Michael Phelps carries the flag of the United States during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)
Sofia Bekatorou carries the flag of Greece during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Matt Slocum / AP)
Luiza Gega carries the flag of Albania during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.
(Markus Schreiber / AP)
Mohammad Tawfiq Bakhshi carries the flag of Afghanistan during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Matt Slocum / AP)
Timo Boll carries the flag of Germany during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Matt Slocum / AP)
Luis Scola of Argentina carries the national flag during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Esteban Biba / EPA)
Sulaiman Hamad carries the flag of Saudi Arabia during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Matt Slocum / AP)
Nicole van der Velden leads the Aruba delegation during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Tatyana Zenkovich / EPA)
Jia Liu carries the flag of Austria during the opening ceremony.(Michael Sohn / AP)
The Cuban delegation enters the field during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(TATYANA ZENKOVICH / EPA)
The Ivory Coast delegation enters the field during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(TATYANA ZENKOVICH / EPA)
Athletes from South Korea enter the stadium during the opening ceremony.
(Markus Schreiber / AP)
Danish athletes take photos with their smartphones as they march into Maracana stadium.(Matt Slocum / AP)
Team China walks into the arena during the opening ceremony.(David Goldman / AP)
Team Burundi arrives during the opening ceremony.(Michael Sohn / AP)
Flag bearer Anna Meares carries the flag of Australia during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Paul Gilham / Getty Images)
Federica Pellegrini carries the flag of Italy during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Matt Slocum / AP)
Tyrone Smith carries the flag of Bermuda during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Matt Slocum / AP)
Team Azerbaijan enters the stadium during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Lars Baron / Getty Images)
Sergei Tetiukhin carries the flag of Russia during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)
Ana Sofia Gomez carries the flag of Guatemala during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Getty Images)
Team Austria takes part in the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal carries the flag of Spain during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.(Franck Fife / AFP/Getty Images)
Olympic style watchers take note: 2016 was the year the navy blue blazer and white trousers became the de facto dress code of the opening ceremony parade of nations. It’s a tried and true all-American look that, for at least one night, was adopted by delegations from Argentina, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Iraq, South Korea, Serbia and even Russia (the last of which might have out-prepped them all by outfitting the fellows in natty bowties).
Yes, at the opening celebration of an athletic event there were enough bangin’ colorblocked tracksuits to fill a Florida retirement community. And, yes, plenty of countries managed to put their own unique spin on the preppy staple – our favorites in that regard included Guatemala, which added the same woven pattern in the women’s ponchos to the lapels of the men’s blazers, and Austria, which paired the blue jackets with what appeared to be leather lederhosen.
But there were so many riffs on the navy blazer it seemed like one long blue blur in which Denmark (blue jackets and trousers for the men, blue blazers over red dresses for the women), Spain (blue blazers and red trousers for men, red blazers and blue trousers for women) and Bermuda (blue blazers and red Bermuda shorts for both) seemed to be staffing the exact same airport rental car counter.
There was so much navy blazer overload, by the time Team USA finally hit the field, the uber-preppy Polo Ralph Lauren uniforms were so last delegation. Making the Ralph Lauren outfits even more of a fashion fail was the fact that the much hyped electroluminescent jacket worn by flag bearer Michael Phelps looked like little more than 3M reflective tape to TV viewers. (As a general rule of thumb, each country – save the USA – would have been better served to dress everyone in their delegation like their flag bearer.)
There were some sartorial standouts in the sea of sameness, though. Among our favorites:
Croatia’s red and white checkerboard track jackets (which cribbed a pattern from the national flag), rivaled perhaps only by Norway’s jackets, which were a riotous pattern of red and blue camouflage that looked like it had been inspired by watching a hammerhead shark chase a boomerang.
As far as more upscale outfits, Barbados made a memorable entrance in blazing sun yellow blazers and cobalt blue trousers, Cambodia killed it in purple (purple peplum dresses for the women, purple button-front shirts and black trousers for the men) and Poland’s women’s uniforms, which consisted of white sleeveless tops worn under white blazers and paired with pleated skirts in a diaphanous swirl of pink and purple. (The Polish men, unfortunately, came out on the short end of the style stick thanks to salmon-colored trousers worn with what appeared to be pale blue blazers with dark blue arms.)
It hardly matters though, because long after the glow of Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic torch has faded, there will be one – and only one – fashion moment that will remain. And that’s the image of Brazilian-born supermodel Gisele Bundchen entering Maracana Stadium to the strains of “Girl from Ipanema” and walking, nay strutting, what seemed to be the entire length of the venue in a sequined column dress by Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch, a deep V neckline and a thigh-high slit that left the legs fully exposed.
If modeling was an Olympic sport, Bündchen’s Rio de Janeiro opening ceremony walk Friday night couldn’t have ended any place but the gold medal winner’s podium.
For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me @ARTschorn.