This article is a guest post from Girls of Fall. Girls of Fall reconnects females sports fans with the stories, camaraderie, and celebration of culture that made you fall in love with sports in the first place. Think ESPN meets Pinterest. Check out the Girls of Fall website and Like them on Facebook to get essential daily updates on the sports world and all the things you love.
As athletes from around the world proudly waved their homeland’s flag, Russian classical music boomed through the stadium and a little girl grasping the tail of her kite drifted whimsically through the air. The Opening Ceremonies at the Olympics aired last night and with that, the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia officially began. Each country has sent their best cold-weather athletes to compete for the opportunity to proudly wear their colors on the winner’s podium and add another page to their history books.
In today’s vastly connected media networks, uniforms aren’t just how you tell one team apart from the other, they’re advertising space. In a globally-televised event like the Olympics, each uniform is a marvel of fashion and marketing design that promotes not only a country’s history and prestige, but the brand of the manufacturer as well. In case you ever thought Nike’s reign at the top would soon come to an end because of labor controversies or hotter, newer sportswear brands, think again, because “the Swoosh” remains ever-present in modern athletics. In addition to sponsoring many of the world’s top sports teams and individual athletes, Nike has manufactured each of the twelve countries’ hockey teams for the Sochi Olympics.
True to their form, Nike has put their distinct twist on the Olympic hockey uniforms (also referred to as “sweaters”). Each of them are extremely unique, yet tied together with subtle common elements like the fake laces near the collar and high-performance Nike Flywire. These sweaters seem extremely futuristic with their radical design, yet at the same time, evoke the past with small but thoughtful garnishes throughout each country’s jersey. Let’s take a look at the top contending countries’ uniforms.
#7 – CANADA
Maple leaves adorn the Canadian jerseys, boldly in the center of both the primary and alternate jersey with small, matte leaves surrounding the collar. Gaudy and uninspired, this jersey looks more like that oversized t-shirt you wear when you’re staying in for the night and watching House reruns.
#6 CZECH REPUBLIC
Unlike most of the other jersey designs, Czech Republic sadly got no tacky shoulder embellishments from Nike. Instead these guys are stuck with one giant wearable Czech flag.
Finland got the Czech treatment here. Their primary jersey is one giant Finnish flag, but their alternate is a tasteful navy blue and light blue combination with the national crest and Suomi (Finnish for “Finland”) on the chest, and a matte crest on the shoulder. Still not feeling the wearable flag look.
#4 – United States
At first, the Team USA jersey looks fairly basic and uninspiring, but there’s more than meets the eye initially. Again, Nike fashioned a classic look with the solid colors and striped arms and the simplification of the USA hockey shield calls back to teams of the past.
The matte stars and collar stamped with our proud motto, “LAND OF THE FREE HOME OF THE BRAVE,” make this jersey unmistakably American. We’re not big fans of the stars, but love the simplified throwback crest and the distinct America-ness of the theme.
Bonus! The sleeve hides two tiny gold medals and the years where the USA hockey team took home the gold.
#3 – RUSSIA
Nike put the most effort into the host country’s regalia. The themes in both the primary and alternate jersey center around the fierce two-headed eagle, the national symbol of Russia. The primary jersey is totally traditional hockey jersey, with large solid blocks of color and the country’s national symbol and crest in the center of the chest and “Russia” emblazoned in that crazy-looking Russian alphabet below.
The sleeves of the jersey mimic the bars of white, blue, and red in Russia’s flag. Four gold stars on the shoulder imitate the emblems on a general’s uniform, a reference to Russia’s military success in the national theater.
The alternate jersey captures a more contemporary look. The national crest remains featured, but the silhouette look of the twin-headed eagle gives it a modern twist and the feathers of the eagle are printed on each shoulder, giving each player their own pair of wings. Some cool details and a great look with the primary jersey, but overall a little too over the top. As you can tell, we like the subtle classic look the best.
#2 – SWEDEN
Sweden will be wearing their gold jerseys whenever possible, despite Nike creating a blue jersey (the primary color of their flag) for them as well. This should be no issue for the Swedes to pull off, since none of the twelve other competitors have any yellow in their jersey. Like many of the others, their sweater seems very simple at first glance, but a closer look at the shoulders reveals Nike’s flair for crazy embellishment. Yes, that’s a Nordic matte Viking ship! Oh Nike… Other than that gaudy ghost ship this is almost the best of the bunch.
#1 – SLOVAKIA
But #1 belongs to Slovakia, who takes home the Girls of Fall award for Best Dressed at the Sochi Olympics. Huge upset! The crowd goes crazy!!! It’s got all the classic and tasteful elements of the traditional jerseys, the proud and bold emblem of the Slovakian flag (with no crazy Nike embellishments), and faint pinstripes across the jersey. Notice we said faint there…not ridiculously huge pinstripes like the SportsCenter anchors can’t resist.
But a closer look reveals these aren’t just your basic pinstripes, they’re the words of the Slovakian National Anthem! Too cool!