Polka dots, floral trousers and tiger stripes: The best Olympic kits of all time

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 (adidas via Getty Images)
(adidas via Getty Images)

Given that we’ve had to wait an extra year for the Olympic games due to the pandemic, it’s safe to say that excitement levels for Tokyo 2020, which begins on Friday, are high.

This is despite the fact that there have been several controversies surrounding the games, such as the fact that 60 per cent of Japanese people wanted it cancelled, while a ban on spectators has dampened the mood for some.

Nonetheless, there is still plenty to look forward to for Tokyo 2020, like the Olympic uniforms, which never fail to disappoint.

Every year, different countries take the opportunity to champion national pride by enlisting a local designer to create their uniforms.

This year, the Team GB kit was designed by Adidas, while previous kits have been created by Stella McCartney, who designed the kits for the 2012 and 2016 games. Ben Sherman has been enlisted to design the team’s opening ceremony outfits.

But there have been many notable sartorial contributions from designers around the world in recent Olympics history.

From Canada’s tropical swimsuits in 2004 to Russia’s Balenciaga-esque ensembles in 1992, here are the best Olympic kits of all time.

Canada 1972

Munich 1972, opening ceremony (Walt Disney Television via Getty)
Munich 1972, opening ceremony (Walt Disney Television via Getty)

The Canadian team really went for it for the Munich 1972 games with their opening ceremony looks, which comprised white top hats with scarlet feathers, crimson blazers, blue waistcoats, and - wait for it - giant collared red and white polka dot shirts. All teamed with a simple pair of white trousers, it really was quite the look.

France 1976

Montreal 1976, opening ceremony (Alamy Stock Photo)
Montreal 1976, opening ceremony (Alamy Stock Photo)

You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a scene straight out of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (remember Fleur Delacour and the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic from France?) but in fact, it is the French team’s uniform for the Montreal games. The delegation wore powder blue skirt suits with matching capes and round-brimmed hats.

Great Britain 1976

Montreal 1976, opening ceremony (Getty Images)
Montreal 1976, opening ceremony (Getty Images)

In a playful twist, Team GB decided to represent the Union Jack flag with their ensembles for the opening ceremony of the Olympics in 1976, with the men wearing blue suit jackets, ties and khaki trousers, while the women wore red skirt suits with white scarves.

Russia 1992

Barcelona 1992, opening ceremony (AFP via Getty Images)
Barcelona 1992, opening ceremony (AFP via Getty Images)

No, that isn’t a shot of the latest Vetements or Balenciaga show at Paris Fashion Week, it’s actually the Russian team at the 1992 Olympics opening ceremony in Barcelona. These boxy red and blue trench coats would make for perfect autumn/winter 2021 garb, particularly paired with those matching fedoras.

Canada 2004

Athens 2004, Canadian synchronised swimmers (Getty Images)
Athens 2004, Canadian synchronised swimmers (Getty Images)

Synchronised swimming is renowned for its glamorous costumes, but these tropical ones from the Canadian team at the 2004 games in Athens wouldn’t go amiss at a beach party in Mallorca. We’re big fans.

Japan 2004

Athens 2004, opening ceremony (Getty Images)
Athens 2004, opening ceremony (Getty Images)

For the Athens games, the Japanese team packed a fashion punch in their colourful Cath Kidston-esque coats, which were covered in bright blooms and worn with pink, green and yellow hats. However, it was their accessories that really took the sartorial biscuit: circular fans that matched the team’s colourful hats. Now that’s co-ordination.

Malaysia 2012

London 2012, opening ceremony (AFP via Getty Images)
London 2012, opening ceremony (AFP via Getty Images)

For the London games, the Malaysia team chose a vibrant orange and yellow two-piece to wear to the opening ceremony that featured ankle-skimming skirts covered with tiger stripes and silk knee-length jackets.

Germany 2014

Winter Olympics, Russia, 2014 (Bongarts/Getty Images)
Winter Olympics, Russia, 2014 (Bongarts/Getty Images)

Who doesn’t love a multi-coloured puffer jacket? Better yet, who doesn’t love one when it’s worn with a pair of bright vintage-inspired red floral trousers and matching beanie hats? The German team really cemented their status as Olympic fashion champions in the 2014 winter Olympics with these outfits.

Great Britain 2016

Rio 2016, promotional shot of Stella McCartney with Team GB athletes (adidas via Getty Images)
Rio 2016, promotional shot of Stella McCartney with Team GB athletes (adidas via Getty Images)

It was the second time Stella McCartney had been chosen to design Team GB’s kit, and she didn’t disappoint. For the Rio 2016 games, the British fashion designer created an array of blue, red and white ensembles to match the Union Jack flag as part of her partnership with Adidas, whom she has been working with to create activewear since 2004.

USA 2021

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For Tokyo 2020, the US team has chosen Ralph Lauren to design its kit. The heritage American label has created state-of-the-art wearable technology for the athletes, which features a a self-regulating temperature cooling device. As for the clothes themselves, it’s classic all-American, with striped navy-blue tops, collegiate blazers, and white polo tops.

Japan 2021

Paralympians and Olympians from the Japan team pose in their delegation uniforms for Tokyo 2020 (The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Imag)
Paralympians and Olympians from the Japan team pose in their delegation uniforms for Tokyo 2020 (The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Imag)

The Japanese athletes have been clad in red and white outfits to match the Japanese flag for Tokyo 2020. For the women, this is made up of a full scarlet skirt and a white blazer and shirt, while the men are wearing red trousers. The uniform was made by Aoki, one of the largest retailers in Japan. The uniforms worn by the torchbearers at the opening ceremony are similar, only they’re made from recycled plastic bottles collected by Coca-Cola.

German Gymnastics Team

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The German gymnastics team have debuted the full-length unitards they will be wearing for the Tokyo games in protest of sexualisation in the sport. Athletes Elisabeth Seitz, Kim Bui, Pauline Schaefer and Sarah Voss posed in their their new fuschia and black outfits in an Instagram post shared by Seitz of them practising on Thursday 22 July.

It comes after the German Gymnastics Federation (DTB) confirmed in April that its athletes were standing against “sexualisation in gymnastics” by wearing full-lenght outfits as opposed to regular leotards that have traditionally been worn in the sport. At the time, the team said: “Our girls want to be role models for young gymnasts and show them how they can present themselves differently without feeling uncomfortable about certain elements.”

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