The words “dress code” evoke loaded memories in all of us. I’m personally sent into a PTSD-like trauma of struggling to pull on a starched white shirt during my high school years; the collar and cuffs stiff to the point they effectively doubled up as improvised weapons. For many athletes, their relationship with uniform isn’t any less awkward, the one difference being that they have to wear it in front of millions around the world.

When it comes to outfit protocols, most sports associations rule with a kind of draconic fervor that would make your average Berlin doorman seem like an agreeable fellow. The Olympics might have made some small strides on this front in recent years (the Soul Cap and Norwegian women’s beach handball team debacles would suggest there’s still a long way to go), but even without restrictive guidelines in place, making memorable performance wear that is also technically sound is no easy feat. As we discussed before, the best looks boil down to the individual and their ability to bring their own secret sauce to the meal — perhaps manifesting in the form of crazy nails or Oakley sunglasses. Dress codes, after all, are there to be messed with.

Before Tokyo 2020, there was a lot of fuss made about how cool brands had found their way into what is, let’s be honest, a typically stuffy tournament. Yet while it was neat seeing various Highsnob favorites on the podium, it was the number of individual style flashpoints that really captured the imagination. Some were borne out of necessity, others just straight-up flexing on the big stage.

Now that the games are done and dusted, we take a look back at some of the best style moments.

Raven Saunders

Nowhere was the renegade mindset more evident than American shot putter Raven Saunders, who in trials, caused something of a stir when she opted for an intimidating Hulk facemask. "Early on, similar to the Hulk, I had a tough time differentiating between the two; I had a tough time controlling when the Hulk came out or when the Hulk didn’t come out," said Saunders, who has been open about her struggles with depression as a Black queer woman. "Through my journey, especially dealing with mental health and things like that, I learned how to compartmentalize, the same way that Bruce Banner learned to control the Hulk, learned how to let the Hulk come out during the right moments and that way it also gave him a sign of mental peace."

In German, the word "Maskenfreiheit" refers to the freedom that one attains from wearing a mask: Perhaps the reason as to why Saunders opted to wear a Joker version despite them not being mandatory. Throw in technicolor shades, a purple and green hairdo, and of course, a silver medal, and a national icon was born overnight.

Naomi Osaka

The tournament marked a debut appearance and court return from Naomi Osaka, who lit the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony. The four-time grand slam winner might have bowed out with an early defeat — an understandable result given her lack of court time in recent weeks — but not before gracing us with one of her best ever on-court looks. Riffing off the Japanese flag, Osaka rocked fiery red and white box braids, expertly complemented with a white TAG Heuer Aquaracer and a similar colored racket. Details!

When Andy Murray won the Olympics in 2012 — his first major honor in tennis — he spoke of how being part of a team alleviated the pressure on his shoulders and allowed him to play with more freedom. Osaka's case is different in that she was already a champion, and faced an entirely different level of scrutiny to the Brit. “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” she said, alluding to her status as the official poster girl. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year (it) was a bit much.” Regardless of performance, her patriotism was there for all to see, both during the cauldron moment and with that unique outfit.

Alexis Sablone, Margielyn Didal, and Kokona Hiraki

At 34, 22, and 12, respectively, Alexis Sablone, Margielyn Didal, and Kokona Hiraki stand around decades apart. Yet each brought their own unique vibe to the Olympics' inaugural women's skateboarding event, proving that age is no barrier to getting fits off.

There was Sablone, with her trademark loose pants and signature Jack Purcell Converse mids; Didal, who rocked a gold chain and rings with a New Balance tee that paid tribute to the Philippines; and Hiraki, the silver medal winner-slash-potential-Slipknot-member-in-waiting thanks to her Vans boiler suit and orange socks.

Fashion has always been an integral part of skating, and even if you had no idea what was going on in terms of scoring at the actual competition, seeing each competitor project part of their personality through clothing was a welcome change of pace to the usual identikit getups.

Cravon Gillepsie

Although the outfits in this year's skateboarding were undeniably dope, it goes without saying that there's a lot more leeway when it comes to apparel that can be worn in the bowl park. In athletics, the game is spandex, spandex, spandex;  the streamlined fit helping with aerodynamics.

A similar train of thought applies to the watch department, where competitors often opt for featherlite, six-figure models by the likes of Richard Mille. Track and field star Cravon Gillespie, on the other hand, prefers a Casio calculator that can be bought off Amazon for around $20. Gillespie's jewelry-heavy look was arguably the highlight in what proved to be another dismal tournament for the US men's 4x100 relay team, but we suspect it isn't the last we'll see of him, at least where fashion is concerned.

What To Read Next

  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Bellerín Is Back, Raf Simons Signs Out, & Julia Fox Saves the Day

    Culture
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Packer Serves a Perfect Rendition of Reebok's Club C

    Sneakers
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    The Best Gifts Under $200 That Everyone Will Love

    Style
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Diadora Turns Its Tennis Heritage Into a Sneaker Grand Slam

    Sneakers
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    These Are Our Favorite Salomon Sneakers to Shop Now

    Sneakers
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Put Down Your Phone This Holiday With Ray-Ban Stories Smart Glasses

*If you submitted your e-mail address and placed an order, we may use your e-mail address to inform you regularly about similar products without prior explicit consent. You can object to the use of your e-mail address for this purpose at any time without incurring any costs other than the transmission costs according to the basic tariffs. Each newsletter contains an unsubscribe link. Alternatively, you can object to receiving the newsletter at any time by sending an e-mail to info@highsnobiety.com

Web Accessibility Statement

Titelmedia (Highsnobiety), is committed to facilitating and improving the accessibility and usability of its Website, www.highsnobiety.com. Titelmedia strives to ensure that its Website services and content are accessible to persons with disabilities including users of screen reader technology. To accomplish this, Titelmedia has engaged UsableNet Inc, a leading web accessibility consultant to help test, remediate and maintain our Website in-line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which also bring the Website into conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Disclaimer

Please be aware that our efforts to maintain accessibility and usability are ongoing. While we strive to make the Website as accessible as possible some issues can be encountered by different assistive technology as the range of assistive technology is wide and varied.

Contact Us

If, at any time, you have specific questions or concerns about the accessibility of any particular webpage on this Website, please contact us at accessibility@highsnobiety.com, +49 (0)30 235 908 500. If you do encounter an accessibility issue, please be sure to specify the web page and nature of the issue in your email and/or phone call, and we will make all reasonable efforts to make that page or the information contained therein accessible for you.