Sports Wear: From Functional to Fashionable

woman wearing sports wear

Centuries ago sportswear referred to clothing worn while playing sports. For the men and women of yesteryear, the term referred to clothing worn while hunting fox, or for a game of tennis. Within the past half-century, it meant you were out for a run, or on the back of a surfboard.

Today, you don’t have to be on the back of a horse, on the court in Wimbledon, riding the waves, or at the gym to wear sportswear. It’s often known as America’s clothing, but it is now commonplace around the world. Also referred to as mix and match, or fashion sportswear, for men this may entail slacks and a sports jacket or cardigan, or shorts and a golf shirt. For ladies, sportswear can be of similar attire only add in skirts, yoga pants, leggings, and more.

From the Hunt to the Office

Back-in-the-day, when gentlemen and ladies went on a hunt, they wore britches, suspenders, a plaid shirt, cufflinks, a silk tie, a hunt coat or blazer, and shooting gloves. Today the British fox hunt tradition is banned, although people can and do still go out for a horseback ride in a variety of the clothing not only in the UK but in the US as well. Important to the fashion world, however, is the style of clothing that emerged from Wellington boots to waistcoats.

The boot trend for ladies really took off in the ’60s and ’70s from knee-highs to thigh-highs. It was Nancy Sinatra who first sang “These boots are made for walking,” in 1966. Loretta Lynn sang her own spin on the song the same year.

Of course, Lynn and the American cowboy before her wore a different version of the boot. The cowboy boot is still one fashion option today, and it’s not only Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves, RaeLynn, or Taylor Swift who have paired their boots with skinny jeans, short frilly skirts, and short shorts.

Who Made Leisure Suits Cool?

The leisure, lounge, or tracksuit became popular in the 1970s. Tracksuits, of course, had been worn by track and field athletes while waiting for their event, warming up, or cooling down. When made of polyester or velour, wearing the leisure or tracksuit off the track and outside of the home is often credited to Bruce Lee. Lee, who was known for his martial arts in film, is also fondly remembered for wearing his yellow jumpsuit for leisure, onscreen and off.

Soon, people began taking their daily walks in leisure suits. Some boldly wore them for a trip to the market and beyond. While their styles have changed through the decades, leisure suits and sweats, have become the easy, go-to clothing to throw on for almost any casual situation.

Taken Off the Tennis Court

Obviously, you need to be able to move freely to play tennis. For ladies a century ago, the garb included loose flowing skirt bottoms and ballooned sleeves. Through the decades their dress became even more relaxed, allowing women to further develop their athleticism. Stockings were done away with, the skirts got shorter, and blouses lost their sleeves.

Dress became more playful and attractive for ladies fashion, on and off the court. For men too, wearing sharp-looking fitted shorts with polos similar, although not as loud, as worn for taking in 18 holes.

Perhaps the most trendsetting fashions from the courts and track, however, are tennis shoes which have evolved to include athletic shoes encompassing running, basketball, and other styles. It is important to remember that tennis shoes, aka sneakers, for fashion are far different than athletic shoes for sports. But, big-name brands such as Nike, Reebok, New Balance, and Vans haven’t hesitated to invest in designing their own fashion tennis shoe right alongside their various sports shoes. These fashion sneakers can be, and are, partnered with most any clothing styles, today.

Put on Your ‘Chucks’

In Uptown Funk, Bruno Mars sang, “Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent.” We agree with this fashion statement.

Chucks, aka Converse basketball-style shoes, have the look of high-top basketball shoes. The name stems from basketball player Charles “Chuck” Taylor joining the Converse All-Stars, sponsored by the Converse Rubber Shoe Company back in the 1920s.

Yves St. Laurent was one of the most famous designers in the 20th century. As a teen, he began working with Christian Dior following attending fashion design school in Paris. In the 1960s he started his own line. Runway models began showing off St. Laurent blazers, smoking jackets, and pea coats for women. Later the St. Laurent line grew to include men’s clothing, as well.

Today, one can pair St. Laurent style with Chucks for a very fashionable style. We’re glad Bruno took notice.

Other designers who contributed much to America’s sportswear look include Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beene. These two took it even further by also translating mix and match pieces into attractive eveningwear.

Stretch Pants to Leggings

In the ’50s women began wearing pants a lot more often. Made from more stretchy fabric, pants became tighter fitting and with shorter legs, hitting mid-calf and worn with heels. Enter the Audrey Hepburn look, which was followed by Debbie Reynolds’ onscreen and off-screen attire in the ’60s.

As pedal pushers and capris evolved, soon came leggings developed from fashion dating back to 14th-century Scottish men. Like long socks, leggings were worn with a Cotehardie, the hip-length dress with long sleeves, during Renaissance times. At this much later time though, toward the late 20th century, leggings were no longer in separate pieces of a pair, but rather made similar to a thicker pair of tights, and were worn by women.

Back to Uptown Funk and Bruno singing the chorus, “If you’re sexy then flaunt it.” Celebs and fans today are not only wearing leggings when going to the gym, but for taking their kids to the park, running errands, and beyond. J-Lo, Rihanna, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Mila Kunis, Kaley Cuoco, and Alessandra Ambrosio are just a few of the celebs who have been photographed in their favorite leggings while modeling and in their daily lives.

Today’s sportswear allows for flexibility. One blouse or sweater can be paired with many different skirts, leggings, or pants. Similarly, your favorite pair of pants can be worn with a variety of different blouses, shirts, and tops. A woman, or man, therefore, is offered a lot more diversity in their wardrobe. Each article of clothing can go a lot further. You can go to work with one look, and through a simple change of blouse or shirt, be ready for an evening out on the town.