Olympics, You Know: Walk Don’t Run, 1966

Today, you may have heard, is the start of the Games of the Thirtieth Olympiad. Likewise, “It’s the Olympics, you know?” is a running line from the comedy “Walk, Don’t Run,” which is set amid the chaos of the 1964 Tokyo games. The city is so overburdened that stars Cary Grant and Jim Hutton are forced to take lodgings with a pretty young English girl who lives and works in the Japanese metropolis.

It’s a moderately amusing comedy you might want to check out. Cary Grant doesn’t have much to do except be Cary Grant, and indeed this was his last film. Hutton plays a slightly sarcastic collegiate type, though far less goofy than his similar role in 1960’s “Where The Boys Are” (which we wrote about here).

Hutton plays an architecture student who lives in Greenwich Village and is competing in the racewalking competition, which is to athletic competition what humming is to a singing competition.

Hutton’s main outfit for his sightseeing time in Tokyo consists of tapered trousers, desert boots, blue oxford, knit tie, and a natural-shouldered sack jacket, updated with short side vents in concession to the Continental influence.

Warning: Orthodox trads and neatniks may be offended by his shirt, which shows the puckering and character of non-chemically treated cotton, and, as he’s a slim guy, has a slim cut.

I don’t want to go on a nostalgic rant here, and I hope my regular readers have noticed my tolerance — or at least helpless resignation — at the march of time, but one contrast between then and now is worth pointing out. This being 1964, not only does Hutton’s character spend most of his sightseeing time in a jacket and tie, when he goes out to dinner with fellow athletes from the Olympic Village, he wears his Olympic blazer.

In contrast, I’ve seen a number of athletes this week on the morning shows who went on national television, live from London, where they’re representing their country overseas, wearing sweatpants, shorts, t-shirts and even flip-flops.

I can only conclude that it simply never occurred to them, in our take-me-as-I-am/come-as-you-are era, that an athlete would be expected — or want — to wear anything but athletic clothing at all times.

So let the games begin. I’ll be cheering for Denmark’s Boe & Mogensen men’s doubles team in the badminton event, and our own Miles Chamley-Watson, the best foil fencer America has ever had, whom I wrote about last year for Ralph Lauren Magazine. — CC

27 Comments on "Olympics, You Know: Walk Don’t Run, 1966"

  1. Not that I don’t agree with you, but there’s a nice irony to complaining that an athlete is wearing his sportswear outside of competition, instead of dressing up in a sports coat and oxford button down.

  2. When I played sports, you traveled in school blazer and tie, noway you’d be allowed on television news without them.

  3. When I was in college, 1961-65, if we wanted to be taken seriously and treated as an adult, we always wore a tie and proper jacket. That meant, for example, that no matter how ill we were, we would shower, shave, and put on jacket and tie before going to the doctor.Needless to say, the same was true when we went to a travel agent for a plane ticket, or to the bank to deposit or withdraw money.

  4. You’ve got an essay topic there, Old School: “The Things We Used To Dress Up For.” Send me an email if you’re up for it.

  5. When I want to be taken seriously, I always remember my grandfather’s advise, ” Never miss an opportunity to shut up and listen”.

    OldSchool, times have changed, at 14 I wore a tie and blazer to apply for a dish washing job at a greasy spoon cafe. I did the same for a carpenter job in high school. Remember when you couldn’t get in a better restaurant without a jacket and tie after 5:00 PM., they always had different size blazers in the back for idiots or tourist.

  6. About 3 weeks ago I was going to a bank to apply for a loan to buy my first home, so I put on a suit, tie, decent shoes. I got to the bank at the scheduled time and the young woman (mid-20s) who I had been in e-mail contact was kind of dumbfounded when I introduced myself. She said, “Oh. I thought you had, y’know, *business* with the bank.”

    I thought to myself “No, I’m just here to ask for $100,000+ of your dollars. You want I should wear flip-flops and a t-shirt?”

  7. Love your last line Luke!

  8. Great thread, and a great starting line by Chip!
    Regarding the athletes showing up very casually on news programs: Yes, it is a bit eyebrow raising for us adults. You’d think their handlers would help ’em out. We do have to remember most of these athletes are college-aged kids. During my time at UCLA, all of the athletes – and they’re were quite a few Olympians in that crowd – had to mix all of that training with going to classes and life around campus. The casual sweatpants and flip flop look is easiest to do when you have to race from the gym/track/pool to PolySci101 and back again. That said, you think Ralph would have given them a primer booklet!

  9. And what about Mariel Zagunis? Not only is she a world champ fencer, she’s Hot too :)

  10. I’m fascinated by American post-war era films about Japan, for obvious reasons. I may have to check this out.

    And I’ve never been to a school where athletes were not required to wear coat and tie. Usually on game days, but on other specific days as well. Have things changed that much in the last decade?

  11. Of course if you’re going to watch “Walk Don’t Run”, you must first see this race walking segment from Kon Ichikawa’s 1965 documentary “Tokyo Olympiad.”


    As you watch some of the Olympic competitions, you inevitably ask yourself, WHY?

  12. A thing to keep in mind: I would not be surprised if the the networks and other companies wanted them dressed like this. First, they probably are supposed to wear the the clothing of their sponsors or the Olympic committee sponsors as much as possible, and Nike does not make many blazers. Many of these athletes are barely making ends meet and the money they get from sponsors, especially for the one time in four years people pay attention to them, is absolutely critical to their survival and training.

    Also, during everyone of these things they need to look as marketable as possible. That means that they need to look relatable, laid back, and fun. In a world where people rarely ever where blazers it would probably appear to be pretentious to many people.

    Finally, there has been a noticeable shift in how athletics are viewed in the past few decades. In the past, when amateurism was valued so highly, it was assumed that the athlete had other things going on in their life. They were preparing themselves for a successful, non-athletic, future. Now, the assumption is that the athlete is entirely focused on the sport, to the exclusion of everything else. In the public’s imagination they should not care about “regular life” and delight in the idea that they would rather be training than giving an interview. Putting the effort into looking presentable might signal that they are not sufficiently focused on the competition.

    So I would guess that the change is probably less of a result of athletes no longer caring about looking good, but market and cultural forces driving them to not want to look good. The athletes are not lazy or uncaring, they just need to do what they can to make ends meet.

    By the way, in my experience college athletes still travel in collard shirts and ties, although jackets are less common now. And if you show up without one you will get an earful.

  13. CQ
    You are probably right about making ends meet, I played college ball with less advantage guys that couldn’t afford change to do their laundry. The system was set up so that the only ones that could help were other players.

    I lost a link to a slide show of USA Olympic team attire over the last century, but trust me Ralph’s contribution is an improvement over recent decades.But, I have to ask, what was the British uniform a tribute to, Micheal Jackson, Elton John or Barbarella?

  14. Bill Stephenson | July 29, 2012 at 1:27 am |

    Olympians are a reflection of our culture. Their dress is pretty typical of their contemporaries in the US.

    Shirt gears to top executives and money managers appearing on MSNBC. Usually no tie, with dress shirt under jacket.

    Middle aged men, well educated, able to afford whatever they want, and trying to make a good impression on TV audience.

    That’s just the way things are.

  15. I haven’t found any discussion on the R.L. sponsored, designed and China made ridiculous uniforms US athletes were wearing on opening ceremony. Besides the fact they were produced in China (debatable at the very least), what the hell was the beret for? Looked terrible with white slacks, has nothing to do with US style/culture, is very hard to pull off for anyone yet alone athletes, and is very French especially with the red , white and blue on it! Embarrassing in my opinion.

  16. Re: US Olympic uniforms – the women athletes who werevmade to wear bobby socks looked silly also.

  17. Everyone seems to have forgotten that berets were used in the ’02 and ’04 games as well. That certainly doesn’t make them a good choice, but this ain’t unprecedented.

    All the gripes I have for the uniforms hardly matter, seeing as how we’re headed inextricably toward a future where our uniforms are provided by Nike. And, let’s be honest, only three other countries had uniforms that looked as good or better than ours. That unholy logo was by far the worst part. I did, however, love the white bucks.

  18. Also, the berets seemed to reference the berets used in the US military, they don’t look as much like the stereotypical “french beret.” I’m uncomfortable with equating our athletes with soldiers (although that is a very american idea) but I have been confused by people saying that the berets have nothing to do with the US. After all, the army special forces are also called the Green Berets.

  19. The beret indeed has a strong tradition in many armed forces, including the U.S. If anyone needs to familiarize themselves with the Green Berets (as well as their actual headgear) mentioned by CQ; I suggest a look back at U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler from 1966:

  20. AldenPyle | July 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

    Jim Hutton was also in “The Green Berets”

  21. I’m not sure, but I think the beret in the US Army started with some combined effort during WW2 with the Canadian rangers. The US-CAN Ranger outfit wore orange (?) berets to be distinct.

    When I was stationed in Fort Knox in 1972, mostly the only beret worn was a special forces edition. I can recall that black berets were worn by a minority who wanted to. Guys would put their black subdued rank pins on a white background and pin them in front of the beret where the unit patch would be sewn on a Green Beret.

    Well, I guess the beret became the official cap sometime in the last 40 years. I never did like the beret. Too foreign, but a great symbol for the elite, like the Special Forces and the SAS.

    If there had to be a change in headgear, I vote for cavalry hats. Cavalry hats would be a better choice for the average soldier. Though, I still think the old service and garrisson caps are still the best.

  22. EVERY army in the world has worn berets at one point or another but what that has to do with civilian clothing and/or a sports event. It’s like saying the army wears boots so lets pair them to white trousers and blazer. What I am saying is that R.L. ‘brilliance’ could’ve come up with something better (or no head wear at all for that matter). A pitty as I am a fan of a lot of clothes RL make, just expected much much more from him.

  23. The black beret became the official headgear of all US Army in 2001. Although throughout the the last century different Us military groups have had permission to wear specific colored berets.

    At present, black berets are standard US Army, Airborne is maroon, Ranger is tan and Special Forces is green.

  24. Wriggles
    The Us Army Cavalry still issues cavalry hats use for ceremonies.

    I think the RL uniforms fall in line with the more traditional look of the US Olympic outfit, blazer, white pants and bucks.

    The headgear, as Dan points out the beret has been done before. So has cowboy hats, cricket caps, newsboy caps, fedoras, panama hats and others.

    While I’m not wild about the large player and pony on the blazer, but If i was a participant, I would rather have the RL uniform in my closet than the guido nylon and spandex warm-up outfits of the past summer Olympics. It will stand the test of time.

  25. A. Willis | July 30, 2012 at 7:52 am |

    Though, I believe that the U.S. Army is planning to retire the Black Beret for its regular troops and switch back to the old “patrol caps”.

  26. As of July 2011, the US Army retired its misguided black berets; soldiers now wear patrol caps or boonie hats with their camouflage pajamas. However, the black beret is still acceptable with dress uniforms, but only for non-ceremonial use.


    Red, green, and tan berets may be worn by Airborne, Special Forces, and Rangers, respectively.

  27. Bill Stephenson
    I just read that you attended OU in Norman, Oklahoma in the 50s. Would you remember the original Harolds clothing shop?

Leave a Reply