The rise and fall of retro sportswear

From athlete to terrace to screen to high street to everybloodywhere has the trend for retro sportswear gone too far?
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From athlete to terrace to screen to high street to everybloodywhere has the trend for retro sportswear gone too far?

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There's been much written about our love of sportswear. From trainers to tracksuit tops and windcheaters, there's books, internet message boards and whole websites dedicated to them. Sportswear used to be just that, but as fashions and times changed, sportswear changed too. Pure aesthetically pleasing functionality made way for newer technology and materials that didn't necessaries look so good if you just fancied wearing them to the pub or match. But were fine for, well, playing sport. An over simplified explanation perhaps, but the result is that since the mid-90s, there's been a definite overground revival of 'retro' sportswear.

Revivals come in waves. Take televisions. We grew up with watching a curved screen set in a giant teak effect box. The wood turned to silver, accompanied with big silver chunky top loading VCRs, silver turned into black plastic boxes. Now we're back to silver, and it's coming full circle again with manufactures testing out wood effect. Change for changes sake? A genuine shift in fashion? Or a yearning for a time - only 30 years ago - when we were less materialistic and consumed so much less, much less often.

As far as sportswear is concerned, then it's the 70s and early 80s that appears to be its zenith. Tennis players, athletes, footballers wore the stuff to play in, kids in Grange Hill and Children's Film Foundation films wore it to play out in and solve crimes, and breakdancers and young lads on the terraces wore the stuff to look cool in.

The gaudiness of the mid to late 80s took hold. Shell suits, fashion-dictated horrendous patterns that presumably looked quite normal in a field or warehouse at 3am in 1988, microfibres and lyrca took us into the 90s. And then, what became known as Britpop restored an identity to the UK that was slipping away to the US and Seattle.

Britpop was a sea of drei streifen, swimming with replica vintage Fila and shoals of Fred Perry. The music scene harked back to that simplicity of past years and the fashion followed. Damon Albarn was mixing mod, faux cockneyness and the early football dresser look with singing about Trimm Trabs and wearing Vans. Swathes of the country were walking around with leather Adidas holdalls, and Adidas realised there was a market for their trefoil branded stuff, as opposed to the horrible equipment logo stuff they were making. Brands like Gola picked up on all this and tried to convince us that they mattered the first time round, and the less said about the likes of Travel Fox the better. It was, in the main, still easy enough to get original stuff if you wanted, and it was still wearable. The retro sportswear revival was bubbling under just nicely.

Tennis players, athletes, footballers wore the stuff to play in, kids in Grange Hill and Children's Film Foundation films wore it to play out in and solve crimes, and breakdancers and young lads on the terraces wore the stuff to look cool in.

Fast forward to today, and the new wave has hit. What had been steadily bubbling under, burst through like a volcano. The opportunity Adidas spotted became Adidas Originals and the internet has brought the kind of knowledge previously only acquired from an older brother or from being there, to the masses. Over the last decade just about everything you can think of has been remade and reissued to an eagerly growing market. Sports shops have sprung up that only sell retro or retro inspired sportswear. The 80s is back in vogue for people who weren't born then. Kids dress like the cool mate character from a film Teen Wolf or Weird Science and retro sportswear has gradually become the norm. It's that 42" LCD telly, with a wood effect surround.

Throw into the mix the films of Nick Love and his pal Danny Dyer and you've a good few 90 minute adverts for retro Fila and Adidas. Young lads suddenly turn up dressed head to toe like extras from the terrible remake of The Firm, looking like they've just got back from a fire sale at JD Sports. Not really bothered if any of it matches. With added fluorescence.

There's no snobbery here, don't get me wrong. People can wear whatever they like, and no doubt there'll be many reading this wanting to tell me sportswear ran its course 25 years ago, and they're probably right. I don't think there's anything wrong though with appreciating something for it's aesthetic functional simplicity. However, there's no doubt though that something that grew from grass roots ingenuity in the 80s and found a time and a place to return, organically, in the 90s and exploded far more cynically in the 00s has finally run its course.