The long-awaited Tokyo 2020 Olympics are underway and Team USA has been making headlines at the games not for their performance but rather, their outfits. The national team’s “bane-like” masks and high-tech cooling jackets have captured the imagination of the public and made heads turn.
First, let’s talk about the unique masks being worn by US athletes. The slightly-oversized white masks seem like common KN95 masks but the ridges make it stand out, with some on Twitter (even the official Tokyo Olympics account) making comparisons to the mask worn by DC villain Bane, while others see it akin to the iconic asylum mask worn by Hannibal Lecter.
The mask was actually designed by Nike for Team USA and they said that it was inspired by the Japanese tradition of origami. “The unique origami-inspired pleated design allows for optimal airflow and air volume within the lightweight, mesh mask,” said the apparel designer. The mask is apparently called the Nike Venturer and it will be made available for purchase soon for USD$60 (~RM254).
Although it looks like a KN95 mask, it’s actually not medical-grade at all and functions more like a normal cloth mask, so you should still think about double-masking when wearing this in public. Pictures of the Venturer mask show that it will be sold in black, comes with a case, and multiple different-sized straps are included.
Team USA also came prepared for the summer heat as Ralph Lauren designed some special clothes for the flag-bearers participating in the opening ceremony. Dubbed the RL cooling jacket, the state-of-the-art piece is referred to as being air-conditioned as the jacket contains a battery-powered “self-regulating temperature cooling device”. Ralph Lauren says while only flag bearers are getting the jacket, for now, all Team USA Olympic and Paralympic athletes will get one later on.
The device seems to be at the back of the jacket and works through a fan at the back of the neck to disperse heat from the wearer’s skin. The company compares the jacket’s system to fans that cool “the world’s most advanced computer systems.” This actually seems quite similar to Sony’s Reon Pocket, a wearable air conditioner that you stick on the back of your shirt and it dissipates heat from your body. There’s been no word on whether the RL cooling jacket will be sold to the public.
The ongoing Olympic games show us a glimpse of the normalisation that the world has been waiting for. On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee changed policies mid-way and allowed athletes to briefly take off their masks when taking photos on the podium, though all athletes and staff must still be masked any other time.
Aside from innovative jackets, the opening ceremony also featured 1800 drones shaping a globe in the sky and video game theme songs, among other things. Malaysians even loved our national contingent’s outfits so much that they recreated them on Animal Crossing.