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The Polo Ralph Lauren 2016 U.S. Olympic collection: Four things to think about

Polo Ralph Lauren Team USA closing ceremony uniforms
U.S. Olympic team members, from left, Haley Anderson, Ryan Lochte and Jordan Burroughs, model the Polo Ralph Lauren closing ceremony outfits for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
(Polo Ralph Lauren)

With the kickoff of the 2016 Rio Olympics barely more than two months away, it’s time to start digging into the fashion spectacle that is set to unfold on the global stage in Brazil starting Aug. 5.

The official outfitter of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams (for the fifth time) is Polo Ralph Lauren, which has kind of become Olympic fashion’s early robin of springtime by unveiling its closing-ceremony uniforms at the 100-days-to-go mark on NBC’s “Today” show. Although that was the case this year as well, the big April 27 reveal had the misfortune of coming on the heels of Prince’s untimely death (April 21) and Beyoncé’s surprise album drop (April 23), and the Olympic threads (at least for us, anyway) got lost in the shuffle.

If you haven’t seen them yet, they’re pretty straight-forward preppy-meets-maritime summery looks that -- for men and women -- consist of white cotton twill shorts paired with blue-and-white horizontal-striped T-shirts. These are layered under polo-pony-emblazoned long-sleeve button-down oxford shirts in the athlete’s choice of red, white or blue and finished off with a striped poly/silk belt and boat shoes (both in combinations of red, white and blue). The outfits are so standard-issue American sportswear you might be hard-pressed to identify them as any kind of uniform at all -- but for the official Olympic patches and letters USA across the back.

The entire consumer collection can be checked out (shopped for) at www.ralphlauren.com and teamusashop.com (with royalties from sales of the Polo Ralph Lauren Team USA collection going to the United States Olympic Committee) but, if you’re pressed for time, here are our thoughts on some standout pieces.

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The Team USA closing ceremony boat shoe.
The Team USA closing ceremony boat shoe.
(Polo Ralph Lauren )

 1. The one piece to buy before the Fourth of July  

These colors don’t run --- and they won’t slip on a wet deck either. The red, white and blue color-blocked calfskin boat shoes with white soles and white rawhide laces that are part of the closing ceremony uniforms are our vote for a fun, if unexpected, way to add patriotic flair to an Independence Day weekend -- whether you’re boating or barbecuing. ($350)

2. The piece with the least-American backstory

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Although the red, white and blue striped belt cinching the uniform together is actually made right here in the USA --- as are the rest of the parade ceremony uniforms -- it has historical roots across the pond in Britain. (Note that we’re not bringing this up to carp, merely to share a fun fact.) The belt design was inspired by the silk repp necktie, the origin of which is described at the Ralph Lauren website: “The repp tie as we know it originated in England in the 1800s where it was worn and popularized in schools. Institutions adopted official colors that were featured prominently on the ties in contrasting stripes to identify where students came from, as well as their membership in certain clubs.” To be fair, the style has been part of the American menswear look for nearly a century -- ever since the snappy dressers of the Ivy League made it their own in the 1920s. ($98, currently available for pre-order.)

3. The piece that’ll likely get ruined first

We don’t have a problem with cotton twill shorts. We don’t even have a problem with cotton twill shorts that end well above the knee. But white cotton twill shorts that end above the knee? At a global sporting event? South of the equator? We have a better chance of beating sprinter Usain Bolt out of the starting blocks than a single pair of those shorts do making it out of the Olympic Village suitable for second wearing. Then again, because Tide parent company Procter & Gamble also happens to be an official Olympic sponsor, it’s not hard to see the marketing synergy of tucking a Tide to Go stain releaser pen into each pocket. ($98.50)

The Team USA hooded windbreaker.
The Team USA hooded windbreaker.
(Polo Ralph Lauren )

4. The piece everyone will (probably) be talking about

Of the items we’ve seen so far, the piece that will most likely get eyes rolling and teeth gnashing is a hooded Team USA zip-front nylon windbreaker that’s so bold and busy it’s likely to give you Sochi sweater flashbacks. The printed design includes a blue two-tone background -- light blue represents the surf and navy blue stands in for the sand -- with a spangling of white stars on a blue background at the right shoulder, a dizzying assortment of stylized red, white and blue beach umbrellas across the front, hood and arms, and a Rio cityscape unfurled across the collarbone. Those who might want to go the extra mile can accessorize their windbreaker ($495) with similarly emblazoned beach towels ($60), tote bags ($250), swim trunks ($125) and linen button-front shirts ($198).

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For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me @ARTschorn


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