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Gold-medal-bad Olympic uniforms

Posted by Christopher Shea  February 24, 2010 11:51 AM

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The results are in: blogger Rob Walker ("Murketing") awards the gold medal for bad Olympics-uniform design to--the American snowboarders. To be sure, he was not the only one to raise an eyebrow at those snowpants fashioned to look like well-worn jeans and the red-white-and-blue hoodies evoking early-'90s grunge style.

Just for starters, Walker notes that the hoods are "completely superfluous, and in fact probably counterfunctional." (They presumably create wind resistance and may even impinge on peripheral vision.) "If there's a more pure example of conformity trumping practicality, I can't think of it," he writes. "Oh, wait, sure I can: phony-holed jeans." Cynics might describe expensive distressed jeans and grunge-plaid as a hipster-slacker uniform; the snowboarders managed to make that gibe literally true.

The subject of Rob Walker's ire (and of rolled eyeballs nationwide)

What were they thinking? Walker quotes the "vice president of creative" at Burton, the snowboarding company that provided the uniforms:

The inspiration behind the U.S. Snowboarding Team outerwear for the 2010 Olympics is classic Americana, Although we are creating a uniform, our first objective is to express the individuality of snowboarding. As such, we are taking vintage American looks and interpreting them in a very unique and unexpected fashion. ... The result will be a progressive and fresh look that challenges the former conservatism of the Olympics.

Writes Walker: "Yes, nothing challenges conservatism like classic-ness. I look forward to the overthrow of reactionary footwear by way of penny loafers. Burton penny loafers."
The calculated bogus rebelliousness of the design (can uniforms be rebellious, anyway?) makes Walker all the more appreciative of the style sense of the Norwegian curlers, who simply found some outlandish golf pants online (at Loudmouthgolf.com) and ordered them. "No 'vice president of creative' required," Walker writes.

Those stylish (if loud) Norwegians
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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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