Swimmer Ryan Lochte (left) decathlete Bryan Clay, rower Giuseppe Lanzone and soccer player Heather Mitts show off Team USA's uniforms for London. (Courtesy Ralph Lauren, USA Today)
(USA Today) -- U.S. Olympians are taking a sartorial trip into the pony-infused world of prep.
In a third collaboration with the United States Olympic Committee, designer Ralph Lauren will wrap America's top athletes in impeccably tailored red, white and blue at the Olympics opening ceremony July 27.
David Lauren, the designer's son and the company's executive vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications, calls the classic London uniforms "an evolution" from the smart blazers and trousers showcased at the 2008 Beijing Games, and a dressier look than the casual shorts ensemble designed for Athens in 2004.
The goal was "to build on what was popular last time," says Lauren. "We wanted something that felt very classic, very elegant but at the same time would be easy enough and comfortable enough for the athletes to feel good."
Men will wear cotton club-collar sport shirts, red and navy ties, and double-breasted blazers with peak lapels embroidered with an official U.S. Olympic Games patch and a Big Pony logo, paired with cuffed, cream, flat-front trousers. Female athletes will don similarly embroidered, fitted navy blazers, knee-length, cream silk skirts and silk scarves. And all will wear "really fun berets," says Lauren. "The last time we did berets on the Olympic team, it's amazing, online they sold out by the end of the opening ceremony."
For inspiration, the Ralph Lauren team sifted through photos from the USOC's archives. And "knowing that we were going back to England, there was a feeling of Chariots of Fire," says Lauren.
The key, says Lauren, is in the sharp tailoring, done "in a way that gives every athlete an opportunity to look good. ... You have to create something that will work for a wrestler or a basketball player, as well as a tiny gymnast. And so all of those body types, coming up with a silhouette that can a flexible and comfortable is quite a task."
The resulting look is "very clean-cut," says swimmer Ryan Lochte, 27. "The collaboration is great because Ralph Lauren's style of clothing fits the style of the all-American athlete."
Lochte calls modeling Ralph Lauren's Olympic wear an honor. "Not many athletes in the world have had the honor of being sponsored by RL, so it has been an amazing opportunity for me. The Olympic-wear make me feel so patriotic, and RL even provided clothing for my family as well, and they love it. It just feels so official!"
"I've never been in (the) opening since I always swim the next day," says Lochte in an e-mail, adding that he might just "bling up the belt" of the uniform to personalize it.
The Vogue-friendly swimmer "brings a flare and an excitement that makes you pay attention not only to the sport but to his personality because of his unique style," says Lauren.
Gymnast Aly Raisman, 18, calls the uniform "really preppy. It's really cool. It's really different."
She's just breaking in her Ralph Lauren gear, which includes "Village wear" for the athletes. "I was really superstitious about anything that said London on it," she says. "I wouldn't wear it until they announced the team."
Ralph Lauren Olympics gear, including track jackets, sweatshirts and jerseys, are available for personalization online, a service that began with just one shirt during the Beijing Games. "We really put our toe in the water and were kind of blown away by the response," says Lauren.
The official opening uniform, running from $55 (beret) to $795 (men's blazer) will go on sale Tuesday in limited quantities at select Ralph Lauren stores, in select department stores and at Ralphlauren.com.
Lauren expects the items to go fast.
"By the time (Beijing's) opening ceremony ended, we had sold out most of the items," he says. "It was kind of staggering. We learned a lot about the pride that Americans have for their team."