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Olympic athletes to sport vintage-inspired style

Ralph Lauren and Nike, official suppliers for the Vancouver winter games, unveil unique and modern takes on winter staples, including vintage-inspired newsboy caps and down jackets with faded fabric prints.
/ Source: TODAY staff and wire

Ralph Lauren's affinity for Americana will be on full display on athletes at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia — complete with red, white and blue, stars-and-stripes flags and, of course, polo ponies.

Polo Ralph Lauren began its strategic unveiling of its outfits for athletes on Wednesday, with 100 days until the start of the games. The closing-ceremony parade outfit includes a mostly red and blue shawl-collar sweater with antique buttons, a newsboy cap, a plaid shirt for the men, and a navy ribbed turtleneck for the women.

Long-sleeve T-shirts with big bold graphics printed on the chest are part of the Olympic Village wardrobe, as well as white warm-up jackets with red and blue stripes down the sleeves and old-school alpine ski sweaters decorated with reindeer.

"We took a lot of inspiration from the 1930s games, reaching into the heyday of the Olympics and bringing to a more modern sensibility," said David Lauren, the company's senior vice president of advertising, marketing and communications.

During an Olympic fashion segment on TODAY on Wednesday, freestyle skiers Sho Kashima and Emily Cook modeled the closing ceremony outfits, including the vintage-inspired newsboy caps, cardigans, alpine boots and fleece pants.“We love it,” said Cook of the ensemble. “We’re so excited to be here to unveil the [looks].”

The company dressed the American athletes for the summer games two years ago and has signed on with the U.S. Olympic Committee through 2012 in London to provide ceremonial clothes as well as recreational looks. It's also creating the outfits for the Paralympic teams.

This sketch released by Polo Ralph Lauren shows the Village Wear design that the female U.S. Olympic athlete will wear while at the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.Polo Ralph Lauren

As far as performance uniforms during actual competition, Ralph Lauren isn't ready to get into that game yet because of the technical aspects of the clothes.

Many of the items are also available to the public, said David Lauren, who called the Olympics the "ultimate branding opportunity."

"There's an interest in what athletes are wearing, but what people really want is what's commemorative, so they can hold on to something that's a piece of history," he said.

At the Beijing games, Lauren said he was mistaken for an athlete in an elevator because he was wearing the same flag-bearing styles — the highlight of a memorable trip. "For one brief moment, I could put myself in the shoes of an Olympic athlete," he said. (His real talent, he joked, is "spectating.")

One-of-a-kind style
Nike also signed on as an official supplier for the winter games. Focusing on incorporating sustainable “considered design,” the sportswear giant will provide apparel and footwear for Olympians — for the competition, on the medal stand, and for wearing casually in the Olympic village. The company’s design team researched the variety of winter sports conditions the athletes are likely to encounter, from icy storms to heavy snow, and created fashionable modern looks that will also be available to the public at Niketown stores.

Nike unveiled the medal stand looks — blue waterproof down jackets — on short track speed skater J.R. Celski and snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler during the Olympic fashion segment on TODAY. The jackets featured 100 percent recycled fabric, 800-fill down insulation, and a unique faded fabric print that is customized for every single jacket.

“It’s all about warmth [and] comfort,” said Lisa Baird, chief marketing officer of the United States Olympic Committee of the outfits, which include knit hats. “Being  sporty and also looking great.”