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HOW SPORTSWEAR TOOK OVER YOUR WARDROBE

2021-08-30 16:09   Үл хөдлөх зарна   Баян-Өлгий   6 views

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Let’s kick off with a question: what is the most valuable clothing brand in the world? That would be sportswear giant Nike , which topped the 2018 league table with a total worth of $28bn, despite a 12 per cent drop due to “challenges” in North America and some executive misconduct. Buoyed by rampant sneaker culture and shifting dress codes, this should be a surprise to no-one, because there has been a fundamental shift in men’s fashion. Comfort got cool. The tastemakers went technical. Tracksuits became high fashion. At what point do we stop compartmentalising it as “sportswear” and just call it fashion, or clothes? Fashion’s brand rankings are a clear indication, if you needed one, that sportswear is no longer restricted to the playing of sport. Trailing behind the mighty swoosh, according to marketing consultants Brand Finance, are high street behemoths H&M and Zara, which finished second and third on $19bn and $17bn respectively, followed by a resurgent Adidas, up 41 per cent year on year to $14bn (one of Nike ’s principle “challenges” in North America). That’s way ahead of the luxurious likes of Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Cartier, which only just reach double figures – of billions of dollars, but still. Being able to wear T-shirts, sweatpants and trainers for more than going to the gym or the corner shop is, after all, the ultimate luxury. What’s changed in recent years is exactly that: sportswear is no longer just casual dress. Even if you work in an office, there’s a good chance you’ll have a pair of sneakers on, perhaps some drawstring trousers. There could be a sweatshirt slung over your chair, a baseball cap on your desk, a track jacket in your bag. Today, it’s completely normal to look smart in clothes that were originally designed to sweat in. This isn’t brand new, of course. Rene Lacoste’s 1927 innovation of a lightweight, breathable “tennis shirt” was subsequently adopted by polo players, Ralph Lauren and the rest of us. Sporting on-court clothing off it is something your grandfather started.

JUST DOING IT

“Sportswear as casualwear is essentially a preppy invention – the carryover from hearty WASP athletic pursuits which gave us the likes of the sweatshirt, sweatpants and letterman jacket,” says Josh Sims, author of books such as Men of Style. “Sportswear was appreciated for being tough and practical.” Like military uniform, that other stalwart of menswear, sportswear has long been valued for the rugged characteristics it both possesses in itself and indicates in its wearer. And in sport, like war, competition results in game-changing technological breakthroughs. What we wear on the fields of battle and play has advanced more dramatically than what we wear elsewhere. If sportswear is at the cutting edge of fashion right now, that’s because – in technical terms – it always has been. The current, unprecedented sportswear boom though can also be seen as a pendulum swing away from the hashtag-menswear sartorialism that followed the economic downturn and increased competition for jobs – coinciding with the 2007 airing of Mad Men. As employment rose again, so did jobs that didn’t impose traditional dress codes and a social media-fuelled emphasis on individual creativity.

Then there’s the swelling fashionability of fitness, which has given us a legitimate excuse to wear sportswear outside the gym beyond comfort and sheer laziness. Instead of spending valuable time fastidiously parting our hair and folding our pocket squares, we’re throwing on hoodies and baseball caps. And if you’re running around town all day, it makes sense to wear shoes designed specifically for marathons. It’s arguably the luxury sector that’s setting the pace. Streetwear designers like Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga and Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton are running the show(s), elevating previously utilitarian sportswear to the very height of fashion. T-shirts, down jackets and sneakers, which grew by 25%, 15% and 10% respectively, were “standout categories” in the 2017 Bain Luxury Study. With its links to skateboarding, surfing and other sports, you could argue that streetwear – whatever that loaded term means – essentially is sportswear. “I’m not sure streetwear is the dominant mode, if you’re talking urban, hip-hop-driven streetwear,” contends Sims. “It’s sportswear with graphics, in effect. “There’s not much original design in streetwear – unlike sportswear, then and now – and what there is tends to be driven by – ta-da – sport.”

THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOCCER JERSEY

Once upon a time, the humble soccer jersey served little purpose other than to tell the difference between two teams.

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