The Rio 2016 Olympic Games haven’t exactly been a source of good news stories. But with the opening ceremonies set for today, we’re looking to this crop of innovative, high-tech Olympic wear as reason to cheer. Designed for this year’s Olympians and for those in the stands, these six apparel items combine the best in innovation and style.
1 Nike’s Zoom Superfly Elite track shoe
When Olympic gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce runs the 100-metre dash in Rio, she’ll do so wearing Nike’s Zoom Superfly Elite, one of its ultra innovative track shoes that she helped the company develop for the 2016 summer games.
A team of designers, engineers and scientists wanted to fuel Fraser-Pryce during metres 70 through 80, where it becomes crucial for her to maintain the early lead she creates as an explosive starter. They watched the Jamaican sprinter train on the track and in the Nike Sports Research Lab, capturing data about her rates of speed and propulsion, using the information to feed computational designs and 3-D prototypes.
These design methods, coupled with inspiration taken from the geometric structure of ocean organisms, generated a stiff, yet lightweight shoe that hugs the foot and uses fixed pins rather than screw-in spikes. The shoe looks amphibian, with its seemingly webbed sole, and tropical, with its neon pink, green and blue colour palette.
2 Oakley’s Green Fade sunglasses
Oakley’s green shades could have its nearly 500 sponsored athletes seeing gold at the games. Every style in the new Green Fade collection uses the sunglass maker’s proprietary Prizm lenses, designed to tune colours and create a spectrum that’s best suited for each athlete’s sport. Depending on the sport’s setting and timing – indoor or outdoor, morning or afternoon – the lenses can boost contrast, sharpen certain colours and minimize the intensity of others. Every pair is unique, hand-painted a different shade of green that harks back to the particular vibrant hue first featured on Oakley’s debut performance sunglasses in 1980.
3 Skyn apparel long jump suit
Future Olympic long jumpers could be competing while donning suits made from condoms. Pauline van Dongen, a Dutch apparel designer specializing in wearable technology, recently partnered with contraceptive brand Skyn to experiment with innovative athletic wear.
Using polyisoprene – a thin and soft, yet strong, latex alternative that Skyn employs for its condoms – van Dongen designed a sportswear garment to improve aerodynamics. The suit is incredibly lightweight and clings to the body. It boasts wing-like flaps on either side of the torso, made from the contraceptive material and reinforced by a laser-cut grid. The flaps remain flat during a long jumper’s running approach, then open as the jumper twists and straightens. The thought is that the flaps could help increase a long jumper’s air time.
4 NikeLab x Kim Jones collection
Nike collaborated with Kim Jones, Louis Vuitton’s men’s artistic director, for a collection of designer athletic wear released in time for the Olympics. NikeLab x Kim Jones: Packable Sport Style is a consumer collection of water-resistant, lightweight windbreakers, tops, pants and shorts that can be rolled up and tidily tucked away into a matching, inconspicuous backpack – all inspired by globe-trotting Olympians.
The styles of the capsule collection are updates of Nike classics, and use the same bright shades found in the aforementioned track shoe. Of the designs, Jones says “it was about taking the DNA of what Nike stuff is all about and mixing it together, taking elements of all the different things I liked and putting it together.”
5 Lululemon’s Team Canada volleyball uniforms
As a mandated uniform up until recently, the bikinis worn by female Olympic beach volleyball teams have oft been debated as sexist, skimpy or simply practical. But the designs worn by this year’s Canadian team are in a league all their own, thanks to a high-tech approach from Lululemon.
The Vancouver-based athletic apparel brand invited athletes into its Whitespace innovation lab, where designers, scientists and engineers scanned each player’s body, simulated Rio’s temperatures in a climate chamber and used infrared motion to create a bikini top and bottom that minimize breast movement, retain their highly personalized fit and prevent sand from sneaking in.
Lululemon also developed a new moisture-wicking material for the suits, which defends against powerful sun rays and damaging chlorine and salt. Criss-crossed straps on the tops and flat waistbands on the bottoms prevent the pieces from riding up, key to avoiding distraction during game time on Rio’s Copacabana beach.
Armed with research that shows pre-competition emotions and confidence levels influence performance, Speedo sought out to create a new collection of swimwear designed to make athletes feel faster. The result is Fastskin LZR Racer X.
Aqualab, Speedo’s global research and development team, used its database of 1,200 swimmers whose bodies have been 3-D scanned, to identify how a swimsuit could provide the best support and fit. Over 10,000 hours were spent developing the final men’s and women’s suits, which provide high compression where it’s needed most (big muscle groups, like glutes and quads) and a maximum range of movement everywhere else.
Speedo-sponsored Olympic swimmers from Canada, Japan, Australia, the US, China and Israel will wear special edition versions of the suit when they compete this month.