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Winning the style stakes?


Olympic competitors are acknowledged the world over for their sporting prowess, less so for their sartorial flair. Even at the 2012 Opening Ceremony, the athletes' flag-waving kit was uninspiring. Team USA was dressed by that quintessentially American label, Ralph Lauren, but still managed to look like cabin crew. Spain, perhaps conscious of how little money there is left in the national coffers, fielded cheap-looking red jackets with garish printed ties that would have looked at home in Burger King. No wonder Rafa Nadal pulled out of the Games.

Even Team GB, whose outfits came courtesy of high street giant Next, looked faintly ridiculous. White jackets with golden collars and lower halves embellished with the same metallic trim was leisurewear even Ali G would reject. Considering Britain has an enviable history of faultless tailoring, we fell spectacularly flat at the first, ahem, hurdle. It's even more frustrating, given that one of the fashionable dictats of the season is to dress in the colours of our national flag. In fact, now is one of the few times that wearing red, white and blue isn't a sartorial slip-up. Belgian designer Dries Van Noten gave a masterclass in how to do this in his current collection; even Vivienne Westwood gave us T-shirts with golden medals in a trompe l'oeil effect.

Admittedly, planning colour co-ordinated outfits does require a lightness of touch. Your look should revolve around classic tailored separates. Fail-safe pieces such as white cotton shirts, plain chino trousers and cricketing sweaters reflect a bygone era of Jesse Owens' gentlemanly competitiveness. Varsity jackets and tailored blazers – single or double breasted – are also an informed choice. Teamed with a pale blue shirt, your point of reference becomes old school preppy glamour – club ties are optional. But taking inspiration from clothing worn by sportsman of yesteryear isn't always as easy as it looks. Take the Lycra-clad 1980s. Once you've tip-toed your way around the minefield that is the stretchy unitard, what you're left with is that sportswear behemoth of the decade, the shell suit, an item of clothing that should always be studiously ignored.

Forget towelling headbands and cropped T-shirts, too, unless you plan upon reconstructing the video to Olivia Newton-John's "Physical".

Look to pleated shorts, classic polo shirts and cashmere sweaters for garments that won't date.

Accessorising like an Olympian is an easier game to play. Ignore fancy souped-up footwear and opt for an old school leather plimsoll in white. Colour co-ordinating your bag to the Olympic flag is another option. WANT Les Essentials de la Vie have a bag for each colour of the Olympic rings. Or for an added virile flourish, grow a moustache in honour of veteran American swimmer Mark Spitz.

When it comes to finding an actual modern day athlete with fashion savvy, well, your choices are still very limited. Our American cousins have poster boy Ryan Lochte, who has done a spot of modelling for Ralph Lauren. And in a modern twist that only an American could pull off, he's swapped the Spitz 'tache for a diamond studded retainer, which allows him to flash the ultimate winning smile. If you're not blessed with Lochte's frat-boy looks, a mouthful of bling will only emphasise your resemblance to the Bond villain, Jaws.

Predictably, David Beckham is who we should look to for fashion pointers. Although not competing in the games, he manages to successfully morph between style icon and snappily dressed Olympian representative.

And during the Opening Ceremony he was even given the ultimate accessory – a speedboat. How could he fail to impress?