Nike's latest take on the track and field uniform could be easily equated to the perfect waiter—at your service but, at the same time, so seamless in execution it seems invisible, so you can focus on what's before you. The culmination of 12 years of research and more than 1,000 hours of wind tunnel testing, the new streamlined Olympic kit is what Nike calls a "zero distraction" garment.
"This is the most minimal way we've had to finish a garment," explains Scott Williams, Nike's creative director of Olympics and innovation. "When you have an athlete there, you don't even want them to think about apparel." The super smooth trim means no potentially scratchy stitching and no zippers, and, best of all, more simplified construction. "In Beijing it took eight pattern pieces to make the sleeve, here it only takes two," Williams adds.
The Nike Pro TurboSpeed kit is also the fastest uniform to date, using what the company calls "Zoned Aerodynamics" to redirect air in targeted areas. Working in the manner of a golf ball, the dimpled swaths of the "AeroSwift" fabric "trip" air on the limbs, which can reach speeds of up to 47 MPH while sprinting. "It's counter-intuitive to most people that skin is actually very slow. explains Williams, in describing the full-body track suit. "Nike studied hundreds of textures when fashioning the uniforms, the aesthetic and aerodynamic benefit derived from their results." Williams adds that the marriage of form and function is "truly an expression of data-informed and body-led." Scanning technology maps of athletes' bodies to the nearest millimeter, ensuring that the uniforms, once built, will fit like a second skin.
Aesthetically, the kit makes athletes and their enhanced dimensions look like larger-than-life superheroes. Spectators will be able to see the uniforms' white swaths on the arms and legs and the "flicker" effect they create when the wearer is running at full tilt. As HD viewing becomes increasingly commonplace, the progressive look and seamless fabrics promise to transform accomplished athletes into national idols.
Nike boldly claims that the speed differential in the new track suits could be the difference between a medalist and an also-ran. After launching the USA kit last night, Nike will continue to roll out the rest of the nations' as the games approach. While colors will of course vary by country, the construction of the garments is identical for a thoroughly level playing field.