The Tokyo Olympics officially kicked off on Friday, and with no audience in the stands the atmosphere was understandably subdued. Still, athletes really showed out for the parade of nations, the world’s most geographically diverse runway show.
Some of these 204 countries — not the least of which includes Argentina — brought the party with them. Others not so much. Here you’ll find the 10 best and 10 worst of what this year’s Olympic delegations had to offer fashionwise.
THE 10 WORST FASHION MISSES
Appropriation controversy up front. El País reporting initially claimed that Colombia’s Japanese-inspired garment isn’t culturally appropriative because it won’t be “commercially available.” Whether or not that line of argument works for you, La República reported today that the designer has backtracked and will in fact be producing it for the public to buy. Amazing hats aside, it’s a miss for Colombia this time around.
These windbreakers look like they were worn by a Rainforest Cafe employee in 1998, but I’m told that the ‘90s are back so I won’t fault anyone for loving these froggy green jackets.
There’s no single detail about these outfits that I can pinpoint which offends me so much, but the effect overall is just so wrong. It’s the “name one thing in this photo” of uniforms.
Not that green and gold can’t look good together, but this neon yellow meets spruce green color-blocking leaves me with so many questions I don’t actually want answered. I’m a huge Sam Kerr fan but unless the team is planning a rebrand I don’t think I’ll be repping a Matildas jersey anytime soon.
The category is: paper cups. But at least openly gay swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen (seen below) was a Finnish flag-bearer.
Black on black? The Albanians look like a squad of the world’s most athletically gifted nightclub bouncers.
The varying shorts/trouser lengths and shirt fits are really throwing me off here. Depending on the inseam, the aesthetic seems to be either mid-aughts backup dancer or Adam Sandler by way of your local bowling alley.
The COC made a splash earlier when they revealed their Canadian tuxedo closing ceremony uniforms, which are terrible in their own right, but as someone who has grown up in Canada I’ve been terrorized for decades by this red and white apparel that seems to get lazier in its designs every four years.
With plain white T-shirts that simply read “Team Romania” in all caps, it’s not that Romania didn’t understand the assignment but that they forgot their assignment at home and had to stop at the local one-hour T-shirt printing store on their way to the venue. Go girl, give us nothing!
Normally I think the worst thing that fashion can be is boring, but the Belgian delegation has proved me wrong. There’s maximalism done right, and then there’s ... whatever this is. I’m trying to have a sense of humor about it, but I don’t think this fabric would sell at even Dan Flashes.
Emerging from a sea of navy blazers and tan chinos that are so popular every Olympics, a few countries really stand out.
THE 10 BEST FASHION HITS
10. Saudi Arabia
It’s not uncommon in these ceremonies for the women’s outfits to get more creative than the men’s, and this delegation is no exception. The embroidered green sleeves are absolutely gorgeous and really stand out against the neutral palette.
The combination of black, blue and white is so crisp. Lesotho may be a tiny delegation, but their style far outshines their South African neighbors.
Many countries opted for suits, but some wore it better than others. Algeria looked like their jackets and trousers were perfectly tailored, whereas a lot of other delegations ended up resembling a team of flight attendants.
Gold lamé. A cape! If it’s go big or go home, everyone else is going home.
The Malaysian delegation uses primary colors spectacularly, and I appreciate the geometric pattern being printed on different things from the hats to the trousers so that the athletes aren’t all wearing exactly the same thing, but everything’s in harmony.
If the opening ceremony was that viral Cannes meme, then Seychelles is the beloved Bill Murray of this Olympic procession. There was no shortage of Hawaiian shirts in this parade however, so they do have some stiff competition.
4. Vanuatu, and honorable mention to Tonga
We’re huge fans of shirtless Tongan flag bearer Pita Taufatofua, and honestly after three Olympic appearances it wouldn’t be the opening ceremonies without him. This year however the Vanuatu flag bearer, a rower named Riilio Rii, also made a huge splash on social media — and not for his gorgeous grass skirt.
Flagbearer Noor Yusuf Abdulla was single-handedly carrying the Bahraini delegation.
It’s obvious that I’m partial to countries that play with traditional designs rather than just throwing on a pair of chinos and a blazer, but tell me Haiti’s quadrille dresses aren’t absolutely show-stopping.
One of the smallest delegations, but easily my favorite. Tuvalu really stands out with their original designs and fresh flower crowns in an outfit that could only have been painstakingly put together by hand. Isn’t that the essence of haute couture?
AND FINALLY ...
Since Outsports is based in the U.S., I will say that the American uniform was really uninspired. I love a preppy moment, and Ralph Lauren is once again behind the design, but the latest outfit might as well have been algorithmically generated based on everything RL has made the past couple of decades. Certainly it’s not the worst US opening ceremony fit — that honor belongs to the Roots design disaster of Athens 2004 — but it’s totally lacking the charm of 1992 for example with the blue and red overcoats.