The fashionable uniforms of the 2012 Olympics

There’s a time and place for nationalism in fashion, albeit usually an ironic one that makes for a relevant statement. A perfect example: the U.S. flag-dress by D Squared that Ke$ha wore in V magazine. A terrible example: the dress Katy Perry wore for her Independence Day performance. We’re not even going there. But with the spirit of the Summer Olympic Games every leap year, we embrace a fresh and finite sense of national pride, adorning ourselves, and our fellow countrymen, in patriotic attire that otherwise would border on jingoism. Fortunately, countries have talented resources within the fashion community to design outfits appropriate to the opening ceremony, as well as the games themselves.

Unless you were living under a rock, or get all your news from Absolutely Fabulous, you know that the 30th Olympics game are being held in Londontown. With the British Empire at center stage, Stella McCartney — daughter of Sir Paul — has been called upon to design the team’s outfits. Stella teamed up with Adidas to produce 26 different uniforms. Drawing inspiration from the unifying icon of the Union Jack, she abstracted and interpreted the flag to make the uniforms relevant to each sport. Be it a bikini for swimmer or a singlet for weightlifters, the athletes possess an air of empowerment wearing them. Stella’s savvy sense of color tones down the palette, so that the clothes never overpower the person competing.

In Italy, Giorgio Armani — the ever-tanned suit designer — unveiled his Olympic uniform under his eponymous sports line, EA7. But don’t expect to see red, white and green stripes anywhere: This collection of 50 pieces is purely opening ceremony and après competition-wear to be worn around the Olympic Village. Armani has opted for the dark navy and white colors Italy has long championed in sporting events. Some may think it too subdued, but it’s completely chic and in step with the idiosyncratic ways di Italia.

And of course back home, Ralph Lauren is outfitting Team USA for the second games in a row. The inspiration this time around harks back to his well-treaded territory of 1930s high glamour. And before anyone takes jabs at the beret, there is something to be said for the uniformity it provides every athlete. Think friendly militant. The double-breasted blazers and white slacks would have given René Lacoste a run for his money — and he himself was an Olympic tennis veteran for France.

Smaller teams are also poised for chic and glory this go around; Jamaica’s outfits are designed by reggae royalty Cedella Marley, daughter of Bob, in collaboration with Puma — we detect a trend. And the size XS country of San Marino has Ferragamo to thank for outfitting its four lucky athletes in luxury linen during the ceremonies.

Of course, in any competition someone has to come in last place, which may be the case for España, whose outfits were donated by the Russian company Bosco. Cruel joke? ¡Ah, sí!

Photo credits: Harper’s Bazaar Brasil; Mark Zibert/Puma; Ralph Lauren