness in the looks this year. It was about comfort, however, as opposed to playing into the tumultuous politics of the last year.
And what does Lauren say to critics who have poked fun in the past?
"We're very proud to work with Team USA," he said. "This year we're excited to say that most of the outfits have already sold out."
Enthusiasts can buy pieces online and in a handful of Ralph Lauren stores around the country, including a customizable ski hat, Lauren said. A portion of proceeds will be donated to athletes' training.
The uniforms were modeled in a Polo Ralph Lauren store in downtown Manhattan by sister-brother, Lauren-sponsored ice dancing team Maia and Alex Shibutani.
"The jacket is going to be perfect for the cold weather," Alex said. "We love the jacket especially."
Maia was impressed by the stretch in the jeans.
"I'm going to be wearing these all the time, definitely."
And those gloves?
"There's some nice detailing," Alex offered. "There's 'Polo' right there on the side."