Tuesday, March 16, 2021

A Walk Through The History Of The Tracksuit

 A Walk Through The History Of The Tracksuit

The tracksuit, there is no doubt that its a cultural icon in its own right. From the Juicy Couture to the 3 stripes of Adidas. Trainers evolved from basketball and tennis shoes and the polo shirt was designed by Lacoste for the tennis court. At some part in everyone’s life, they have owned at least one part of a tracksuit. Whether that be a hoodie, a pair of joggers or track pants, it is a necessity for sporting apparel. 

With the tracksuit ever-evolving through the decades, it has now been integrated into everyday fashion in streetwear apparel and athleisure, especially during the pandemic where the weekly zoom meeting apparel has been businesswear up top with Pj’s or a pair of joggers on the bottom. 

Many of today’s wardrobes find a lot of their pieces from the world of sport. In this article, we will walk through the decades identifying how the tracksuit made its leap from track to the street.

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The ’60s brought the “space-age”. With that came new technology, a countless amount of sci-fi movies and was also when the tracksuit was born. The combination of synthetic nylon fabrics and bold colours paved the way for modern-day sporting apparel. With Adidas first showing their 3 stripe design in their first piece of clothing, which was of course the tracksuit. Collaborations from the german footballer Franz Beckenbauer in 1967, set the foundations for a long and profitable business venture.


The ’70s was the era where tracksuits started to come into everyday non-athletic apparel. With jogging being a new idea and the popular interest in personal fitness, tracksuits became the go-to apparel for the average person exercising. Another sporting activity that took a grip of the ’70s was mountain climbing, which encouraged brands like Patagonia to create new fabrics which could handle the activity whilst also being wearable. 

With the tracksuit in full swing, it was soon recognised that these outfits weren’t just great for athletics, but also for everyday use around the house or going to fetch groceries. It’s no secret that the ’70s had a fascination with disco music. This brought the causal and the suave all under one roof which means the tracksuit was becoming an extremely common sight. 

With the movie industry booming and Hollywood hiring actors like Bruce Lee with his iconic yellow tracksuit from “Games of Death”, the tracksuit was becoming more popular with the population. Tracksuits in the ’70s were not how we picture them today, they had more formal details like collars, buttons and were more tailored.


With the 80’s still in the fitness craze, tracksuits were becoming a lot more mainstream. New synthetic fabrics were being created to make them more practical such as Gore-Tex which would keep the wearer comfortable and dry. With tracksuits evolving and new materials being produced, it wasn’t long until the shell suit came into fashion. The ’60s and ’70s adopted a more insulating material, whereas the ’80s saw thinner nylon layers which were better for the body to breathe. 

The 80’s also brought the age of hip-hop, and with it came breakdancing. Dancers could wear tracksuits for multiple reasons. Shell suits were less restrictive as well as breathable so it tied well with their activity. Tracksuits were not single block colours as we see today, they were brightly coloured and had a range of different patterns on them. 

It’s easy to see why breakdancers and the hip hop industry adopted the tracksuit as everyday apparel. Other groups were adopting the tracksuit also including the UK’s football hooligan culture of the “casuals” who would wear expensive clothing matches. 

1990’ s

By the 1990s tracksuits were used for both on-field athletics and hip hop staples. While earlier eras focused on slim-fit tailored apparel, the ’90s brought in more relaxed fittings which made them perfect for pre and post-game attire as well as being great for lounging. With the “casuals” being in full force by the ’90s, the tracksuit was associated with British football. 

Supporters would buy brands such as Sergio Tacchini and Fila tracksuits. If a club’s supporters were dressed in the latest tracksuits from abroad, it meant that the team was good. In essence, tracksuits were a way of bragging to other teams how good their team was. With this being the decade of Europe creating the rave scene, tracksuits were brought back out with their colourful designs and comfort.

Hip Hop’s relation to tracksuits changed throughout the years especially in the following decades but the likes of P Diddy and Jay-Z bringing out there lines of clothing. This was a movement to show the mentality that they didn’t have to worry about getting dressed because they were making so much money anyway. 


In the early 2000’s the tracksuit experienced an unexpected rise in popularity with paparazzi catching celebrities such as hip hop artist and reality tv stars. The pink Juicy Couture tracksuit with diamante wording was a particularly popular choice for women with celebrities like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian wearing them. In 2004, Britney Spears had her whole wedding party in custom made tracksuits which also brought a surge in popularity to the tracksuit. Movies were adopting the tracksuit to mafia culture with films like “The Soprano’s” which gave people the motive that it doesn’t matter what you wear to make money. 


By the end of the 2000s, the tracksuit saw a downward spiral in popularity. Tracksuits were not getting the same reaction as they used to, this brought an influx in men’s full tracksuit sales and women went for other casual looks such as leggings or yoga pants etc. With this in mind, designers would have to try innovative ways to revamp the tracksuit. 

Tracksuits would regularly be reworked by adopting the old style of the ’70s. With new designers at Adidas using iconic pieces to modernise their look, the tracksuit started to become more popular again. With minimalism being a huge part of the 2010s, most tracksuits had simple designs with their logo on them. Most tracksuits were made from the same materials from the ’80s and ’90s but with the same look as the 60’s and 70’s apparel. 


Streetwear has been around since the hip hop era but it's still strong today. With the rapid growth in new brands creating their own streetwear apparel it's no surprise that there has been an influx in tracksuits. With the pandemic hitting us in 2020, nobody knows how the fashion industry is going to evolve in the coming years. One thing we do know is that there are a lot more people working from home now. 

This has meant that people can wear comfy clothing due to them not needing to be face to face with clients etc. Tracksuits, Pj’s and slacks are now the new office attire of 2020 and 2021 but will the office attire be brought back after lockdown?


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