Phelps' winning look

Michael Phelps wearing the US swim team's warm-up parka before the start of the men's 200m butterfly final, in which he won gold, in Rio de Janeiro.
Michael Phelps wearing the US swim team's warm-up parka before the start of the men's 200m butterfly final, in which he won gold, in Rio de Janeiro.PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK • By now, half the planet knows the meme #PhelpsFace, the viral image of Olympian Michael Phelps furiously glowering as he prepped in the team room last week for his semi-final in the 200m butterfly.

While his South African rival Chad Le Clos attempted to Jedi mind-trick him by shuffling and shadowboxing near him, the decorated swimmer hunkered down beneath the hood of his swim parka emanating death rays.

For many, Phelps' sourpuss was only half the appeal of that priceless moment.

A lot of viewers found themselves wondering who made his hooded armour, a cool knee-length parka in flag blue and with red chevrons on the chest and in stripes on the hood.

The parka, made by Arena, an outfitter of the United States swim team, may be the early fashion breakout at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, right up there with the fleece Roots beret from the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City and the dizzyingly patriotic cardigan Ralph Lauren designed for the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, which now fetches thousands on the Internet.

One item in a range of styles that Arena designed for the team - warm-up pants, jackets, T-shirts, slides - the parka has a practical value that goes beyond the fashionable or symbolic.

Few people watching from distant sidelines have much sense of the conditions inside the Olympics arena, where ambient temperatures can be frostier than Phelps' glare.

At the Olympics trials in Omaha a few weeks ago, the temperature was in the 30s with 90 per cent humidity outside, but it was not much over the 10s in the pool area, Mr Steve Ozmai, a spokesman for Arena, an Italy-based company, wrote in an e-mail. "Fans were walking in in shorts and T-shirts and walking out in jackets."

Fortunately, the rest of the world will have the option of walking out in that particular parka (as well as most other styles worn by US swimmers), although not quite yet.

Mr Ozmai added that a collection of similar designs will become available at US retailers and swim team dealers and online soon after the Olympics are done.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2016, with the headline 'Phelps' winning look'. Print Edition | Subscribe