HOW SPORTSWEAR TOOK OVER YOUR WARDROBE
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.
Occasionally superstition forced a change to the team jersey. For example, up until 1953, Brazil used to play in a white jersey. The mood of a country and the team jersey was forever changed when Sele??o failed to win the 1950 World Cup. A new jersey was debuted 4-years later at the 1954 World Cup and the team has never looked back on their way to winning an unprecedented 5 World Cup titles.
Such a change was rare and certainly never for marketing purposes.
Only when Admiral signed a deal to supply the Leeds United jersey of 1973 did things start to change. The deal meant that Leeds could sell replica jerseys with the Admiral logo on, making them recognizable. A whole new market was born.
Jersey sponsorship wasn’t far behind, although it wasn’t initially something the big clubs caught on to. English side Kettering Town emblazoned ‘Kettering Tyres’ on their kit in 1976, only for the English FA to outlaw the innovation.
Not long after that, Derby County and Bolton Wanderers applied to have advertising on their shirts and in 1977 the FA granted a license. That’s helped pave the way for lots of record-breaking jersey deals over the years, with suppliers and advertisers.
Real Madrid are currently eyeing a $125 million per season deal with Adidas to supply their kit, a long way from the sort of money Kettering Town got.
Not only has the financial aspect of the football shirt developed, but so has the technology used in the shirt itself. Over the years the method by which they’re produced has changed.
An article by sports coach Jimson Lee reveals that it wasn’t just soccer jerseys that saw a technological change. Nike were one of the first companies to introduce a shirt that essentially kept sweat away from sportsman and women, used by golfers and soccer players alike.
The drive to find that sporting edge prompted them to develop lighter jerseys to help with speed and endurance. The dri-fit technology even helps keep sweat away from the players during the game.
Italy’s World Cup 2014 kit took the evolution of soccer jerseys a step further as it “featured a special tape that micro-massaged player’s muscles as they wore it”. The aim was to help a player’s physical recovery by massaging them whilst the jersey was being worn. Labelled a ‘compression kit’, Uruguay also wore a similar jersey at the 2014 tournament.
The technology is only going to progress even further. With sports science becoming an increasingly popular aspect of soccer, jerseys are being developed with heart rate monitors and GPS tracking signals in them. This will help coaches understand their players’ performance and requirements down to the finest detail.
From simply being a way to differentiate between two teams, soccer jerseys have become a huge industry. They’re used as a method to develop revenue and income, with big clubs such as England’s Manchester United making huge sums of money from selling shirts with players’ names on.
They’re also playing a key role in aiding performance and understanding the athletes better, making the soccer jersey an integral part of the modern game in more ways than one.
Early rugby uniform was not unlike those worn above. Matching wool jumpers were paired with white trousers. Although wool was the de facto “tech” fabric of the era (even early swimsuits were made of wool), it quickly became apparent that the itchy, heavy, knit jumpers were less than ideal in a sporting context. Heavy-gauge cotton shirts worked far better on the pitch, and thus the modern rugby shirt was born.
How to Choose Yoga Wear
Refining a downward dog or trying a new balance pose at the yoga studio is challenging enough on its own, but it’s made even harder when you’re fiddling with sagging, too tight or uncomfortable yoga clothes. That’s why it’s important to purchase clothes that are breathable, flexible and comfortable.
Your yoga clothing purchases will depend largely on personal preference, as well as the style of yoga you plan to practice. But at a high level, here’s what to wear to yoga (see below for a more detailed discussion of these yoga basics):
- Breathable, flexible bottoms like yoga pants or shorts
- A breathable, narrow- or form-fitting top that won’t hang over your head when you’re upside down.
- For women, a sports bra or built-in shelf bra that offers enough support for the type of yoga you’re practicing
- A comfortable, warm top layer for end-of-class savasana (corpse pose) or after class when you’ve cooled down
Yoga wear is made with polyester-nylon-spandex blends, and for good reason—these fabrics offer the right balance of comfort, breathability and flexibility:
- Comfort: There’s nothing worse than practicing yoga in an uncomfortable piece of clothing. As you tune into your body, you don’t want to focus on itchy seams and tags, saggy or too tight waistbands, or fabric that binds and chafes.
- Breathability: Depending on the type of yoga you practice, you may sweat a little or a lot. Particularly if you’re sweating a lot, it’s important to wear breathable and moisture-wicking materials to keep you cool and comfortable. Tank tops, shirts with cutouts and yoga pants with mesh pockets will all improve breathability and venting. Avoid cotton, which holds moisture, makes you feel hot and damp, then leaves you prone to chafing or getting chilled when class winds down.
- Flexibility: Yoga involves bending, stretching, binding, lunging, reaching and rolling. Your clothes need to be able to keep up with these movements, which means they’ll probably be made with at least 15 percent spandex.
Jerseys and shorts
Originally, basketball was played in any type of athletic attire, ranging from track suits to football uniforms. The first official basketball uniforms, as displayed in the Spalding catalog of 1901, featured three types of pants: knee-length padded pants, similar to those worn for playing football, as well as shorter pants and knee-length tights. There were two types of suggested jersey, a quarter-length sleeve and a sleeveless version.The long pants later evolved into medium-length shorts in the 1920s, and by the 1930s, the material used for jerseys changed from heavy wool to the lighter polyester and nylon. In the 1970s and 80s, uniforms became tighter-fitting and shorts were shorter, consistent with the overall fashion trends of these two decades. At this time, women’s basketball uniforms transitioned from longer-sleeved uniforms to tank-top style jerseys similar to men’s basketball uniforms, which more explicitly showed off players’ muscle tone.In 1984, Michael Jordan asked for longer shorts and helped popularize the move away from tight, short shorts toward the longer, baggier shorts worn by basketball players today. Throughout the 1990s, basketball uniforms fell under the influence of hip hop culture, with shorts becoming longer and looser-fitting, team colors brighter, and designs more flashy and suggestive of rappers’ bling. At the turn of the 21st century, basketball uniforms became even more oversized and loose-fitting; the arm holes in women’s basketball jersey remained smaller than men’s, but were wide enough to reveal the players’ sports bras.