By: Alex Germain
With their comfortability and versatility, tracksuits have become a dominant style in recent years, coinciding with the rise of athleisure and a shift towards street styles being seen on the runway. Despite their status as a modern staple, they weren’t always worn everywhere from the runway to the gym. The tracksuit as we know it is nearly 100 years old, and has a rich history.
In 1939, French sporting company Le Coq Sportif created “the Sunday Suit”, widely considered to be the first tracksuit. Consisting of a matching top and bottom, the clothing was created as a response to increased leisure time for the middle class in France. They used their existing expertise in creating sports apparel for cycling to create a comfortable, loose-fitting outfit meant for leisure activities such as playing sports or going for a run. However, the tracksuit truly came into form in the 1960s, when American runners started wearing matching tops and bottoms made of terry cloth to train in. With recent advancements in technology allowing for synthetic nylon to be used, companies began innovating in their construction of these garments. Additionally, in 1967 Adidas created its first collection of clothing, in collaboration with German soccer player Franz Beckenbauer. This collaboration marked the introduction of the modern tracksuit, and set the stage for it’s explosion in the 1970s.
In the 1970s, a large trend for Americans was jogging, and thus the tracksuit. Tracksuits were easy to wear and comfortable, which made them the perfect fit for a public newly obsessed with exercise. Brands such as Patagonia created new materials which were more durable, further progressing the design of the tracksuit. Additionally, the popular culture of the time popularized the tracksuit, with disco’s easy-going attitude lending itself to the tracksuit and stars of the time such as Bruce Lee wearing the tracksuit in their movies. Adidas became more focused on a refined look for their tracksuits and added details like collars and button closures. In the next decade, the rise of hip hop further added to the tracksuit’s reputation, with Run DMC wearing a uniform of tracksuits and Adidas shell toes that spread the look across the country, and with break-dancers adopting the style due to its ease of movement. More advanced fabrics were being developed which allowed for use in more situations, and bolder colors and styles were introduced. The tracksuit had become an icon, and cemented itself in popular culture.
In the 90s, tracksuits continued to be popular in hip hop, with Jay Z and Diddy wearing them, and became popular in the UK with soccer fans. Tracksuits from brands such as Sergio Tacchini became status symbols, and fans purchased the best tracksuits to show their team had the best supporters. Ravers in the country adopted the style for its ease of movement, and athletes in the Olympic Games wore boldly patterned tracksuits. In the 2000s, tracksuits continued to maintain relevance, with Juicy Couture gaining popularity among celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
Today, tracksuits remain an iconic piece of fashion, with everyone from Rihanna to Princess Kate wearing them. Current movements such as the grime scene out of the UK have popularized it with the current generation, and fashion labels such as Gucci and Palm Angels putting their spin on the classic design. Forever comfortable and classic, tracksuits are a fashion icon that is here to stay.