In the past few years the fitness industry has boomed, and it seems that everyone and their neighbour, and their neighbour’s dog, is a member of a gym. You can’t scroll through Instagram without some ‘fitspo’ being thrown your way and brunch dates are slowly being replaced with post-workout porridge bowls. So it it was only a matter of time before the fitness industry and the fashion world combined, to the point where it is now impossible to tell if someone is heading for a workout, or to a dinner meeting with colleagues.
The sports luxe trend is a reflection of society’s obsession with getting fit – or at least looking like they want to get fit, even if they’re only on their way to the supermarket. Gone are the days of buttoned up collars, brogues and pencil skirts and instead we’ve seen a rise in loose fitting lounge wear, styled with baggy jumpers and oversized t-shirts. Jeans and trainers, once the uniform of an American tourist or a mum on the school run, are now sported (pardon the pun) by coifed and glamourous twenty-somethings. The oxymoron ‘formal joggers’ can be seen hanging off the label of trousers that could be worn for both an office meeting and an early morning dash for the cross-trainer. Duality is key with this trend. It is getting the perfect harmony of casual and formal so that you could be headed both to the office and to a yoga class. Perhaps this cultural shift has materialised because of the rise of new companies which are headed by younger entrepreneurs and there is now no need for button up shirts and ties. ‘Casual Fridays’ are now filtering into every single day of the week.
It doesn’t help that Beyoncé has recently released a sportswear collection that is being sold in Topshop stores. It is high street meets luxe gym wear meets the queen of the charts. The collection is being sold in a few stores, JD Sports included, suggesting that most of the items could genuinely be worn with a dumbbell in hand. However, by also using Topshop as a host, and the main feature of the marketing campaign, the whole premise has been steered to the forefront of the high-street market. As a result, her bodysuits are more likely to be worn under jeans than on the treadmill, despite the explicit mention of the “technical performance” of the items in the press release. It seems that Ivy Park will be made for those who want to look like they work out, even if the most cardio they’ll do that week is dancing at the bar.
The Chloe tracksuit, which costs upwards of £1000, is most likely the peak of this trend and definitely foreshadows the uprising of ‘athleisure’ wear, a term that has sprouted from the trend’s popularity. Despite looking markedly like something out of The Royal Tenenbaums, the silk material, beige colourings and half zip made it a favourite on the catwalk and a stand-out outfit for its sheer audacity – how can something so comfy look so smart and put together? The presence of the tracksuit on the runway highlights how fashion is moving from the street to the catwalk instead of the other way around.
Another important factor is the androgynous nature of the trend. Fashion has become much more gender neutral, with brands like ASOS and Urban Outfitters introducing unisex wear. However, the difference is that these are labelled as such, whereas the tracksuit is ungendered without stating it outright and is therefore much more ahead with this cultural shift in the gendering of clothes. A female in a tracksuit would never be considered ‘masculine’, and vice versa, and so the look fits neatly into society’s changing guidelines (or lack thereof) about fashion and gender.
Like most trends, this is one with a fine line between getting it right: clean cut trouser lengths, crisp t-shirts and perfectly matching tracksuits that could almost be mistaken for high-end two pieces – and very, very wrong. The chances are, if you could pass for a tourist in jeans and trainers or simply look like you’ve rolled out of bed before heading to the gym, then you’re most likely in the latter category. To think that this is a look that requires minimal effort would be a mistake; it actually takes a lot of thought to get the perfect harmony between “I’m about to workout” and “I’m heading for drinks with friends”. In fact, it is a sign of our changing society the fact that both these activities are equally as popular, and accepted, for after work catch-ups. You’ll probably find more gossiping on the spin bikes than over a martini at the bar. However, the key here is to draw the line at actually performing any leisure activity in your carefully planned outfit. Not in a tracksuit that costs more than your first car anyway.