‘Cancel the Olympics’: fashion outcry as Canada brings back jean jackets for Tokyo

For sports fans, there are many reasons to be thankful that the Tokyo Olympics look like they will take place – a year late – despite concerns about coronavirus: the chance to see supreme athletes compete at the highest level, an opportunity to deliver your definitive opinion on the Montenegro water polo team and marvel at the proxy superpower struggle at the top of the medal table. But the biggest treat of all could happen on the final night of the Games when the Canadian team walk out for the closing ceremony.

The athletes will be clad in graffiti-splashed denim jackets that would have been very current at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona or on Degrassi Junior High at its peak, but haven’t quite passed muster among 21st-century critics on social media.

“I am screaming. This is Canada’s closing ceremony fit. Cancel the Olympics,” noted one user on Twitter before conceding the denim explosion was “badass”. Another user noted: “Jean Jackets. I wish I was joking.”

New York Times culture writer Dave Itzkoff, meanwhile, was reminded of another Canadian phenomenon. “This is the gang that comes after you if you say you tried watching Schitt’s Creek but couldn’t get into it,” he tweeted.

The Canadian uniforms were released in August last year but they have been picked up in all their glory this week as Team USA released its rather more conservative Ralph Lauren effort.

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The design team behind the uniforms, Hudson Bay, explained the thinking around the jean jackets during the original release in August. “Tokyo is also known for its street art and fashion. We paid tribute to this in the must-have piece of the Collection – the forever cool jean jacket,” they said. “The graffiti graphic and unexpected patch placements capture a youthful and celebratory feel.”

Canada has gone freestyle with its Olympic outfits before. At the 1972 Munich Olympics they walked out in wide brim hats and polka dots. They subsequently failed to win any gold medals at the following two Games.

Team uniforms have often proved interesting. At the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, the Russian team turned up in costumes that appeared to be borrowed from 1930s private eyes. And this year’s hosts, Japan, were the perpetrators in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics when they wore rainbow capes in tribute to the city’s “carefree nature and the city’s deep blue sky”.

• This article was amended on 15 April 2021. An earlier version suggested that the 1992 Winter Olympics were held in Canada, rather than France.