Team GB’s Paris Olympics kit is short on imagination as function wins out

<span>(Left to right) Bianca Cook, Caden Cunningham, Jazmin Sawyers and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake showcase the new Team GB kit.</span><span>Photograph: Adidas/TeamGB</span>
(Left to right) Bianca Cook, Caden Cunningham, Jazmin Sawyers and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake showcase the new Team GB kit.Photograph: Adidas/TeamGB

Designing the kits for Olympic and Paralympic athletes to compete in is hardly a simple task. It’s one that takes in the demands of multiple, wildly different sports, as well as comfort, performance and some kind of unifying aesthetic that shows a gymnast, a sprinter and a breakdancer are on the same team. So it’s no surprise that this level of juggling quite often leads to kits like the Adidas one being worn by Team GB for the Paris Olympics – one that feels a little generic, and “designed by committee”. If you asked Midjourney to design a British Olympic kit, it might look something like this.

Included in the press images are taekwondo practitioners Bianca Cook and Caden Cunningham, long jumper Jazmin Sawyers and sprinter Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake for the Olympics, which start in July, and Olivia Breen and Zak Skinner, who both take part in long jump and sprints, along with their sprint counterpart Thomas Young for this year’s Paralympics, which begin in August. There’s no doubt they look great but look closer and it’s possibly more from the fact that these are young people full of hope and excitement for an upcoming multi-sport event than the clothes they are wearing.

The red, white and blue of the union jack are inevitably all present and correct, principally through colour blocking: Sawyers wears a red hoodie, while Cunningham is in a royal blue quarter zip. This could be a nice idea – a clever deconstruction of a flag with a problematic history, even – but it’s muddied with the “seen from space” graphics. While of course the team name needs to be visible, Great Britain written across the chests of athletes, whether they’re wearing a vest or a tracksuit top, is an unimaginative take.

The blandness might be down to the fact that this kit is designed inhouse by Adidas’ design team, rather than a fashion name. Stella McCartney worked on the Olympic kits for 2012 and 2016, and for the fashion-inclined these still loom large. The cut-up union jack design for 2012 or the blown-up lion for 2016 might not be to everybody’s taste but they do show the potential of kits when a designer working outside of sportswear is on board. Imagine, in 2024, a kit designed by British talent like sportswear visionary Saul Nash?

Related: Something blue: British kits for Paris 2024 stripped back and traditional

There are, of course, positives here. Eighty-six per cent of the designs that athletes will wear to compete in, train in and accept medals in are adaptive – meaning athletes with or without disabilities can wear them. The Team USA kits came out this week, with female Track and Field athletes like Tara Davis-Woodhall initially complaining that it was too revealing. By contrast, Sawyers’ low-rise shorts and cropped vest top (also worn by 400m sprinter Laviai Nielsen) look like designs that allow a woman to be able to concentrate on competing.

You could argue that a kit like this helps with that – perhaps too much design could distract from the task at hand, and functional and simple is best. The press release explains a nice detail – textured writing so athletes can “feel the passion rising from the typeface” when they run their hands over it. It might look bland to fashion eyes, but it could be that this kit is designed to help athletes do what they’re there to do – win. We’ll have to wait until July to find out if it works.