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STYLE AND CULTURE

CULT ITEM: TRACKSUIT

By Lakeisha Goedluck, 18 August 2018

Now, you can’t really refer to yourself as a streetwear fan if you don’t have at least one tracksuit hanging in your wardrobe. An iconic piece of road-ready kit, the original laid-back two-piece has been donned by sporting heroes, hip-hop icons and various other disparate groups over the decades. So, here’s the story of how the humble tracksuit went from race track to runway.
Tennis player Arthur Ashe wearing a tracksuit | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: Getty

Originally, the tracksuit started life as an extra layer for athletes to sport (sorry) to warm-up in before starting their chosen event. Often made from jersey, the idea was that they would serve as a lightweight breathable solution to exercise in and also as a means of communicating which team a sportsperson represented.

Fast-forward to the 70s, and the tracksuit became less about sport and more about being a sartorial mainstay. Two-pieces were created made from velour and terry loop fabric to give the sets a luxurious, casual feel to be donned as everyday wear.
Actor Will Smith wearing a tracksuit | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: Rex

In the late 80s, the tracksuit underwent somewhat of an evolution. The shell suit, which was largely made of either nylon or polyester, became the go-to co-ord for hip-hop artists of that era. Imagined in vibrant day-glo colours, the likes of RUN DMC and LL Cool J seriously championed the look back then, choosing to wear the suits with ornate jewellery and bucket hats. Towards the mid-to-late 90s, tracksuits became popular again – Will Smith was often seen wearing either a shell suit or a tracksuit in his hit TV show The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.
A model from from the Valentino SS19 show wearing a tracksuit | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: IMAXtree

Nowadays, the tracksuit has become emblematic of relaxed, road-ready style. Big sportswear brands such as Nike, adidas and Fila have been producing tracksuits in various designs for the masses for decades, but now the silhouette has been adopted by major fashion labels. Designers such as Gosha Rubchinskiy and Demna Gvasalia have helped elevate the tracksuit to high-end level – this past season, tracksuits could be spotted on the runway at the likes of Valentino and Iceberg, to name a few.

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