Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Fashion

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Foothills Athletic Park

I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to most sports I’m at a bit of a loss. It’s not for a lack of trying. I played sports as a kid, joined rec leagues in university, and am a season ticket holder for the Stampeders. For me sports are more of a social gathering than a genuine expression of my personal passion for it. I have two exceptions: baseball and Olympics.

With over 160 regular season games every year, baseball is not as newsworthy as the Rio Olympics feverishly underway. Sorry Jays. My favourite flashes of watching the Olympics are historically two parts. 

The first is watching the moments just before the events wraps. These include when a gymnast dismounts, the final seconds on the clock of rugby where the winning team runs and jumps together, or just before a diver enters that pool. It’s the moment of anticipation and not totally knowing what’s going to occur. Call it hang time, the swell, or the drop. No matter what it’s exhilarating.

The second is the uniforms. No surprise there. Some sports are more aesthetic than others. Take tennis for example with its typical smart cuts and crisp colours. Yessssss. Most sports are a function not so much fashion, which is fine. Hello soccer, swimming, and kayaking. Other sports are deliciously tacky. I’m side eying you, gymnastics. 

My favourite uniform of the summer Olympics is hands down fencing. It’s elegant, precise, and mysterious. This year it’s bigger than aesthetics or sport. It’s a cultural awakening. Fencing is opening doors to new athletes that may not have considered participating. Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fencer, is the first American Muslim to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab. She told the BBC.

“I am excited to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions people have about Muslim women… I want to show people that we can not only be on any Olympic team, but on the U.S. Olympic team which is the strongest of the world’s teams.”

Competition uniforms aside, I love watching the Opening and Closing Ceremony. This is where the competitors walk together representing their country with all the other countries. It’s a powerful and touching visual. What’s really interesting is looking at the brands that get the prestigious opportunity to dress the teams. Highlights include Ralph Lauren outfitting the U.S.A., H&M dressed Sweden, Stella McCartney and Adidas dressed Great Britain, and Cuba’s leather star emblazed shoes via Christian Loubouton. Dang those star print sandals and boat shoes were rad.

Canada’s streetwear look boasted those slick red blazers was designed by Dsqaured2 x HBC. Yep, that Dsquared2. At first I was shocked that HBC would align with this Canadian brand after the disgusting cultural appropriation scandal just last year. Then I thought for a moment. I reminded myself that the HBC brand was founded while fur trading and colonizing Canada. There was likely cultural appropriation at some point over the past 300+ years too. While I am critical of the offensive #dsquaw collection (yes they really self-hastagged that) I am impressed with the Rio Olympic collection. Impressed, yes, can I forgive them for their mistakes? No. Or at least not yet.

On a lighter note, I did have a new surprise that I didn’t see coming this Olympics. I fell in love with one person watching the Olympics and posting her videos. Leslie Jones’s living room coverage captured a lot of attention and snagged her a ticket to Rio to sit at NBC. She, to me, is the true spirit of a fan. Like me, a lot of the sports with their rules and norms are baffling to her but she relishes in the effort regardless. Her joy is contagious. 

The power of community and pride that are generated during the Olympics are undeniable. Although I admit that fashion is not the focus of the games tit still has a way to go. If it wants to.