Team Pan-Am: Olympic Fashion Critique

I am going to preface this entire write-up by apologizing to anyone that will get offended by this post. This doesn’t reflect the sentiment of any company, corporation, family member, neighbor, or random person on the street. This is entirely my opinion, and should be reviewed objectively as such.

Original design by Ralph Lauren, image courtesy of Lansing State Journal

When the designs for the olympic outfits were released, I have to admit that I was quite shocked. Though some of my peers applauded to ‘fashionable’ blazer, the cute shoes, or whatever small accessory adorned the beret, a single word routinely popped up in my mind: Pan-Am. One major issue I have with this, is that there is no reason I should have this mental association. When I see the strong female athletes enter an olympic event, I should only see ‘Team America’ not ‘Team Flight Attendant’. That being said, there is nothing wrong with being a flight attendant: They are lovely and wonderful individuals, and modern flight attendant uniforms have come a long way since the Pan-Am era. However what marched into the London arena last night took me back to the days of Pan-Am, and not in a good way.

When I watch female athletes on television, I see role models who embody strength, grace, and determination. When I watched the mass of Americans enter the arena, I saw that image for a split second.

And then they zoomed in on the women. Image courtesy of Ecouterre

I guess what offends me most about this outfit, is that each item in the ensemble is reminiscent of a different piece from the Pan-Am uniform collection: the outfit recalls the circa summer 1981 skirt and beret, the circa 1975 neck tie, and the circa early 1980s Amrita Singh blazer. For an event which is meant to embody the pure determination of the athletes, I don’t want to envision my role models asking their male counterparts if they can them a drink or offer them airline peanuts. The uniform worn by these inspiring women should reflect diplomacy, grace, and a certain tastefulness that personifies the nature of the sport. Instead, some viewers like myself recalled an era of sexism.

On a separate note, to have Olympians march in outfits made by a company that takes its style notes from equestrian motifs I was especially annoyed to see that there was no mention of any equestrian competitors aside from Rafalca, no close-ups of equestrian competitors, and no mention that the equestrian event schedule…but that’s a separate gripe.

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