Olympic Style: The Way They Wore It

Swimming, gymnastics and track and field, from Ian Thorpe’s head-to-toe swimsuit and Flo Jo’s one legged athletic kit to the golden running shoes of Michael Johnson and Usain Bolt, Olympic stars through the ages have a style as alluring as their athletic prowess. Here are some standouts.

Before Michael Phelps there was Mark Spitz, famous for winning 7 gold medals in Munich as well as his macho mustache and Speedo style suit.
Full-length high-tech swimsuits blazed onto the sporting scene at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, as worn by gold medalist Ian Thorpe. In 2008, Speedo unveiled its first high-tech swim suit, the LZR Racer, which covered the swimmer from ankle to neck in woven elastane-nylon and polyurethane. However, The London 2012 Olympics are to be the first in 16 years where swimmers will be forced to ditch their high-tech body suits and rely solely on technique as they have been banned. Speedo responded by producing a cap, goggle and suit engineered to work together as one revolutionary Racing System known as the FASTSKIN3 Racing System. These trunks only extend from knee to navel as per FINA rules.


Australian Official Suits 1972


Mark Spitz wins 7 Gold medals in 1972 wearing the classic Speedo


Mark Spitz with mustache


Mark Spitz Official Olympic Belt


Australian Swim Team win Gold at Sydney 2000 in hi-tech suits

Amanda Beard, left, Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin pose in Speedo LZR Racer swimsuits 2008



Michael Phelps in the FASTSKIN3 developed for London 2012


Perhaps the biggest change over the years has come in the gymnastics arena. At the first few modern Games female gymnasts wore a variation of regular clothing that did not reveal the shape of the body. Over the years this evolved into a more recognizable version of the leotard worn today. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, leotards and warm-up suits had a sporty look but since the ‘90s have tended to be flashier with lots of sparkle.


Danish Women’s Gymnastics Team 1908


The U.S. gymnastics team London 1948


Olga Corbutt 1972


Nadia Comaneci scores a perfect 10 Montreal 1974


Mary Lou Retton Los Angeles 1984


Mary Lou Retton Los Angeles 1984


Chinese Gymnastic Team Beijing 2008


The track and field events have produced some individuals known not only for their athletic prowess but also for their personal take on what to wear while competing. What you wear on your feet for example, South African turned British, Zola Budd was known for running barefoot in the 1980s while both Michael Johnson and Usain Bolt prefer gold track shoes. In a world of generic tanks and shorts. Florence Griffith-Joyner aka Fl-Jo stood out from the crowd of sprinters in the 1980s


Abebe Bikila of Ethopia won the Marathon barefoot Rome 1960

Zola Budd running barefoot tripped Mary Dekker Los Angeles 1984


Bruce Jenner in short shorts wins gold in the decathlon Montreal 1976



Florence Griffith-Joyner Seoul 1988


Florence Griffith-Joyner aka Flo-Jo



Gail Devers competed at Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996


Cathy Freeman in hooded bodysuit Sydney 2000

Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis 1988


Michael Johnson in gold sneakers Atlanta 1996


Usain Bolt in gold sneakers Beijing 2008


Heptathlon Gold Medallist London 2012 Jessica Ennis in Stella McCartney-designed Team GB kit


Ryan Lochte’s Jeremy Scott/Adidas sneakers

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