|Ryan Lochte (Swimmer) in Ralph Lauren|
The choice of Ralph Lauren is an interesting one because its aesthetic has always been "preppy" (NB: American Prep is synonymous with the "Sloane Ranger" in UK") and its clothes out of the price range of most people. By donning these uniforms, Team USA is projecting an image of America that only a select privileged cadre of people actually experience. I know everyone summers in the Hamptons now but really? What message does this send to the plethora of other groups in the United States that count themselves proudly as Americans? Is this all about style and no substance?
Canadian athletes were first dressed by Roots Canada Limited for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Roots, founded in 1973, began making leather footwear in Toronto. The brand has since widened its reach to luggage, fashion accessories and active wear that all evoke a specific image of life in the Canadian wilderness. It is an image that the founders created based on their own camping adventures in Algonquin Park. So, think beavers, canoes, log cabins, and plaids worn by burly lumberjacks. Think cozy. Think rustic. In 1998, the company gained international exposure with those red felt poor boy caps. Remember those?! I remember being on a 4 week wait-list to buy our hats! Those red hats and patch-covered letterman jackets were a phenomenon and skyrocketed a moderate sized Canadian retailer to global stardom overnight. They were even making Olympic kits for Team USA (2002 & 2004) and Britain (2002). Scandalous! Do all Canadians camp? No. But, the symbols Roots collected in their vision of "Canada" were relatively benign. And it's hallmark items are all made here. More importantly, Roots' overall style is much more low-key, which is something with which Canadians can relate. Roots has been unabashed about the "I love Canada" ethos behind their brand and consumers have happily bought into that.
|The ubiquitous red felt cap Image from roots.com|
|Andy Murray, Tennis|
I have always been a big fan of the Roots Olympic gear, and I will wear my 2002 Salt Lake City Games merch with pride at the Olympics this year. (I mean, it's still the same country, right? It's not like they changed the name or anything. This whole buying new gear every Olympics thing is firmly overrated. I'm going retro and cheap. There's a recession on! End of aside.)
My big bugbear with the Canadian Olympic Committee is that they have disastrously given the official-clothing-maker contract to the Hudson's Bay Company, a company which couldn't possibly sound more Canadian, but is in fact owned by American Target.
|Fits like a glove|
So sign me up right there next to the congressmen making a fuss about Ralph Lauren's athletics wear being made in China. The Hudson's Bay Company doesn't come close to representing "Canadianity" in the same way that Roots does. Plus their lame red maple leaf mittens are no where as cool as the Roots beret in its heyday.