Winners in the style stakes?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Olympians may be gods among men, but that doesn't automatically equate to sartorial success. Lee Holmes hands out the medals

Olympic athletes are acknowledged the world over for their sporting prowess; less so for their sartorial flair. We may be happy to watch the fruits of a life dedicated to mastering their chosen sport, but that doesn't mean we have to be enthusiastic about the clothes they wear.

Even at this year's Parade of Nations, with a captive global audience of billions, the athlete's flag waving kit was an uninspiring state of affairs. The USA squad were kitted out by that quintessentially American label, Ralph Lauren, but they still managed to look like cabin crew. Meanwhile, Spain, perhaps conscious of how little money there is left in the national coffers, fielded cheap-looking red jackets with garish printed ties that wouldn't have looked out of place behind the counter in Burger King. No wonder Rafael 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 that even Ali G would blanch at wearing. Considering that 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 Jessie 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 sportsmen of yesteryear isn't always as easy as it looks.

Take, for example, the Lycra clad 1980s. Once you've tip-toed your way around the minefield that is the all in one 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 pop classic "Let's Get Physical". Instead 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. And a canvas watch strap is a subtle and tasteful way of harnessing the patriotic mood. 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 – as well as selling a range of stars and stripes coloured sunglasses on his own website – 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. Alas, if you're not blessed with Lochte's frat-boy good looks, then a mouthful of bling may well only emphasise your resemblance to that infamous Bond villain Jaws.

Rather predictably, David Beckham is the sportsman we should look to for fashion pointers. Although not competing in the games as such, 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?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
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

    Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

    Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us