The male English aristocrat, a property owner, spent much of his time on his land, overseeing his property and practicing such sports as horseback riding and hunting. His clothes—necessarily practical—were discreet, comfortable, and resistant, and thus very different from the attire of the French court, which was delicate and loaded with embroidery. Ever since, Anglomania has been a constant in men's fashion, having become the model of modern elegance due to its comfort with a certain informality. The English-style suit was first for sport, then for travel, and, finally, for the city.
The variety of sports activities, life in the open air, and travel by the upper classes beginning at the end of the nineteenth century necessitated a renewal of the wardrobes of both sexes, as these new activities demanded new attire based on convenience and comfort. In the 1920s, sportswear marked men's fashion with a soft and comfortable wardrobe in which knit garments were triumphant. Women began practicing sports en masse, as fashion now demanded a slim figure, and creators such as Coco Chanel, with her collections of knits, and Jean Patou paved the way for feminine sportswear. After World War II, sportswear began to triumph in Europe. Clothes for leisure time became more informal, especially beginning in the 1970s when, as a consequence of the need to be in shape and practice sports, the soft wardrobe of sportswear—sweatshirts, leotards, bodysuits, T-shirts, legwarmers, tops, tracksuits, and training shoes—began to be worn on the street. Fashion entered sports brands fully in the 1980s, when labels became aware of the added value represented by these garments, which until then had been more or less standard.
With sports fully integrated into society as a form of leisure, from the late twentieth century on, sports brands have entered the world of fashion with increasing frequency, utilizing prêt-à-porter designers as a lure to sell their collections. Ever since French tennis player René Lacoste, following his retirement in 1933, entered into a partnership with André Gillier, owner of the biggest knit factory in France, to create sports shirts with a crocodile logo, the relationship between sport and fashion has only grown stronger. Lacoste, nicknamed "the crocodile," broke with the rules of tennis by abandoning the traditional long-sleeve cotton shirt for a short-sleeve V-neck design, made of light, transpirable material (pique cotton) and inspired by the shirt worn to play polo, far more suitable for the movements of tennis.
Puma, defined today as a sport lifestyle company, was the first to unite fashion with sports, beginning a collaboration with the German designer Jil Sander in 1998. Later, Neil Barret (1999), Philip Stark (2004), Yasuhiro Mihara (2005), and Alexander McQueen (2006) appeared on the scene. Recently purchased by the luxury holding company PPR, Puma hired Hussein Chalayan as its artistic director with the objective of positioning the label as a trendsetting brand. Yet it was Adidas that scored the first media goal when it hired Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto to launch its exclusive 2002 sportswear line "Y-3," ("Y" for Yamamoto, "3" for the emblematic stripes of the German brand), a collection inspired by sports but not intended for playing sports, making Adidas the first luxury "sport-à-porter" brand.
The sportswear trilogy
The most universal sportswear trilogy—T-shirt, tracksuit and sneakers—has origins dating back to the nineteenth century. The cotton T-shirt, which appeared with the development of underwear, was, at first, a men's garment used as much for staying warm as for sport. The name "T-shirt" indicates both its form and one of its most common uses: training (shirt).
The tracksuit was originally a thick, ribbed sweater worn by vegetable vendors in the Parisian market Les Halles. Initially, it was called "gamesou," a union of the word "Gamard" (the Amiens manufacturer that sold them) and the phonetics of the word "sweater" (garment for sweating). It ended up being called "chandail," (sweater) in 1894, becoming the prototype of the modern sweatshirt.
Sneakers appeared around 1860, when rubber soles were united to the upper part of canvas lace-up shoes thanks to the discovery of the vulcanization of rubber by Charles Goodyear. In 1895, English athlete Joseph William Foster came up with the design for a sneaker with a spiked sole, the Spike of Fire, which he went on to produce. Due to the success of this shoe, top athletes began to order Fosters, a brand that functioned successfully until 1958, when two of the grandchildren of the founder—Joseph and Jeffrey Foster—separated from the company and founded Reebok. In 1917, Converse All-Stars appeared—high-top athletic shoes that for many years were the most popular footwear for playing basketball in the United States.
In 1920, brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler began producing athletic shoes, but it was not until 1948 that they founded Adidas. That year, due to a familial dispute, Rudolf left the company and founded Puma, provoking fierce competition.
During the 1950s, athletic shoes were adopted as a distinguishing feature by teenagers, as they were affordable and easy to obtain. James Dean made them a symbol of rebellion, in the movie Rebel Without a Cause.
In 1964, Phil Knight, a young university athlete, and Bill Bowerman, the legendary track–and–field coach at the University of Oregon and of the U.S. Olympic team, created BRS (Blue Ribbon Sports), a company devoted to selling Japanese running shoes, which were comfortable, light, and cheap. Given their success, they began designing the shoes themselves and then sending them to Japan to be made. Thus, in 1971, Nike was born.
In the 1980s, athletic shoes began to appear outside of their original context and on the street, a fashion that soon caught on like wildfire. The influence of casual British style—increasingly international—and the rise of hip-hop—the aesthetic of which was based primarily on the look of the artists' sports heroes—contributed decisively to the success of brand sportswear, ultimately becoming a uniform of status. On the other hand, the New York transportation strike in the spring of 1980, which lasted for eleven days, forced men and women to walk to work in their sneakers, which proved that athletic shoes made for excellent urban footwear. Another important factor dates back to 1982, when the aerobics craze impelled Reebok to come out with the Reebok Freestyle, the first athletic shoe designed specifically for the female foot.
In the 1990s, so-called risk sports, which pay special attention to footwear, gained popularity among young people. One of the clearest examples was skateboarding, which appeared in California in the early 1960s as an offshoot of surfing and has subsequently become an urban subculture unto itself, with its own styles of dress.