The tracksuit, once a staple of athletes and gym rats, fell out of fashion in the 1990s and 2000s. But in recent years, the tracksuit has made a major comeback in streetwear and athleisure styles. This article explores the history of the tracksuit, its decline in popularity, and its current resurgence.
Origins of the Tracksuit
The tracksuit has its origins in athletic wear. In the early 20th century, runners and other athletes would warm up in heavy, wool sweaters and pants. In the 1920s, fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli introduced a new two-piece knit ensemble inspired by these athletic warm-ups. The top and bottom were made from matching fabrics and the outfits were called “sports costumes.”
The first true tracksuit were developed in the 1960s and 70s. New synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester allowed for lightweight, breathable and moisture-wicking activewear. Brands like Adidas and Puma began producing athletic suits with zipper jackets and elastic waist pants. These suits were especially popular with runners and soccer players and became iconic symbols of athletes worldwide.
Rise to Popularity in the 1980s-90s
Tracksuits hit new heights of popularity in the 1980s and 90s. The hip hop community embraced tracksuits, wearing them oversized with gold chains and sneakers. Famous rappers and artists like the Beastie Boys and Run DMC helped popularize the style. The bright, often satin fabrics became a staple look of ‘80s and ‘90s fashion.
Beyond hip hop culture, tracksuits also became fashionable leisurewear for people of all backgrounds. Velour and cotton suits in colors like black, grey, and navy became acceptable attire for running errands and casual weekends. Iconic pop culture movies like Rocky and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off also featured characters wearing classic tracksuits.
Decline in Popularity in the 2000s
In the late ‘90s and 2000s, tracksuits went out of fashion. The velour and satin fabrics and flashy colors became associated with bad taste and the gloom of the dot-com bubble.Athleisure wear was on the rise, with people preferring yoga pants over tracksuits for casual comfort. The tracksuit became seen as sloppy, lazy attire rather than an intentional fashion choice.
Renewed Interest in the 2010s
In the early 2010s, a ‘90s fashion revival helped spur interest in tracksuits once again. High-end designers like Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs, and Ralph Lauren featured tracksuits on runways. Celebrity street style stars like Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Kim Kardashian West were spotted wearing designer tracksuits. The style also became popular across the pond, with British football fans donning tracksuits and trainers on match days.
The athleisure trend helped elevate the tracksuit as well. With leisurewear appropriate for errands and the coffee shop, tracksuits regained popularity. The style meshed well with normcore fashion and streetwear looks. Soon tracksuits shed their sloppy reputation and became coveted casual wear.
Current Fashion & Design
Today, tracksuits are available from fast fashion retailers to luxury houses. But the athleisure trend has impacted their design. Current tracksuits feature slimmer silhouettes, tapered legs, and minimal, modern details. Natural fabrics like cotton, merino wool, and cashmere appear alongside technical performance textiles. Details like zippers, toggles, and contrast sleeve stripes provide visual interest.
Beyond solid neutrals, fashion tracksuits come in trendy prints, patterns, and colors. Camo prints, graphic text, and embroidered logos elevate basics. Stripes, florals and abstract prints offer bolder styling. Unique fabrics like crushed velvet and faux fur also provide fresh takes on the classic tracksuit.
Overall, the tracksuit continues its momentum in fashion. The versatile staple provides comfort and flexibility for traveling, lounging at home, running errands, and even making high fashion statements. The tracksuit has come a long way from athletic warm-ups and continues to reinvent itself in the world of style.