History of Men’s Sportswear
FAS238 Professor Cockle
February 21, 2008
During the 1960’s stretch garments became quite usual and the comfort factor of being able to move within garments comfortably became noticed. Thus, this led to an upsurge in the men’s sportswear industry. This category grew tremendously during the 1970’s until the present, because so many people then and now, are into jogging, exercising, and sports.
Male sportswear is an alternative look to express one’s self from the hustle and bustle of everyday business wear. Sportswear, which is categorized and includes, but not limited to casual pants, casual shorts, sweaters (with or without hoods), windbreakers, velour jumpsuits, and sweat suits. This outspoken apparel of color and style was worn by many men that wore this style for informal use and leisure hours. The category of men’s sportswear could be broken down into two sub-categories. One would be active sportswear, worn by people who participate in exercise or sport. The other would be spectator sportswear, where people who wear the garments, are not necessarily engaged in sports, but are more concerned about the “look”. What was once thought of as “wash-and-wear” apparel, have now grown tremendously into sophisticated expensive dry clean only garments.
During the 1960’s the track suit was the phenomenon and was worn by top athletes. The track suit consisted of anorak tops with matching bottoms. Zip fronted boiler suits of 1969 were developed from space clothes wear, and when made up in fabric, especially stretch velour’s, these suits became “sexy” party wear of the 1970’s. By the end of the 1970’s sportswear was on the edge of making a breakthrough for a new era of fashion. During the same time, there were huge advances in breathable fabrics that were being made. Gore Tex was the original product that was breathable, yet waterproof at the same time. Gore Tex is not a fabric, but a membrane which is laminated to other fabrics such as polyester and nylon to make breathable clothing.
Throughout the 1980’s Gore Tex was used primarily in skiwear, golfing, and expedition wear. During the late 1970’s into the 1980’s yoga and aerobics became a big part in many people’s lives and have become routine to numerous people. Some people played squash, some played tennis, some jogged, some exercises, whatever the case was, this took on a whole new era in sportswear. The 1980’s, also saw the arrival of the shell suit. The shell suit was a lightweight front zippered nylon jogging top with matching loose bottom trousers that had an elasticated waist. The colors on these shell suits were bright with secondary colors. Typically the color combinations were purple and pink, sea green and purple, purple and yellow, black and white, and so on. The shell suit moved into mainstream fashion, but as manufacturers produced cheaper and cheaper looking suits, it became so affordable that it became a mass fashion. Even pensioners began to wear them, thus causing an almost instant death of the shell suit within a few months. A comparative style to the shell suit today would be the fleece jacket worn by grandmothers and great grandmothers.
The polar fleece jacket was developed to provide lightweight warm garments hill walking, hiking, and expeditions. In the 1990’s the fleece was produced to provide a wide range of simple cut, easy care casual tops worn by all ages groups. Fleeces are likely to go in the direction of the shell suit if inferior grades continue to be made, tainting the better quality garments. This would be a real shame if this were to happen to the fleece, since it is so lightweight and extremely comfortable to wear in many situations.
During the 1990’s, especially in 1992 sportswear had became a very serious commercial industry. Manufactures during this period insisted that skintight materials gave competitors an edge in winning medals and making record breaking performances during the Olympics. Linford Christie’s one piece running suit was made of double layer fabrics. The outer layer of the suit was water resistant and rejected perspiration. The inner layer that was closest to the skin was water loving and absorbed the moisture. The combination kept the runner dry and also cool at the same time. Christie’s one piece suit has become a common wear for sprinters in today’s marketplace. During this same period of skin tight sportswear during the Olympics, Speedos became innovative range of swimwear among the top contenders. Speedo’s which produced the product S2000, which was made up of polyester micro fibers and Lycra electrometric fibers gave the swimmer more water resistance and improvement of performance by 15%. In the 1992 Olympics, Speedo wearers won seven gold medals, and broke four world records. By 1996 some 77% of Speedo swimwear won medals during the 1996 Olympics.
Today, main sports manufacturing names such as Nike, Reebok, Adidas, spend huge amounts of money in endorsing top level sports players to wear the styles that they create with hopes and probabilities, that consumers will follow the athletes that they look up to and buy the same styles that the top athletes wear. While we are a long way from the restrictions from when sportswear started, the 21st century promises new fabric technology that surpass the ones from days of old, enhance sports performance, and ultimately benefit ordinary customers.
My own personal opinion on men’s sportswear is, men’s sportswear has come a long way from what it used to be, and what was considered “acceptable wear”. I believe that men’s sportswear will take off into the future where no one could possibly imagine. Technology is on the fore front of the present, and I believe that technology will have a big impact on what we wear and how we look in the fashion era of the future, especially in men’s sportswear.