Olympic uniforms present a unique design challenge. Most Olympic athletes compete for only a few days (or, in some cases, a few minutes), so there's no time to appreciate small details that might signify over the course of a long sports season.
With the 2018 Winter Games set to kick off today in Pyeongchang, South Korea, here's a look at 10 notable moments in Winter Olympics uniform history. These haven't necessarily been the best or the worst designs, but they've all made a lasting impact -- for better or worse.
1. The 1980 Team USA hockey squad
Notable Moments in Winter Olympics Uniform History: Nearly four decades later, Team USA's uniform from the 1980 Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid still looks great. pic.twitter.com/s4J6DMjYYs— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 5, 2018
If you're old enough to remember the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" at the Lake Placid Games, then you probably also remember how perfect, how right, Team USA's uniforms looked. From the simple "USA" chest mark to the contrasting blue nameplates, the whole package worked. With such a great on-ice look, is it any wonder that the team pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history?
2. The 2014 American speedskating suit
Notable Moments in Winter Olympics Uniforms: The American speedskating suits, made by Under Armour, were supposed to be a game-changer at the 2014 Games. Didn't quite work out that way, as Team USA failed to medal. Some blamed design flaws in the suit. pic.twitter.com/wJ23HGs8S7— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 5, 2018
During the lead-up to the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, there was a lot of hype about the American speedskating team's new suits. With high-tech engineering and off-center zippers, the suits were supposedly going to give the American skaters an insurmountable edge. But it didn't work out that way, as the USA failed to win a single medal, with some observers blaming the suits (though Under Armour defended the design at the time). Four years later, Under Armour and U.S. Speedskating have recalibrated their goals and expectations, and the suits have gotten an overhaul. Will it help? We'll find out soon enough.
3. The 2010 Norwegian curling team's pants
Notable Moments in Winter Olympic Uniform History: the Norwegian curling team's pants, from 2010. pic.twitter.com/smbsz8B4op— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 5, 2018
Everyone snickered when the Norwegian curling team showed up at the 2010 Vancouver Games in an assortment of garish Loudmouth Golf trousers. But they weren't laughing when the Norwegians took home the silver medal. By the time of the next Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, the Norwegians had inked an endorsement deal with Loudmouth (which obligingly outfitted them in matching jackets), and curlers around the world had adopted the loud pants look.
4. The 2010 American snowboarding team's baggy jeans
Notable Moments in Winter Olympics Uniforms: the American snowboarding team's baggy jeans at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. pic.twitter.com/EyEeWJiodj— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 6, 2018
The Norwegian curlers weren't the only ones with noteworthy pants at the 2010 Games. The American snowboarding team, led by Shaun White, wore snow pants that looked like baggy jeans. When combined with the team's plaid faux-flannel shirts, this made White and his teammates look like refugees from a 1990s grunge video, but that didn't stop White from capturing gold in the halfpipe.
5. Germany's 2014 Opening Ceremony outfits
Notable Moments in Winter Olympics Uniform History: Germany's rainbow-patterned outfits for the 2014 Opening Ceremonies. pic.twitter.com/4fHRmwRcZg— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 6, 2018
Opening ceremony clothing serves no athletic function, so the designers are free to be as outrageous as they want -- and boy, do they want. Still, even by opening ceremony standards, Germany's rainbow-patterned outfits at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, were pretty far out there. The rainbow theme also served as a not-so-subtle rebuke to Russia's repressive anti-gay policies.
6. Sonja Henie's short skirts
Notable Moments in Winter Olympics Uniform History: Sonja Henie, who won the gold in 1928, 1932, and 1936, is generally credited as the first female figure skater to wear a short skirt. pic.twitter.com/VkFTVW1r7F— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 5, 2018
In the early days of figure skating, women traditionally wore long skirts, sometimes down to their ankles. Norwegian phenom Sonja Henie, who first competed at the 1924 Games in Chamonix, France, as an 11-year-old, changed all of that. She was the first Olympian to skate in skirts that ended above the knee and the first to wear white skate boots. It all worked out pretty well for her, as she won gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936.
7. Dick Button's suit
Notable Moments in Winter Olympics Uniforms: Dick Button's suit at the 1948 Games in St. Moritz. Naturally, he won the gold. (And yes, the competition was held outdoors.) pic.twitter.com/3DljIx7NBh— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 6, 2018
Men's figure skating attire has changed a lot over the years. Back in the day, the guys typically wore suits -- and nobody has ever looked better in a suit than Dick Button, who looked particularly sharp while winning gold at the 1948 Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
8. Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin's aboriginal costumes
Notable Moments in Winter Olympics Uniforms: Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin's aboriginal "tribute" ice dancing costumes at the 2010 Games. Actual Australian aboriginals were not amused. pic.twitter.com/jNkRttPTTc— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 6, 2018
Maybe Russian ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin should have stuck with skirts and suits. They stoked controversy at the 2010 Games in Vancouver by wearing costumes designed as a tribute to Australian aboriginals (though they looked more like gingerbread cookies). It isn't clear why Russians would be offering a tribute to Australian aboriginals to begin with, but suffice it to say the move did not go over well in Australia.
9. The evolution of bobsled design
Check out the evolution of bobsled design from 1924 (top) to 1952 (center) to 2014. pic.twitter.com/aVgvgbW9uP— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 5, 2018
Uniforms aren't the only things that undergo design changes over the years. Since bobsledding became an Olympic sport in 1924, the sleds themselves have evolved from rickety contraptions to sleek speeding bullets. It's hard to think of anything else at the Winter Games with a look that has changed so dramatically.
10. Tina Maze's skiing helmet
Notable Moments in Winter Olympics Uniforms: The eyes have it, at least for Slovenian skier Tina Maze at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. pic.twitter.com/4veF0DEGdv— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 6, 2018
Slovenian skier Tina Maze had the benefit of an extra pair of eyes during her downhill runs at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Unfortunately, it didn't help her, as she finished 18th. (Maze later had another notable uni-related moment, though not at the Olympics, when she wrote a message on her sports bra during a 2012 competition in response to allegations that her long underwear gave her an unfair aerodynamic advantage.)
Paul Lukas will be rooting extra-hard for the American curling team (whose vice skip, Tyler George, helped teach him to curl back in 2010). If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.