A Look For The Win: Sports’ Influence On Fashion

A model walks runway in designer swim apparel during the Maaji Swimwear fashion show.
A model walks runway in designer swim apparel during the Maaji Swimwear fashion show. Photo: FashionStock.com / Shutterstock.com

When you are casting around for a win, you can do no better than check out the success of the latest fashion in sport. There has come a time when wearing sports attire wherever we go is not only normal but high fashion. How did this happen? Well, let’s take a tour of the history of the convergence of two worlds into one.

From court to catwalk

Tennis was the first sport to inspire the great designers of our time. Jane Regny and Suzanne Lenglen were two tennis players who moved over to design some everyday activewear in Paris. Way back in the early 1900s they recognised the style and comfort could converge. This 1920s prep look was definitely the look of the rich, with the college spring breakers taking the style beyond the tennis court.

If you are looking for the influence for Fred Perry, then you would do well to look at this early influence – and Fred Perry has become street fashion even though its routes are definitely in athletics.

MMA and the tracksuit

Ever wonder who was responsible for all those likely lads wandering the streets in a tracksuit? You know the group; it’s those who like to sit around and chat the day away but with all appearances that they might strip off at any minute and race 100m. Well, arguably the biggest influence for the success of the tracksuit is the famous martial artist, Bruce Lee. He was probably the only man in the world cool enough to make polyester cotton and velour fashionable away from the gym.

Although, arguably, the fashion for wearing casual clothes to watch sport stemmed back from the 1920s. Then, in the 1960s there was a definite trend for nylon shorts and matching windbreakers in a host of psychedelic colours. To be fair, it is hard to use the 1960s as a marker for high fashion, so we might still give credit to Bruce Lee and his martial art moves.

Woman Sporty Look Sweater Shots Boots
Photo: Shutterstock.com

The trend for trainers

Again, Tennis started the trend for sneakers to make it to the streets. In the 1970s, Adidas presented us with the Stan Smith tennis shoe. Although these fashion sportswear has evolved over the years, it is fair to say they have now reached cult status after icons such as Marc Jacobs adopted the style.

Yet, it is the running shoe rather than the tennis shoe that has dominated high fashion, with high-performance shoes commanding prices in the thousands of pounds. The limelight was first directed to the running shoe with the help of Run-DMC, who wore Adidas Superstars sportswear wherever they went. From here, sport, music and fashion converged to create a powerful movement.

Now, high-end sneakers are part of the denim culture – and have been embraced by top designers like Gucci as a wardrobe essential. But Gucci isn’t the only name to command a high price tag. Maison Margiela’s designer footwear, based in Paris,  will cost you around $1200, while Berluti from Italy but based in Paris will ask for the small investment of $4000. Berluti brings high-quality leathers to your everyday sports shoe. This designer doesn’t even pretend that you are ever likely to break into a jog.

Two Women Wearing Black Acroyoga Poses
Photo: Shutterstock.com

Yoga at a stretch

Then there was the moment that yoga pants somehow broke out of the studio and made it to the streets. You have to have some courage to take these curve-hugging stretch-pants from your yoga retreat to the shops but the theory is that they are so wonderfully comfortable that you would be foolish to take them off.

The influence of yoga pants took fashion a little off the rails for a while, when there was a 1970s trend for the unitard – a time we should never revisit. Yet, the 1998 creation of the Boogie women’s leggings were a high point, as they would eventually be exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art alongside a pair of Levi 501 jeans. Indeed, Lululemon was credited with the explosion of the athleisure movement.

Football casuals

Then, we need to address the influence of soccer on worldwide fashion. Major football clubs began to travel the world and influence nations outside their home league. Wearing the right shirt for a time became part of tribalism that fashion wanted no part of, but soon with the power of exclusivity and the need to keep up, fashion won out. Now wearing the latest fashion items from your team is a badge of your commitment to their success. It is an area of fashion where it is safe for the uber-masculine to tread with pride.

Fitness Models Purple Outfits Athletic
Photo: Shutterstock.com

The power of athleisure

Such is the fame and fortune available to designers in the athleisure space, there have been some almighty clashes between leading fashion brands. Louis Vuitton, arguably the name in high-end couture, sued Supreme for copyright infringement. Many experts see the eventual collaboration between the top fashion house and the streetwear brand as the moment that the distinction between fashion wear and sportswear finally collapsed – not least because Supreme is valued at an impressive $1bn.

What all this goes to prove is that athleisure is here to stay. Fitness fads might come and go but the connection between street fashion and high fashion will see the track come to the catwalk for many more years.


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