The History Behind the Olympic Phryge

The Olympic mascot is usually some kind of animal, or more rarely, a pop culture character that means something to the host nation. For the 2024 Paris Olympics, the French went with a fashion statement. That seems appropriate for Paris, but the hat that is the branding image of this year's games is more than fashionable. It's a symbol of France's revolutionary history. The Olympic Phryge is designed to resemble the Phrygian cap, a conical cloth hat with a peak that could flop forward or back.

The design goes back thousands of years, and is recognizable in ancient art. Colonial Americans adopted the hat as a symbol of their struggle for freedom, called the "liberty cap," which gradually fell out of favor after the French Revolution. It was the French who made the Phrygian cap their own, in red wool, as a political symbol. They not only used it as a symbol in art and communication, but actually wore those hats when they stormed the palace.  

Using a hat for the Olympic mascot may seem strange at first, although no stranger than other Olympic mascots have been, but there is plenty of history behind the design, which you can read about at Smithsonian.

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