The Flag Trade: Team GB wins gold in the fashion stakes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

As our national heroes make their bids for glory, how has Team GB fared in the fashion stakes over the years? Harriet Walker ranks their kit

1936 Berlin: Preppy prescience

There were, of course, rather more political issues at the heart of these Games than what the athletes were wearing – but note the preppy prescience of the British team's apparel as they gather around diver Katinka Larsen for this group shot.

They could easily all have been wardrobed by Gap. Side-partings were an optional extra, but oh for the days when a swimming costume like this was chic rather than prudish.

1952 Helsinki: Posh and pressed

The men's gymnastics team are spruce in freshly laundered and smartly pressed whites emblazoned with a rippling Union Jack. While this outfit may not boast the aerodynamic razzmatazz of modern sportswear, it's redolent of the days when sport was for gentlemen. And if the gentlemen in question should all look like an American Apparel advert, so much the better.

1956 Melbourne: Eighties inspiration

Isn't it funny when you realise that everyone in the Eighties just nicked trends from the Fifties? These 100m relay silver medallists might be straight out of a Greater Manchester working men's club circa 1985, thanks to their banded singlets and high-waisted gym-knickers.

1980 Moscow: The shorts straw

Sebastian Coe, who won gold in 1500m at the Moscow Games, is the only famous person to have gone to my school. He has also been fairly prescriptive about what sort of clothes visitors to the 2012 event will be able to wear. As you can see here, the British kit that he sped to victory in hasn't changed much since its 1950s incarnation, except for the blanket rule introduced by the Russians that all male runners had to wear large nappies to compete in.

1992 Barcelona: It's all a blur

When Linford Christie won gold in the 100m, my nana got out of her armchair and did an air-punch. No doubt his success was in part thanks to the tightness of his shorts restraining his irrepressible "lunchbox" and the go-faster, optical blur of the Union Jack pattern that adorned the panels of his vest. This kit went on to become iconic in the Olympic annals and paved the way for more design-focused sportswear. And what could be more Nineties than taking inspiration from the Magic Eye books?

1996 Atlanta: Beast of burden

Is it just me or do these British king-of-beasts motif tracksuits look a bit like the sub-par animation in the video to Bob Marley's smash hit "Iron Lion Zion"? Either way, this podium suit is widely regarded as one of the worst forays into Olympic fashion in the history of the Games. Pity the poor Olympians whose moment of glory was marred by having their picture taken in that fanned mane and pointy tongue. Could it be the reason we did so badly in the medals table that year?

2000 Sydney: Block party

Back in the days when Paula Radcliffe was more famous for running in her shorts rather than doing something else in them, the Team GB kit was all block colours and clean lines. The Australians upped the glamour stakes when they wheeled out Kylie, but British athletes were rather more functional this year, with fewer prints and absolutely no lions. See how Ms. Radcliffe had pulled up her socks like an LA poolboy while everyone else had lets theirs flop around their ankles. That's the Great British can-do spirit, right there.

2004 Athens: Top of the crops

It was during the Athens Games that the crop top really became a sports staple, as designers realised that a hot tummy does not a medal-winner make. Red has never played a large role in our national Olympics kit and the year that Dame Kelly Holmes won her gold for the 1500m, the colour was barely visible but for some ergonomic piping detail. In fact, blue has been the preferred palette for most of the modern Games, often leading to criticism that our athletes have looked too similar to those of France. But no French woman would ever grin like that, would she?

2012 London: Stella design credentials

The first kit to have been created by a fashion designer, this year's look is sleek, futuristic and undeniably tasteful. Whether it looks like sportswear is another matter. Stella McCartney deconstructs the flag and features it in fragments as geometric detailing with scarlet trim. So, regardless of how the events play out, Team GB wins gold in the fashion stakes.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own