The Bizarre Political History of Where Team USA’s Olympic Gear Gets Made

Ralph Lauren announced Tuesday that it made Team USA’s clothes in the U.S. for the Winter Games in Sochi.

President George W. Bush and members of U.S. Olympic team at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 8, 2008. The Ralph Lauren outfits were ironically made in China.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
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Matt Vasilogambros
Oct. 29, 2013, 10:05 a.m.

Our na­tion­al worry is over: Ral­ph Lauren an­nounced on Tues­day that the cloth­ing for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics was made in Amer­ica.

This may not seem like a big deal to many across this coun­try, but the is­sue of where U.S. Olympi­ans’ cloth­ing was man­u­fac­tured has been a con­ten­tious is­sue on the na­tion­al stage in the past, even de­serving an of­fi­cial com­ment from the White House.

Dur­ing the 2012 Games in Lon­don, much of the cloth­ing from Ral­ph Lauren was made in China. Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., at the time came out strongly against this rev­el­a­tion:

I think they should take all the uni­forms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again. If they have to wear noth­ing but a sym­bol that says USA on it, painted by hand, that is what they should wear.

When pressed, the White House wouldn’t lay blame on Ral­ph Lauren or the U.S. Olympic Com­mit­tee, say­ing they were private com­pan­ies. Deputy press sec­ret­ary Josh Earn­est ex­plained fur­ther on Ju­ly 13, 2012:

The pres­id­ent’s views on the high qual­ity of Amer­ic­an-made products is well known and something that he talks about quite ex­tens­ively. That in­cludes Amer­ic­an-made cloth­ing; that there are high-qual­ity products that are made here in Amer­ica. And maybe for fu­ture Olympics, those kinds of things will be con­sidered.

In true White House press corps fash­ion, the line of ques­tion­ing took a bizarre turn. “Does the pres­id­ent in­sist on wear­ing Amer­ic­an-made clothes?” one re­port­er asked. Earn­est re­spon­ded coyly, “I haven’t checked the la­bel on his ward­robe today.”

Fol­low­ing this de­bacle, New York Demo­crats Sen. Kirsten Gil­librand and Rep. Steve Is­rael wrote a let­ter ask­ing that Amer­ic­an Olympi­ans’ out­fits be made in the U.S. for fu­ture games. And it seems as if their pleas worked.

Ral­ph Lauren sourced these new out­fits — which will be worn dur­ing the open­ing and clos­ing ce­re­mon­ies, as well as around the Olympic Vil­lage — through 40 dif­fer­ent do­mest­ic man­u­fac­tur­ers, the com­pany boasts. Ad­di­tion­ally, out­fit­ter North Face an­nounced it made the uni­forms for the Amer­ic­an free­style ski team in Cali­for­nia.

The 2012 Olympics was not the first time this was an is­sue. Dur­ing the 2008 games in Beijing, Team USA’s uni­forms were made in China. Be­fore then, the Ca­na­dian out­fit­ter Roots made the cloth­ing for Team USA.

For those su­per-pat­ri­ot­ic fans out there, you can get the new gear from Ral­ph Lauren on Nov. 15 be­fore the Olympics be­gin in Feb­ru­ary. Take a look at the gear and how it was made:

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