London 2012: Will the Olympic Games be a stylish affair?

Composite image of uniforms

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With a little over four months until the "greatest show on earth" we now have a sense of how the London Olympics will look in fashion terms - from the Team GB kits to uniforms for torchbearers and other volunteers and a supporters' scarf.

Here Andrew Groves, course director in fashion design at the University of Westminster, casts a critical eye over the look of London 2012 so far.

"Reaction to the Team GB kit has revealed much about where the national mood is currently.

Whilst fashion writers have praised the exciting use of colour, pattern and cut in the designs, critics have said the kit looks too Scottish due to the prominence of shades of navy, turquoise and blue.

Perhaps they are merely voicing a deep-seated fear - as independence plays on the minds of the English - that the outfits are a visual manifestation of a perceived imbalance within the union towards the Scottish. The 'red' of England being little more than a decorative trim.

Elsewhere, the designers who created the mayor's ambassadors' uniform, the Games Makers' uniform and the torchbearers' uniform have produced at best mixed results.

A tracksuit is such an easy design brief it makes you wonder how they could get it so wrong.

However the launch of the Team GB kit marked a new high point in the increasing relationship between the worlds of high fashion and sportswear.

Stella McCartney's designs for Team GB

Athletes modelling Team GB kit The Team GB kit was met with positive comments from most of the athletes

Where Stella McCartney has excelled in her collaboration is in understanding how to create the perfect mix of sportswear functionality with fashion edge.

Since first collaborating with Adidas in 2004, Stella has shown she understands the mix needed to create directional fashion focussed sportswear that looks equally at home in the gym as it does in a club or on the street.

Her approach to design is so successful because she understands the demands and desires of the modern woman, underpinning this by addressing both the practical and the desirable.

Selecting her to design the Team GB kit was an inspired choice. Her range looks both modern and classic, addresses the needs of the athletes whilst also being highly appealing to a wider fashion audience.

Unlike the other uniforms that are part of the Olympic event, these designs are likely to become highly collectable in years to come.

Using blue as a dominant colour has received some negative coverage but as a designer you have to make the whole range cohesive.

This is done by choosing a main colour and having accent colours, which is what Stella has done with the red, otherwise you effectively end up being wrapped in the flag.

Her use of the union flag has also drawn some criticism but it is such an iconic image that people are always going to have strong views about how it's treated.

Games Maker uniform

The Games Maker uniform that will be worn by about 70,000 volunteers and 6,000 Locog staff and the technical officials uniform which will be worn by about 4,500 Technical Officials The Games Makers uniforms: Beige slacks - yes or no?

Beige slacks. No-one looks stylish in beige slacks. However, out of all the uniforms released so far these are the most stylish, or to be more precise the least offensive. However there do seem to be some odd ideas with the colour coding epaulettes.

The different-coloured epaulettes are designed identify specific groups, with white for medical staff, red for team leaders and green for anti-doping personnel.

But it's hard to understand why the Olympic committee felt people would need to be able to identify anti-doping personnel at a distance. Perhaps so they could run in the other direction?

Olympic supporters' scarf

Swimmer holds a Team GB supporters' scarf There are two designs of supporters' scarves which feature hearts and stars

This is really quite underwhelming in terms of design. They have played safe with a retro appeal based on the last time the Games were in London in 1948.

However what lets down both designs is the inclusion of so many different logos and branding fighting for attention, which ultimately makes the scarves too fussy to be considered chic.

I don't think people will buy it. I can't see men wearing it and I just don't know who will wear it. The mittens for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games were a bit of fun but this is just a scarf. It's all a bit lost on me.

Torchbearer uniform

Torchbearers in uniforms The all-white torchbearer uniforms received a less than favourable response

On paper this sounds exciting. The primary colour of the uniform is white with gold shards accenting the energy of the Olympic flame at the shoulder and neckline.

Multiple gold shards are used at the elbow to focus the eye on the arm, with a final shard continuing down to the cuff and the hand holding the torch.

Each time the Olympic flame is exchanged between two torchbearers, the gold shard motifs on the uniforms connect the torchbearers visually as the lines link together.

However, in reality, wearing white head to toe is a very hard look for most people to carry off and look stylish in.

The white top seems to be see-through which will no doubt cause all sorts of issues with undergarments such as bras and vests being visible, as well as care labels.

There is a danger the polyester torchbearer uniform will make the individuals look like they are part of a government healthy-living initiative rather than amazing people that have been chosen for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of being an Olympic torchbearer.

Designing sportswear uniforms that need to be comfortable, fit all shapes and sizes, worn by all ages is a difficult brief. But for a country known for its visionary fashion designers and style that is exported throughout the world it seems like a lost opportunity that some of this couldn't have been opened up via a competition to encourage the very best young designers to be part of the Games.

I would have loved to have seen either Christopher Bailey at Burberry or Paul Smith design these uniforms. Both designers would have successfully addressed the brief and delivered uniforms that would have been both utterly British and utterly stylish.

Team London Ambassadors

Team London Ambassadors Dressed in pink and purple the Team London Ambassadors will be easy to spot

The graphic panelling and challenging colour palette shows that the designers were trying to push for a more modern and contemporary vision for this uniform.

Whilst partially successful, it also seems indicative of a lack of confidence in a more traditional colour palette of red white and blue that could have looked modern, contemporary and graphically strong. However what totally lets this uniform down is the straw trilby.

The headgear, which seems more reminiscent of a hat worn for lawn bowls, looks like a last minute addition and totally out of keeping with the rest of this uniform. It feels like someone was worried that the ambassadors wouldn't be visible from a distance.

Whilst the hat definitely does that, it doesn't do anything to make the wearer an ambassador for British style."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    The fashion critics rave over it, but the majority of the general public hate it. Somewhat on the lines of "The operation was a total success, except for the patient's death"

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Why are the English complaining about a lack of red? During the games the (London-centric) media will constantly refer to the British team as the English team, as will foreign spokespeople....isn't that enough?

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    From the Olympic stands the crowd cheer and say:

    Oh - whos that in lane 6, which country do they represent? Britain really, Oh , why aren't they wearring the Union Jack then? Maybe they want to take the games back to the bygone days when athletes came from all over the world to represent themselves and not their countries? Maybe they're ashamed of being British and wish it was that way?

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    It's blue and white - no red. That's Scottish not British - which makes sense for a McCartney.
    I get the distinct impression that there are a lot of people involved who are far too scared to stand up and say "it's rubbish".

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    I couldn't give a monkeys. 12 billion quid at a time where petrol is up at £1.55 here, is going up by another 3p. where wages are fixed but inflation has been 5% where taxes are rising, jobs are falling. i really really can give less than a monkey's twaddle about some pampered subsidised prima donna sportman's fancy dress is like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    @ 134. ravenmorpheus2k

    "There was nothing wrong with the previous design on the outfits the athletes wore. And at least you could instantly recognise they were wearing the Union Jack."

    Have you actually looked at the previous kits? Most were mainly white with blue and red stripes, they did not look like the flag at all and had about the same amount of red as the current one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.


    The welsh flag was never incorporated into the union flag, its just the St Andrew Cross, St George Cross, and St Patrick Coss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Looks like they have dropped England in favour of Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    even as a Scotsman, I do not think there's enough Red.

    Not just because of 'England' (it's not all about whether it's to 'Scottish' for England to like it)

    But what about the RED Welsh and N. Irish flags? Are they to be neglected by poor colouring too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Distraction and hype, with little impact on anything. Will make good money for cherry-picked designers and be completely forgotten the moment the Games are finished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    @131.kthulhu - if it ain't broke don't fix it. There was nothing wrong with the previous design on the outfits the athletes wore. And at least you could instantly recognise they were wearing the Union Jack.

    Seems to me this is just an exercise in wasting money - unfortunately it's tax payers money being wasted.

    But hey, we're all in it together and must tighten our belts to pay for this...

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    The Designs are fine and look quite stylish, but the lack of English RED is conspicuous by its absence!

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Must admit to feeling rather queasy when I saw the hideous pink/whatever
    colour some of the photographs showed.
    As other comments have mentioned-when the logo was first revealed--
    supposed to represent 2012[?] I shuddered to imagine whatever would be coming next.Now we know- horrible outfits,hideous red thing next to the main stadium,Coe being useless-except at making money from

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    No matter what the kit looks like, no-one is satisfied. Witness the usual 'typical Brit awfulness' and 'every other country will be laughing at us' assertions.

    Gazing into my crystal ball, I'll wager that there'll be a few minor hiccups during the games - experienced at every olympics - but they'll no doubt be held up as bringing 'shame' and showing how truly terrible this country is.


  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    I do like the look of the kit - even without the is such a shame though that the small "red stripe" when shown on the Left hand side is in the wrong position.
    We must be the only country in the world that doesn't even recognise the design of our own flag and most of us can't even tell when it is upside down!!! Broadcasting our ignorance worldwide too...nothing short of embarrassing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Mostly looks ok, but not sure how the medical team will look after 5 minutes on the track at the BMX, kneeling down next to patient in beige trousers...

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Well Jessica Ennis looks hot in it so I'm happy enough :-)
    No need to get stressed about this, it will be forgotten soon enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    @112 'ColadadelCid'.


    Excellent post, made me smile. Furthermore, I think Greece should hold the Olympics in perpetuity.

    No more corrupt, fake, expensive deals for each country. The Olympic ideal is lost and only attracts ... well, what would you call them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    given that we're all irresponsible binge drinkers now, shouldn't Ms McCartney have chosen colours which blend in with vomit?

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Who cares what the athletes wear!!!!

    The olympics should be about sports not fashion!!!

    Team GB will hopefully do really well

    Jess is my hero


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