As that Quadrennial Summer Spectacle, the Olympiad, is near upon us, there has been quite a bit of grumbling coming out of Washington about the fact that our athletes will be wearing uniforms made, not in the good old U. S. of A., but in China.
This is, of course, something of an improvement over the uniforms for the 2002 Olympics, which were stitched up in Burma/Myanmar. That’s a country which, while making some progress of late, was then a completely repressive dictatorship that we the people should have been having no commercial truck with.
But to piss and moan about China, when I suspect that at any given moment about 99.99% of us are wearing at least one article of clothing made there (or in Vietnam, or Bangladesh, or someplace other than the Lower East Side), seems a bit over the top. Even though, of course, most of us harbor the sentiment that it would be better form to have the Olympic costumes made, like the Olympians themselves, here rather than there. Made with pride by members of the ILGWU, rather than someone in a Chinese sweatshop who may never have heard of the USA.
Still, my problem with the new unis is not so much where they’re made as what they look like. Even after I get by the fact that the goofy beret thing is somewhat reminiscent of the followers of Benito Mussolini , there’s something decidedly off-putting about seeing that gigantic Polo logo where I might have expected an American flag or the letters USA or the Statue of Liberty in goggles and a Speedo. But this? The outsized version of the old, discreet, tiny little polo guy that used to grace the front of Ralph Lauren’s ubiquitous polo shirts, back in the day when I used to occasionally wear a Ralph Lauren ubiquitous polo shirt.
This poke-in-the-eye-with-a-flag-pole polo logo?
It’s not as if polo’s an Olympic sport (although water polo is).
And it’s not as if polo’s even much of an American sport.
Yes, I know it’s played at the Myopia Polo Club, and other places where swells and toffs gather. But, I really don’t give a chukka about that. And, I say, old man, isn’t polo rather a British sport? Like cricket and fox hunting? Could this possibly be our tip of the helmet to England, which is hosting the current version of the Olympics?
Anyway, whatever motivated it, I find this excrescence pretty offensive.
Okay, I get that Ralph Lauren wants to make sure that his grand old logo, the emblem of the enterprise he loves, gets to fly high. But couldn’t he have been just a tad more subtle?
Next time around, will Olympic athletes be swaddled in ads, like NASCAR drivers?
Of course, there is another way of thinking here, and that’s that there could be no better way to represent our country than with an over-the-top, vulgar display of commercialism. After all, we’re a nation of brand-conscious strivers. And so what if the Ralph Lauren brand connotes the summer-in-Amagansett life-style of old-money, haute-WASPily perfect blue-eyed-blonds that all us Polo-wearers wish we could live. Where Mummy and Daddy dress for dinner at The Club. Where Trip has spent the day sailing while Mimsy perfected her backhand. Where Gram and Pops can still do a grand Lindy to String of Pearls before retiring for cucumber sandwiches (crustless on white bread) and G&T’s. (Just don’t let the Golden Retreivers start slurping those G&T’s.)
East Egg! Even West Egg! Don’t we all want to go to those hounds?
And how much more perfect the story gets when you consider that All-American billionaire Ralph Lauren was a kid from the Bronx named Ralph Lipschitz, born to immigrant parents from Pinsk.
Now that’s an American story worth telling.
But the outsized Polo/polo logo? I’m not buying it, let alone buying it.
I like a man in uniform as much as the next gal. Just not this uniform.