From the first Olympic Games held in Ancient Greece in 776 B.C., athletes' attire has been recorded.
No longer do competitors wear the traditional athletic garment, a perizoma, a type of loincloth, nor do they compete in the nude as they did starting in 720 B.C. However, that might make for increased television ratings.
In the modern Olympic Games, television has enhanced the role of the opening ceremony. Viewers expect a spectacular show, and the design of uniforms worn by each country is one of the main topics commentators discuss. Over the years, the parade of nations into the Olympic stadium has become somewhat of a fashion show.
Athlete jackets from the 1932 (left) and 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid. (Photo provided)
During the 1932 Olympic Winter Games, the United States Olympic delegation was outfitted by A.G. Spalding. The jackets were designed using traditional American colors, and the athletes proudly walked into the Olympic stadium wearing cream-colored wool coats with red buttons and a blue belt. This was the standard color for the United States' parade uniforms with only a few variations made to the design for the next 36 years. It was not until 1968 in Grenoble, France that they wore colored parade coats (red). This was also the first time the Olympics were broadcast in color, and it was after these Games that the Winter Olympics became more popular in the United States.
Sportswear companies and fashion designers saw this as an opportunity to create the team uniforms worn for the opening ceremonies. On display in the museum, our visitors can see the parade coats worn by the United States Olympic team since 1932 and will see the emergence of the brand name starting with the 1980 Olympic Winter Games.
The 1980 uniforms were designed by Levi Strauss and the label was prominently placed on the breast pocket of the shearling jackets. The Levi's outfit has been described as having an "All-American" style complete with blue jeans, belt buckle and a cowboy hat. In addition to the opening ceremony uniforms, they also designed many of the team warm-up uniforms. It was at these Games that Levi's created a highly visible branding campaign and was selected to design the uniforms for the 1984 Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo as well.
Over the years, major sponsorship deals have been made with a variety of apparel companies to outfit the United States Olympic teams. For instance, Adidas, a German business, was selected to dress the athletes in navy blue wool coats when they marched into the Olympic stadium in Calgary, and the well-known American sportswear corporation, Champion created the purple 1994 Lillehammer parade coats. At the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 and the 2006 Torino Olympics, the Canadian company Roots made the uniforms and the beret-style hats that became a popular item, which fans purchased to show support for the U.S. Olympic team.
It has become common for companies to release the uniform designs prior to the Games. This provides an opportunity for the public to get excited about the upcoming Olympics and also gives consumers the chance to purchase the merchandise to make their own fashion statement. American Fashion Designer Ralph Lauren outfitted the U.S. Olympic team in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014. These patriotic uniforms complete with American flags and the colorful Olympic rings can be found on Ralph Lauren's website and are available for purchase along with several accessories. Unfortunately, most of the apparel has been sold out. The Opening Ceremony parade uniform worn by the United States team this past February is the only uniform the museum needs to complete the collection and update the display.
To learn more about fashion at the Olympic Winter Games and to see our collection of parade uniforms since 1932, please visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum on Main Street.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Ironman Sunday.
For more information about the museum, go online and see our Facebook page.