But for the summer games in Rio, Nike did the impossible: Not only do the Olympic uniforms feature some of the most advanced technology that Olympians have ever worn, but they’re also cute. (Yes, seriously!)
Not like that should come as much of a surprise, considering that Nike regularly leads the function-meets-function charge, but you’ll get to see it on an elite level come August 5, when every US soccer, basketball, and track and field competitor—along with all American medal winners taking to the podium—sports ultra-high-tech swooshed apparel.
“What we find is that [athletes] want to move faster and be free of distractions, so they can focus on competing and winning”
“Before designing any of the uniforms or kits, we talk to every athlete—and what we find is that they want to move faster and be free of distractions, so they can focus on competing and winning,” explains Michelle Miller, concept director for apparel at Nike. After spending hours and hours with the likes of Allyson Felix and Elena Delle Donne, who road-tested the apparel and shoes themselves, the design team hit the ground running with fashion-forward specs—and they didn’t hold back.
From glistening foil to customizable armholes, see the super-technical—and super-chic—Nike uniforms for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Medal Stand Outfits
There’s no prouder moment for an athlete than when she’s standing on the podium, ready to accept her medal at the Olympics. A wardrobe malfunction is not an option.
Luckily, Nike has literally thought of it all. Every medal-winning US athlete will sport the NikeLab Dynamic Reveal jacket and track pants, which are fully outfitted with breathable ventilation and lightweight mesh panels (read: no sweat marks).
It’s in, of all places, the sleeves where you really see both form and function come together brilliantly: Red and blue knit ribbons are revealed when the wearer is in motion. (Think Katniss Everdeen in the fire-filled dress—but safer of course.) It looks pretty, but it also serves a purpose. “The thing about medal stands is that you can have every [body type]—from a giant basketball player to a tiny gymnast—so you want the uniforms to look amazing on everyone,” explains Miller. “The best way we did that is through engineered knit—it has a beautiful structure, so it looks great, but it also has incredible mobility and flexibility to look good on every body type.”
You don’t have to be Rio-bound to get your hands on one of these, either: the jacket is available online (although the gold medal you’ll have to win yourself).
US Track & Field Athletes
The athletes competing in the track and field events will be wearing what Nike believes to be the most innovative uniform the sport has ever seen.
That’s thanks to some serious drag reduction technology—which doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re on a leisurely three-mile jog, but makes a world of difference when you’re gunning for a world record in the 400 meter sprint. Look closely at runners’ uniforms (like, real closely) and you’ll see innovative Nike AeroBlades, tiny fin-like blades that cut the wind around the athlete down significantly.
“We spent hundreds of hours of wind tunnel testing to determine the correct size and placement of these blades needed for optimal performance,” explains Miller. “They work so well in a sprint, they could be the difference between making the podium and not making the podium.”
US Soccer Athletes
The US women’s soccer team is undeniably dominant: They’re chasing their fourth Olympic gold medal (which, considering only five have been up for grabs for women, is pretty impressive) and trying to be the first country in history to win an Olympic gold medal the year after winning the World Cup. (Underachievers, right?)
So no surprise that such a decorated team inspired the Nike design crew to include a metal into the look: platinum.
The shirt and shorts have a vented design featuring metallic foil pinstripes, so the players will literally sparkle while sliding for the ball or jumping for a header.
That’s not the only high-tech accent to a seemingly classic uniform: The red and blue stripes that run down the length of the white shirt and shorts don’t just look cool, but also help the athletes keep their cool—they expand when the player is in motion, allowing supreme ventilation.
US Basketball Athletes
Basketball uniforms—especially for women—have never been known for being particularly innovative. (Or flattering, for that matter.) Which is why Nike rethinking the humble women’s jersey is actually pretty groundbreaking. In addition to a more lightweight and tailored silhouette that includes engineered mesh in high-sweat locations, the uniform features two armhole options—one that is a standard size and height, and another with a larger armhole to allow for a player’s custom fit preference.
That’s not all. The Team USA women’s players are then able to choose between two pairs of shorts: one with a traditional waistband placement (which is notoriously high-waisted for women—and not in the cool, normcore way), and one that has a lower rise, for those who prefer to wear their shorts at their hips.
The shorts also feature what Miller dubs the most comfortable band the players have ever worn, all designed sans drawstring. So in addition to being breathable and customizable, they stay put for the entirety of the game without cutting off circulation. (Where were these in my middle school basketball days?)
Another team of power players hitting the Olympics in style? The Fierce 5 US women’s gymnastics team.
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