Points of view

Tracksuit: two pieces of timeless history

21.09.2018 | By PAOLO BOCCHI

Athletes, mafiosi, actors, drug dealers, rappers, models, loan sharks, football players, artists, designers: all, indiscriminately, wear, everywhere, and on every occasion, this timeless garment, born in the ‘30s: ladies and gentlemen, the tracksuit!


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A classic. A timeless two-piece, from the moment when its sun rose, in 1930: the dawn of an instrument to keep the muscles of the athletes warm before the race, because the light-weight sports outfits would not be able to guarantee the body temperature necessary for the gymnastic challenges to come.
Two pieces that are easy to wear, comfortable, and easy to take off, at the right time, a few moments before the “start”.
40 years later, in the ‘70s, this suit (worn in the meantime also by young students during school hours dedicated to physical exercise), meets the “fashion” planet,
a planet then light years away from the simplicity and functionality of the two pieces of the tracksuit.


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It’s the moment when polyester and velour are adapted, creating new ways of being worn and represented. At the same time, even the cinema discovers that the tracksuit can become an iconic symbol. Bruce Lee, with his “martial” suits, immediately (1971) becomes the media example. Uma Thurman, in the yellow tracksuit worn in Kill Bill, becomes its favorite disciple, thanks to Quentin Tarantino (2003), more than 30 years later.
Adidas is the brand that more than any other understands the potential of this garment, and already in the seventies decided to use a German footballer, the captain of the national team, Franz Beckenbauer (an idol, a myth, a timeless glory), to launch a series of “suits” that today still define the stylistic standards of what is now known as the tracksuit.
The link between “sports” and “pleasure” is established. It will not stop anymore.
On the contrary, it will extend the boundaries of the “pleasure” area.

Adidas will also be the first to associate the “tracksuit” with rap language, by dressing the 3 boys of RUN-DMC with their athletic uniforms: two pieces, three stripes.
In this case, the disciples were infinite, from Jamiroquai to Missy Elliot passing through several copies, more or less worthy.
At the beginning of 2000, a Japanese takes the concept of tracksuit and transforms it in a definitive way, making it a garment to wear even in “dress code required” occasions.
He is Yohji Yamamoto, who for the three-lined brand begins a long collaboration, elevating the popular “tracksuit” to “something unique”.
The popular basis of the “suit”, however, notwithstanding Yoji and the like, has never disappeared,
over the course of years and decades. The classic English suburban suit, complete with a gold chain around the neck, still today screams “ugly&ghetto”. The suburbs, moreover, remain the perfect scene for the tracksuit. At least the “top” is fundamental, and is always worn, in Scampia as in Manchester, by both the pusher and the loan shark.

Tracksuit: highs & lows, one could say, to sum it all up.
A two-piece that is worn without prejudice both in the violent metropolitan suburbs and on the red carpets of the most famous festivals in this world.

Worn by James Gandolfini and his mates, in the Soprano’s series (in unmistakable hazelnut-brown “mafia style” versions), by the mini-gangsters of the Parisian banlieues (led by a seductive Vincent Cassel in the film La haine), or on the catwalks of recent runway shows (by swaying punk models), tracksuits represent the “winning democratism” of a garment which, born to help athletes compete at best, has crossed every threshold and every boundary and barrier, rightfully entering into the history of contemporary fashion “for everyone”.