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The real Olympic winner? Russia’s tracksuits

The perfect blend of 90s sportswear and the current obsession for all things Eastern Bloc, expect to see Team Russia’s kit become a fashion must-have

What was the best part of the Rio 2016 Olympics – Team GB’s total domination of almost all cycling events? Usain Bolt’s casual turn to the camera mid-sprint as he casually ambled to yet another gold? Nope – while both brilliant, they had nothing on the Russian Olympic team’s kit.

Sure, they may have had over 100 competitors disqualified due to evidence of a systematic, institutional doping program; they may have faced allegations of bribery as they claimed numerous victories over boxing opponents who had spent the previous twenty minutes battering them senseless, but none of that really matters. What matters is how totally, undeniably lit their tracksuits were.

Not since the admittedly fictional Ivan Drago, with his peroxide blonde hair and impeccable jawline, has Russia looked so good on a sporting stage – in fact, in 2012 their garish outfits were derided as amongst the worst. For Rio, the country debuted a 48-piece kit that’s simple, bold, and brilliant – emblazoned with lettering and riffing on Russia’s tricolour flag, the uniforms were inspired by Russian Constructivism, the art movement that gained ground after the 1917 revolution, defined by its use of graphics and typography for a social (or socialist) purpose. Alongside the zip-up tops and sweatshirts, the company behind the outfits (Russian sporting goods giant Bosco) have also made a series of sports-themed, El Lissitzky-esque t-shirts – so you can rep your favourite event in style. 

Artistic theory and inspirations aside, the uniforms are a flawless execution of the current thirst for 90s sportswear mixed with the West’s Post-Soviet fascinations, finished off with a hint of irony. The retro theme makes you think of Gosha Rubchinskiy’s SS16 collection, which also nodded to Constructivism and artist Alexander Rodchenko. Frankly, Russia’s tracksuits are a victory that without question trumps anything any other nation has done on this sporting world stage. If there was an event for getting off the most fire fit of the games, they would be set for gold. Horse dancing? Walking quite fast for 20km? Don’t care mate, get me one of those Russia tracksuits right now.

“Russia’s tracksuits are a victory that without question trumps anything any other nation has done on this sporting world stage. If there was an event for getting off the most fire fit of the games, they would be set for gold”

Already, Reddit users are considering ditching their actual nations and scouring the internet in search of what is surely set to be an AW16 must-have. “I even asked to some Russian guys in Rio about it last weekend and they said to me that the only way to buy it is in Russia,” (sic) one commenter stated with some desperation. “I found some people selling it on eBay but for a really high price. Is there any other way of getting it? Is there any subreddit where I can ask some Russian to put it on eBay for a more reasonable price? I really don't know where to ask.”

Not only are the tracksuits incredible looking, they have also been manufactured to protect against the Zika disease, according to a Russian Olympic spokesperson: “Proposals were given...on provisions to prevent infectious fevers and infectious diseases... As a result, the design of our athletes’ kit for the Games has been altered, and each and every necessary measure undertaken. For example, we have extended the sleeves, so the risk of being infected by the disease would be close to zero.” A feat of fashion design, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Ever since 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Issey Miyake’s uniforms for the Lithuanian team have been the zenith of Olympian-apparel. That may have now changed. Russia has, without doubt, created a moment of sheer sporting brilliance that will live on for decades. A victory to trump all victories – quite possibly the greatest ever tracksuit.

You can shop the official kit here – but unfortunately, you’ll need a mate in Russia who’s willing to post you it.