When it comes to sportswear and leisurewear, few garments have woven themselves into the cultural fabric as effortlessly and enduringly as the tracksuit. A symbol of athletic prowess, a reflection of cultural trends, and, in more recent times, an emblem of streetwear chic, the tracksuit remains as relevant today as it was decades ago. But what exactly constitutes a tracksuit, and how did it evolve into the fashion staple it is today? Let’s take a look.
What is a Tracksuit?
At its core, a tracksuit is a two-piece outfit, typically made of polyester or cotton-blend fabric. The top, often referred to as a track jacket, is a lightweight jacket with a zip-up front and ribbed cuffs and waistband. Paired with this is the jogger, a relaxed-fitting trouser designed for ease of movement, generally equipped with an elasticated or drawstring waist and ribbed ankle cuffs.
Initially designed for athletes, tracksuits were constructed to keep muscles warm prior to competition or during training, protecting them from strains and potential injuries. Over time, as their comfort became evident, tracksuits started to be adopted outside the athletic sphere for casual and everyday wear.
Their simplicity, versatility, and comfort make them ideal for various activities, from intense gym sessions to casual outings or even lounging at home. Often adorned with stripes, logos, or other distinguishing features, they've also become canvases for personal expression and fashion experimentation, with an Essentials tracksuit being one of the most popular tracksuit pieces of the 2020s.
History of the Tracksuit
So, where did the tracksuit begin? The inception of the tracksuit can be traced back to the early 20th century; as the sporting world began to take shape, the need for appropriate athletic wear grew. Innovations in synthetic fabrics in the 1960s, especially polyester, revolutionised the tracksuit, making it lightweight, durable, and more affordable.
Initially donned by athletes during training sessions or to keep warm before competitions, the tracksuit soon found its way into mainstream fashion. High-profile sporting events and globally watched Olympics introduced the world to the tracksuit, but it was the endorsement by celebrities and musicians in the 1970s and 1980s that truly elevated its status.
From being sported by hip-hop icons to Hollywood stars, the tracksuit's transition from the athletic track to high-street fashion was swift and impactful. This versatile piece, once confined to sports arenas, began to make waves in both casual fashion circuits and high-end designer collections.
When did tracksuits get popular?
The rise of the tracksuit in popular culture is intertwined with the explosion of hip-hop in the late 1970s and 1980s: as the genre grew from the streets of New York to global prominence, its distinctive style and swagger came with it. Many hip-hop artists and breakdancers adopted the tracksuit as their uniform, valuing both its comfort and its statement-making potential.
The 1980s solidified the tracksuit's reputation in pop culture, and high-profile endorsements from celebrities like Run DMC, who famously paired their Adidas tracksuits with the brand's trainers, made tracksuits a must-have in urban wardrobes. At the same time, Hollywood wasn't far behind. Movies like "Rocky" showcased the protagonist in tracksuits during training sequences, symbolising determination and grit.
Heading into the 90s, as sportswear brands expanded their reach and started to sponsor athletes, the tracksuit became synonymous with athletic prowess and success. Sports legends wearing their brand’s tracksuit off the field made it a symbol of prestige and accomplishment.
Benefits of Wearing a Tracksuit
Above all, tracksuits are designed for comfort. Their loose fit and soft fabric make them ideal for extended wear, be it during a rigorous workout or a relaxed day at home.
Tracksuits can effortlessly transition from sportswear to streetwear - pair them with trainers for a day out, or with sandals or slides for a casual at-home look.
Modern tracksuits, especially those designed for sports, come with features like moisture-wicking properties, ensuring you stay dry and comfortable during workouts.
The tracksuit, with its myriad colours, patterns, and branding options, is a canvas for personal expression, offering an opportunity to showcase individual style while staying comfortable.
The Bottom Line
From its humble beginnings as functional sportswear to its rise as a streetwear icon, the tracksuit has been emblematic of cultural shifts and fashion trends over the decades. Its enduring appeal lies in its unique blend of comfort, functionality, and style, and as fashion continually evolves, the tracksuit, with its rich history and adaptability, is here to stay.
Are tracksuits appropriate for formal occasions?
While traditionally considered casual wear, modern fashion has seen a shift towards sporty-chic and athleisure looks, even in more formal settings. However, it's crucial to gauge the event and dress accordingly.
How do you style a tracksuit for a modern look?
Pairing tracksuits with trendy trainers, statement accessories, and even mixing and matching track jackets with jeans or skirts can offer a contemporary twist.
Which brands are famous for their tracksuits?
Brands like Fear of God, Adidas, Nike, Puma, and more recently, high-end designers like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, have all showcased tracksuits in their collections.