The U.S. Olympic Committee forged a partnership with Ralph Lauren to design the uniforms that our representative athletes will wear for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in London this August. Ralph Lauren just recently rolled out the 2012 Olympic collection, and the opening ceremony outfits are causing a bit of a stir.
Firstly, there are a few folks complaining that the overall feel of the uniforms, and the berets in particular, isn’t very patriotic. I don’t know that I’d say the outfits (the ladies’ skirts and shoes especially, yikes) are exactly my favorite thing I’ve ever seen, but I totally get the classic, vintage idea of it. Ralph Lauren is an iconic American brand; they’ve been designing outfits of over-the-top collar-poppin’ preppiness for ages, and they’ve always demonstrated a solid penchant for anglophiliac, old-school campus-inspired influences — I think the duds are actually pretty appropriate for London. This isn’t about practicality, it’s about high fashion and letting Ralph Lauren show off their brand. This is a privately-funded endeavor, and as long as there are no midriffs or Che Guevara emblems or whatever showing, I say let the Olympic Committee dress up the athletes how they like.
But the real outcry of outrageous outrage is coming from the fact that the outfits weren’t manufactured in America. Please, spare us:
Reid, D-Nev., made the remarks following reports that China has already taken gold from America by manufacturing the uniforms Team USA will wear during the opening ceremonies.
“I think the Olympic Committee should be ashamed,” Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. He said they should “burn” the current uniforms, and would rather America’s athletes wear shirts with “USA” hand-painted on them. …
“And they should be wearing uniforms made in America,” Pelosi said.
Boehner, meanwhile, said: “You’d think they’d know better.” …
The company, in a statement, said the outfits aim to embody “the spirit of American athleticism and sportsmanship.”
Reality check: Americans don’t make clothing anymore, we just design it. 98 percent of clothing purchased in the United States is imported from abroad. Check your clothes, ’cause all of them likely carry an overseas label. And why is the fact that we don’t do everything in the United States — in other words, that we have an advanced and specialized economy — supposed to be a bad thing? Of course, our political leaders won’t say this, lest they appear “unpatriotic” (heaven forbid they stand up against the populist “buy American” fallacy that in practice can be a detractor to economic growth).
Maybe this is supposed to be a about some misplaced sense of “pride,” but sorry, I’m damn proud of our economy and of our ability to compete and cooperate in a global market. I actually agree with Harry Reid on one point: It would be kind of awesome if our athletes just wore “USA!”-emblazoned t-shirts and walked in to the ceremonies while fist-pumping. But, these situations do require a certain level of decorum out of respect for the other attendees and the gravity of it all, and these uniforms definitely communicate that.
Honestly, you could just as well argue that President Obama is at all times the chief representative of the United States — I didn’t hear Harry Reid saying we should burn Obama’s Canadian-made Ground Force One bus last summer, and that was paid for with tax dollars.