Ralph Lauren Olympic Uniform Controversy: Polo Pony Logo the Issue (Size Does Matter.)

Hello sports and fashion fans, tis’ The Princess once again on this beautiful Tuesday. Actually, it is that oh-so-silly Princess, for having thought we would be able to spend most of this post reveling in celebratory and fun things, like the sweet joy of these boys’ accomplishments…

Team USA Gold Medalists, from left Jason Lezak, Mark Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones

Team USA Gold Medalists, from left Jason Lezak, Mark Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones

…as they they managed to upset France in the 4x100m freestyle relay, setting a new world record in the process. And perhaps the sweetest part of the victory for some was not just that we won, but who we beat along the way, for it is Alain Bernard, of the French team who is said to have made some statements that were well, they weren’t very sporting.

“The Americans? We’re going to smash them. That’s what we came here for.”

Well. When it didn’t work out that way with the French Team ending up as Silver Medalists (certainly nothing to sneeze at, it *is* an Olympic medal, oui?) but behind Team USA who took the Gold, with Jason Lezak going head to head with Bernard on the last leg of the race. 32-year-old Jason Lezak, the ‘old man’ of Team USA swimmers, who trains himself.

Let the record show that while Mr. Bernard’s own teammates appeared too stunned to do much of anything in the immediate aftermath of the race, it was Michael Phelps who took the time to both congratulate and console the Frenchman. It should also be noted that it was Mr. Phelps who made the initial gesture of congratulation to each of the four French team members after the Medal ceremony concluded.

Michael Phelps, Team USA (L). Alain Bernard, France (R)

Michael Phelps, Team USA (L), Alain Bernard, France (R)

There was quite the little gathering of celebrities on hand at the Water Cube to watch the race, most from the world of business and politics. Bill Gates was in the stands, as was former Olympic Grand Pooh-Bah (Salt Lake City) / former Mass. Governor & Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney. The First Family, including the Fan-in-Chief were on hand to cheer for Team USA Swimming:

The First Family Cheers on Team USA at the Water Cube 8.10.08

The First Family Cheers on Team USA at the Water Cube 8.10.08


Okay, enough of the one thing everyone hypothetically came to Beijing to accomplish, the athletic competition. We’ll move on to something that is rapidly progressing beyond the hackneyed “tempest in Great Grandmother’s Teapot,” to the issue of the Ralph Lauren Polo pony logo on the official Team USA Opening Ceremony Parade uniforms.

To refresh or enlighten anyone’s knowledge of the increasingly sensitive issue, here is a shot of Charlotte Craig, Team USA Taekwondo in her Opening Ceremony Parade uniform. (If you need more photos of the Ralph Lauren designed uniforms, here is another post on them, or here is additional info in yet another post on the topic, which yes, we have covered to death.) The photo below effectively shows the pony under discussion.

Charlotte Craig, Team USA Taekwondo

Charlotte Craig, Team USA Taekwondo

As does this photo of Jason Kidd in the Opening Ceremony Parade of Nations, with a little tighter shot that allows for a better comparison between its size and that of the USA/Olympic Rings logo topped by the USOC Wreaths.

Jason Kidd, Team USA Basketball

Jason Kidd, Team USA Basketball

At the least it helps provide put the two logos in context as compared to each other, the Polo pony in relationship to the Olympic Rings. Below, we see Brianna Glenn in a close shot of the Closing Ceremony Parade Uniform with the more robust emblematic Seal logo. (For lack of a name or description.)

Brianna Glenn (L)

Brianna Glenn (L)

In this photo (courtesy Polo Ralph Lauren) on the right on the two-shot montage we see the four athletes Deontay Wilder – Boxing, Brianna Glenn (did not qualify for Olympics, Track & Field), Joy Fahrenkrog – Archery, Giuseppe Lanzone – Rowing. As indicated these are the more casual Closing Ceremony uniforms. In fact, you can now purchase most, if not all, pieces the Team will be wearing, at the Polo Ralph Lauren site or through the USOC site.


Evidently size matters. A great deal. To some people. Not all. To others it is clearly not even a topic of conversation. ‘What’s the problem?”

For those to whom this is an issue, the words being used to describe the Polo Pony logo include: “Ginormous,” “Supersized,” and “Huge.” Here is a sampling of a couple of online headlines on the topic, the first from the Huffington Post, the second from Gawker:

Ralph Lauren’s Olympics Uniforms: A Firestorm Of Controversy Ensues

~ Did Ralph Lauren Embarrass America? ~

The story from Gawker.com, ran yesterday:

“For starters, the damned Ralph Lauren Polo logo totally upstages the Olympic rings logo. It’s huge!”

Also, as shown in a picture after the jump, the uniforms look pretty cheap up close, probably because they were made as part of a rush job sent to Chinese “tailors” at the last minute.

Of course, if there were any embarrassment, technically Mr. Lauren didn’t ’cause it,’ the USOC created it by approving the logo itself, it’s placement and its size on every item of clothing or accessory to be worn by anyone in the US Delegation attending the Games in an official capacity.

Ralph Lauren Team USA Official Parade Uniform

Ralph Lauren Team USA Official Parade Uniform

The story then goes on to quote material on the same topic from the increasingly popular Project Rungay (that is not a typo) blog, so we’ll just quote directly from Project Rungay’s story:

“We’re not sure why so many people have been slamming these. They look fine to us, for what they are. A little cheap-looking, sure, but appropriate enough.

We’re not all that crazy about the caps (we honestly think baseball caps would have worked better) and it would have been nice to differentiate a little bit between the men and the women, but for the most part, it’s classic American sportswear, which makes it perfect for the venue – and, unlike a LOT of the looks we saw parading around the other night, it’s tasteful.”

As the NY Times noted in their fabulous Olympic blog ‘Rings‘:

“PARADE OF SLOVENLINESS If you thought Americans were talking a lot about the size of the Ralph Lauren logo on the U.S. Olympians’ outfits as they entered the Bird’s Nest during the opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday, it’s nothing compared with what people in other countries are saying about their respective teams’ clothes, demeanor and general appearance.”

Then we have Racked LA asking a question in addition to making a statement:

“Did logo inflation perturb your opening ceremony viewing experience?”

“Lest we forget that Ralph Lauren has created an entire Big Pony collection for men and women, in which the logo is absolutely ginormous! Over-sized at breast or back jean pocket, a logo festival! Which is to say it could’ve been worse in terms of brand promotion overwhelming team spirit.”

The folks over at American Politics Journal are not feeling a lot of love for the Lauren look. You may have discerned this from looking at their version of the logo on the blazers as seen below, perhaps more appropriately called the Pony logo on steroids after a some Photoshop work or another image editing program. Their headline to the story by Jeff Koopersmith is:

Ralph Lauren Humiliates America

American Politics Journal Image

“August 9, 2008 – Geneva (apj.us) – Ralph Lauren, the emperor of hushed prep chic, shocked countless millions last night as the world watched the never-ending parade of athletes during the opening ceremonies of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium.

Lauren – and most likely his son David – celebrated not the spirit of athletic competition but themselves and their brand, morphing our athletes into unpaid billboards for the “Polo™” pony and rider that has helped bring the Laurens great – and well deserved – riches.

What I find amazing is that Polo Ralph Lauren has already known for more than two years that upscale consumers are shying away from too-obviously logoed products…. So why did Polo Ralph Lauren go and embarrass us all by not just putting their logo on the clothes but putting in on SO BIG? The white Polo logo against the dark blue navy color of the jackets, because of its tactlessness seemed to a foot high and 6 inches wide on the breast pockets.”

To be fair to all involved Mr. Koopersmith makes several positive points about Ralph Lauren, his philanthropic efforts, etc., but the remainder of the article is fairly pointed. To read it in its entirety, just click here.

From Coutortoure,

“The Ralph Lauren uniforms for the American Olympic team are stirring up controversy because they look waspy and the logo is a little too big. If product placement and unabashed self-interest disguised as team spirit aren’t American, we don’t know what is.”

For another perspective, you may want to read WASP Nation: The U. S. Olympic Team Uniform, a fascinating post on the Style Snatcher blog. We excerpt a sample below.

“The other troubling point was the overt branding seen in the Lauren logo, which shared prominence with the Olympic rings and laurel. Was this a celebration of an athletic event or yet another chance at extended marketing? Who allows these things to occur? This transcended product placement and smacked of rah-rah commercialism.”

Regular blog readers know The Princess has a rare and progressive disease: logophobia. And they have exhibited rare patience and grace in tolerating such foaming at the mouth off-the-wall rants in never-ending post after post about the presence of logos, their size, their design, etc, etc., etc. And our thoughts on this particular issue? Two words. Too big. The Polo pony is simply too big. Frequent readers are also aware that we have 16+ years in television, in addition to expertise in marketing and branding. We get it. This could have been done in a smaller, more discreet way. If the size of the pony was a deal-breaker, than do the far more elegant tone-on-tone embroidery, if the idea truly was to celebrate an old school American look.

Because we can assure you, no ‘old money’ person would be caught dead in a golf shirt, polo shirt or any other piece of apparel with that symbol on it, let alone in that size at places like the Saddle and Cycle Club, or Burning Tree, or the Metropolitan Club, Winged Foot, River Oaks CC, or the Everglades Club. Wouldn’t happen. It’s a gross violation about everything that is old money, including the #1 Commandment: For God’s sake, don’t let anyone know you have it! Nope. This crowd would be at J.Press or Brooks or Murray’s, Patrick James, J. McLaughlin, Van Boven’s… you know the drill.

An embarrassment to America? We think not. An international  incident? Ah, no. A poor decision by the USOC in allowing ther logo to be that large? In our humble opinion, yes. Without question. But this is really not worth getting all lathered up about, folks, there are better ways to expend that energy than on this issue. 

BTW, if you are hopeful of a respite from the Polo pony logo on the Closing Ceremony uniforms, we are sorry to disappoint you, for it is equally large. The shirt below is from the Closing Ceremony group the Team USA members will be wearing.

Giuseppe Lanzone, Team USA Rowing
Giuseppe Lanzone, Team USA Rowing

Below we see Team USA Soccer players July 22nd preparing to leave for Beijing at the super-secret San Jose State University location selected by official. Christie Rampone, (l)eft, and Carli Lloyd are in the as yet to be publicly seen Official Ralph Lauren knit vests. According to a story in the San Jose Mercury News.

“The Olympic athletes are here, being “processed” for China, picking up their visas, posing for team photos and, perhaps most vital of all, being fitted by a battery of local tailors for the Ralph Lauren uniforms they will wear during the Games’ opening ceremonies Aug. 8.”

Team USA Soccer Christie Rampone, (L) & Carli Lloyd (R)

Team USA Soccer Christie Rampone, (L) & Carli Lloyd (R)

Here are the Ralph Lauren sketches for the Closing Ceremony Parade Uniforms.

Below we see Kate Markgraf of Team USA Soccer in the official Nike warm-up outfits that seem to be flying under the radar, don’t they?

Kate Markgraf Team USA Soccer

Kate Markgraf Team USA Soccer

Kate Markgraf Team USA Soccer

Kate Markgraf Team USA Soccer

Here is a closer look at the Nike Beijing Village Jacket & pants also provided to the team, complete with the swoosh on the left chest. Proportionately, is it pretty close in size to the Polo pony?

Oddly, we haven’t heard much about this one yet, although part of the issue for some is that the Opening Ceremony is to be respected as a more solemn, formal occasion. Hhhhmm, perhaps more to follow.

Well TP has had enough of this dreary discussion haven’t you? The next post will be much more fun and frivolous.


Filed under It's Just Not Done, Logos, preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle

9 responses to “Ralph Lauren Olympic Uniform Controversy: Polo Pony Logo the Issue (Size Does Matter.)

  1. Well, you know my position. I have the same affliction of logophobia. I think they were entirely too large and I think Ralph has some ‘splaining to do. I love Ralph – own many of his shirts. I don’t mind a little polo pony. And while I agree that I would have loved to have seen a navy pony on that navy jacket, I do understand the need for marketing so I think white was gonna happen regardless. But they need to take the pony off the steroids – STAT. I’m not old money. I’m not even new money. But I wouldn’t ever buy a logo that large.

  2. I agree that it is too big.

    Logos aren’t always awful, but in such contrasting colors! If it was a slightly lighter shade of navy blue or gosh…1/100 of the size I wouldn’t mind.

    I always prefer to go logo-less. Why must others know what brands I am wearing or carrying? In those terrible instances where it can hardly be avoided [I’m talking to you, Brooks Brothers], I try to pick shirts with logos of the same or similar color.

    Oh, Ralph, you’ve let us down.

  3. I really don’t even care about the whole logo thing-totally upstaging what actually matters in the Olympics. Someone OKed the uniform so apparently not everyone thought they were too big. I don’t remember the uniforms being such an issue other years but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention 🙂

  4. Interesting point about the Nike logo TP. The big RL pony looks “bling-ish” to me. I just don’t like anything “bling-ish.” I can’t wait to check out that WASP site…sounds interesting.

  5. KK

    Now that I see it up close, I do think it is way too big. But honestly I didn’t notice until you just posted close up pics. I thought the outfits were cute with one big exception….the hats. Oh those are the real fashion no no, in my opinion.

  6. Katie

    You are so sweet! Thank you for your nice messages!

  7. Hey – if you don’t want him – we’ll have him over here to design our outfits for 2012 – because I am DESPERATE. Have you SEEN the outfits our poor athletes have been subjected to wearing – it is pitiful, the poor lambs.

  8. I think they are slightly large, but then I try to imagine that large blazer with a tiny polo logo. That sounds like it would look odd.

  9. If clothing must have logo, its best to be hidden, coz I suppose many people dislike say… a company’s logo on the shirt of jacket. this same goes to having a brand outside… unless its a very expensive brand.. then its worth to be shown outside 😛

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