Who won gold in the fashion Olympics?

By Susannah Frankel
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:02

Say what you will about the opening ceremony, but the parade of nations that followed made the Chinese, in their elaborate historical costume, look like an army of supermodels.

First up: the Greeks, proud originators of the Games and self-proclaimed inventors of Western civilisation, wearing dodgy white tailoring with nattily folded black handkerchiefs tucked into jacket breast pockets. To say they looked wide would be an understatement.

But not as wide as many of the other athletes – presumably the weightlifters were out in force – nor as wide as the kipper ties and Seventies lapels that suggested the event was locked in a time warp. Butlins Red Coats, Just William school blazers and the type of characterless, brass-buttoned jackets that air stewardesses have to wear, rubbed shoulders with migraine-inducing Hawaiian shirts, nasty acrylics and bad casuals that wouldn't be out of place at a bowling party in Hastings. Whatever else, this motley crew amply demonstrated the perils of dressing to look like one's flag. Never have so many virulent shades made it in to one place, at one time.

Noble members of the Ukraine 2008 Olympic team, for example, stand up and be counted. It is simply not socially acceptable to wear a turquoise blue and canary yellow jacket with a turquoise blue and canary yellow striped tie to match, however fervent any national pride may be.

Elsewhere, a predictable amount of tracksuits were on display in equally unpleasant hues, although at least they made some kind of functional sense. Then, of course, the clever teams were the ones that had the savvy to stick to national dress: Cameroon's was the coolest, with brilliant hats, although there's no doubting that, in their mirrored, waistcoats the Afghans echoed the east-meets-west aesthetic beloved of fashion icon Hamid Karzai to perfection.

Others were less successful. "Fasten your seat belts please!" yelled the British Airways (sorry, British Olympic) team as they stepped out grinning like a plane full of Cheshire cats possessed. Navy and white can be a pleasing mix – look at the summer wardrobe of Giorgio Armani – but not when it's from the Next Directory circa 1989.

As for the US team: in their vintage baseball cap and Thirties-influenced summer tailoring ensembles, the plan was to embrace the fashion cliché and be proud – modern-day Ivy League Gatsbys they were, one and all. Douze points: Brazil! Well, it would be, wouldn't it? Predictably chic in emerald, slightly shrunken jackets with black, low-slung oversized trousers (for him) and equally nonchalant black miniskirts (for her). Trainers were old school and little white sun hats were all the cuter for a yellow and green ribbon.

I leave you with two conundrums: why were the Israeli team wearing Breton T-shirts? And did the male members of the Ghanaian team layer their woven finery over puffed-sleeved broderie-anglaise blouses?

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