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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Fashion sense: How different countries decide their outfits

A look at some of the unique uniforms that different countries will sport at the Tokyo Games.

Written by Shashank Nair |
Updated: July 23, 2021 5:13:56 pm
At these Games, the Czech Republic contingent will sport uniforms that have been designed by Zuzana Osakaa (Source: AP)

The opening ceremony of the Olympics is usually an opportunity for countries to show off their athletes and culture. The uniforms worn on the occasion are the best way to portray national colours on a global platform. The Indian Express takes a look at some of the unique uniforms that different countries will sport at the Tokyo Games.

Modrotisk and its Asian connection

At the 2012 London Games, the Czech Republic athletes turned out in neon blue umbrellas and Wellington boots. For the Rio Games in 2016, their fashion choice was the white and black stripes that treated television viewers to their own version of the Doppler Effect.

At these Games though, the Czech Republic contingent will sport uniforms that have been designed by Zuzana Osaka. Osaka is a prominent designer in modrotisk, a method of blueprint dyeing that involves stamping patterns into cotton cloth and then dyeing it in certain colours. Modrotisk was given protective status by UNESCO in its Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2018 following a joint bid by the Czechs, Austria, Hungary, Germany and Slovakia.

The reason for Modrotisk being such a prominent part of the Czech ensemble is that the original method was created in Asian countries like India, Indonesia and – not surprisingly – Japan, countries where indigo trade was part and parcel of life.

Vegan designer for Liberia

For the Tokyo Olympics, Liberia is sending five track and field athletes. One of those, Emmanuel Matadi, heard about the rare bags designed by American-Liberian vegan designer Telfar Clemens and had the idea to contact him and suggest that he come up with the country’s uniform for the Olympics.

Clemens is an upcoming designer who gained prominence after creating a vegan leather tote bag dubbed the ‘Bushwin Birkin’. The bag is known for being extremely hard to get, despite Clemens’ best efforts to democratise who buys his products.

Clemens, who had never designed any athletewear previously, ended up making 70 pieces of different clothing like sweats, unitards, duffel bags and track spikes – all adorned with the Liberian flag and Telfar’s logo, according to Vogue magazine, which has already dubbed Liberia’s uniforms ‘the coolest’ at these Olympics.

Denim for Canada & USA

Not all countries are being appreciated for their fashion sense. Canada’s Olympic wear is an attempt to bring denim jackets back in vogue. The jackets are embroidered with graffiti that is meant to reflect popular culture in Japan. Hudson Bay, which designed the Canadian team outfits, is aware of the ridicule their clothes are currently earning. Lucia Kinghorn, a vice-president of the brand, was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying, “For as many naysayers, we have even more fans. We’re proud of the thoughtful design behind Team Canada’s clothing and happy that so many people are talking about it.”

Team USA has also chosen to wear denim and the Ralph Lauren-designed clothes are being questioned considering the hot weather in Japan and whether denim is a good idea in these conditions.

Online voting for Mexico

The Mexican Olympic Committee and ‘High Rise’, a designer label, decided to hold an online competition to decide what popular national aesthetic would represent the Mexican team at the Olympics. The final result was some traditional Zapotec embroidery on the lapels as well as suits featuring embroidery by the women from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, according to

This was done for the opening ceremony and was part of three options that High Life provided the people of Mexico to vote on.

Japan looks back at 1964

In a reference to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where the Japanese dress code was red tops and white bottoms, the Japanese athletes at Friday’s opening ceremony will wear the same clothes, with a reversal in colours – that is white tops and red bottoms. The colours were meant to represent the Japanese flag at the time.

This will also be the first time Japanese label Aoki, sponsors for the Tokyo Olympics, have made designs that are tailor-made for both the Olympics and Paralympics teams of Japan.

Paralympic archer Ueyama Tomohiro spoke to the Olympic Channel about how important it was for para-athletes to get custom-made clothes. “During the Opening Ceremony when you’re wearing a suit in a wheelchair, the sleeves get dirty because of the tyres”, Ueyama said. “But the sleeves have been adjusted for the uniform I’m wearing so they stay clean, which is great.”

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