Stars and stripes out of fashion at Olympic Games?

August 7, 2012
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I read a report this week about how the United States flag has become a vogue component of Americans’ attire at this summer’s London Olympics.

The report detailed how mere flag waving at Olympic Games used to be the way in which American fans demonstrated their patriotism. But now wearing the flag—as a cape, jacket, skirt, etc.—is the way more U.S. citizens are choosing to scream Yankee Doodle Dandy.

So I’m wondering why there’s a dearth of stars and stripes when it comes to the uniforms of the American athletes themselves?

Someone, please bring back the 1984 U.S. women’s gymnastics team uniforms. At this point, I’d settle for something in red, white and blue. At one point, I thought the Russian gymnasts’ uniforms looked more American than team USA’s.

And the American athletes’ gray warm-up suits are totally beyond my realm of comprehension. They appear to be part space suit, part Army issue. At least they are adorned with a tiny American flag.

It seems obvious that when your primary brand image is stars and stripes, that most if not all your Olympic uniforms should be adorned with stars and stripes. And when your nation’s colors are red, white and blue, it seems obvious that in some combination, your uniforms should be red, white and blue. And for crying out loud, get the shade of blue right. You know, to match the blue on the American flag.

Call me a traditionalist, but I like a design with white stars on a blue background on the top of the uniform with red and white stripes on the bottom. But I’m not a stickler on this. It seems there are enough elements in the American flag to leave room for some creative designs. But don’t leave Old Glory out of the design altogether.

I’m not a marketing major, but it seems like your brand moniker should point to the product itself. I’m not sure what the gray sweat suits say to the world.

If stars and stripes and red, white and blue don’t scream America to the world, then that symbolism certainly does to the vast majority of us in the U.S. of A. And dare I say those symbols still tug at the heartstrings of many who live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It’s time to replace the Ralph Lauren mind-set with some good old Uncle Sam common sense. In trying to be fashionably relevant, we’ve made the stars and stripes that help define this country a bit irrelevant.

Let’s do more than raise the flag when we win. Let’s wear it over our hearts every time we compete. That’s a timeless statement that transcends fashion.  

  • Fans in stands had the best outfits
    I agree with what you are saying. I think the worst thing was that the uniforms were made in China!!!!!
  • Really?
    So, let me get this straight. It's not enough for our athletes to train for years, sacrifice their time with family, fight through injuries, travel the world to improve their skills, and in some cases, nearly go bankrupt in their pursuits to represent our country at the Olympics? Nope. According to Anthony Schoettle they need to make sure they wear the right shades of the red, white and blue. I guess our athletes aren't jingoistic enough for him. Hey, why don't our athletes tattoo the Constitution on their arms? That ought to do it. U.S.A! U.S.A! (Does Anthony realize he posted this on the IBJ and not his personal Facebook account?)
  • Toning down America
    I'm not sure, but it seems like there was discussion between the USOC and political figures to coordinate "toning down" patriotism so as not to "offend" other countries! It started when Obama took office and started apologizing for "our international behavior"!
    • Don't blame Obama
      Bob, the discussion of the "ugly American" is something that's gone on for decades, so you can't blame it on Obama. Fact is, whether we like it or not, folks in some other countries get really put off by nationalistic displays. Some of this is driven, of course, by historical experience with nationalism (e.g. Germany). I was listening to a BBC discussion today about how the Brits seems to be more outwardly patriotic during these games, whereas it was frowned upon previously.
    • Olympic Clothing
      The only uniform that I have a real problem with is those hideous gray things that they wear while accepting their medals. They look like POW clothing. Perhaps a different designer could be allowed a chance to compete in the next four years.
    • Red, White and Navy?
      Anthony, I was thinking the same thing. What's wrong with red, white and blue?
    • Red White Blue
      Maybe wife beaters and jean cut offs with red bandana for the men and jorts for the women. True Americana
    • Proper attire
      Team uniforms for our Olympians should A) Be manufactured in the United States. No exceptions. No excuses. B) Consist of a navy or royal blue top, emblazoned with "USA" in stylized Red block letters with white trim. For sports requiring pants or shorts, either navy, royal blue, or white. For sports requiring only shorts, same as above. A small American flag should adorn the uniform in a noticeable but otherwise inconspicuous place so as not to appear akward or forced. Example: On the track and field tops, over the left chest. On swimming shorts, on the left side. Warm up uniforms should consist of a whtie top and pants, with navy or royal blue and red stipe down the pant leg and warm up jacket top. "USA" emblazoned across the chest, a moderate-sized American flag on the left sleeve. On the back of the top, a smaller American flag near the top like those seen on some baseball uniforms, with the athletes name in navy or royal blue acorss the back. A navy or royal blue cap with a red "USA" in white trim shall be worn with the American flag on the back near the adjustable band. The USA shall under no circumstances, tone down or diminish in any way our national patriotism to placate other nations or in fear of "offending". For those who think displays of nationalism outside our own country are not practiced, please reference World Cup Soccer or Formula One racing for examples. Go USA!
    • Stop it
      I'm certain the corporations that underwrite the USOC and the athletes much prefer their logo to the American flag on uniforms. It's hard to argue since they're paying the freight. It's one of those privatization things and a consequence is forfeiting control of uniform design.

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    1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

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