The 1930s are heralded as the modernizing decade of mens fashion (at least as far as the 20th century goes.) From the dinner jacket replacing formal tails to the lounge suit becoming business de rigueur (and let’s not forget turned up cuffs on trousers) the 30s were watershed years for how the civilized Western male costumed himself. Some of us still occasionally wear versions of resort wear perfected in that decade, even if most have discarded the linen suit for a polo/t-shirt and jeans. All this is common enough knowledge, but not everyone is aware of how much classier athletic competitors previously dressed (aside from carry-over Lacoste tennis wear) whether they were competing, accepting awards, or simply recreating off track. While I realize that contemporary athletic wear is based on science over aesthetics, function over form, I’ve always believed that perfection (and I refuse to cleave “beauty” from my definition of the word) is found in what is perceived as the equilibrium of the two. Of course, this is yet another area where I find myself out of fashion.
One can never divorce politics from the Olympics, particularly the dark shadow it cast over the ’36 games, but I am going to unapologetically ignore it for the moment. Obviously, the topic deserves more than can be given in a short blog post about the competitors clothing. At the very least I want to acknowledge the German Jewish officials who actually organized and designed much of the 1936 Olympics; in the weeks and days before the official opening, they found their names wiped from the official record, replaced with petty Nazi cronies.
As far as the outfits go, pleasantly absent are any swooshes, ponies, or additional forms of corporate blight. On the other hand, nationalistic excrescence is rampant, as is natural and expected from the games (perhaps its the only place we should forgive such indulgences.) The pictures that follow were scanned from three German souvenir photo books of the 1930s; these would all become well known images, reproduced countless times over the years. Most of them were new to me when I acquired the volumes.