My white Adidas Superstars are my go-to pairs of shoes; they are comfortable, stylish and socially acceptable to wear with almost anything in my wardrobe. It would therefore be incredibly difficult to say that the integration of streetwear and fitness-wear to fashion is a new craze that has simply started with the children of Generation Z. Whether it’s an independent publication, Vogue, or even the free newspaper you are handed at the entrance to any tube station, you can’t escape articles about the popularity of high end fitness fashion. The most noticeable item of this trend are the Adidas Stan Smiths.
The ‘Stan-Smith’ effect took over not only the fashion industry, but also the music industry, becoming a ‘must-have’ shoe for a great deal of celebrities, including designers and musicians. I know for a fact that this even had an influence over my mum, who wanted a pair as soon as I started wearing mine, especially as they weren’t readily available in South Korea originally. 2015 can easily be considered the year of the ‘Stan-Smiths’ with the huge popularity of the re-release of the 1963 tennis shoe. These trainers, which led to a huge peak in popularity of trainers overall, can be explained by a very simple reasoning. Trainers suit every age and gender demographic; for example, me and my mum both own the same Converse trainers. They are comfortable, chic and ageless and go with pretty much all pieces of a ‘grownup’ wardrobe.
Adidas, Nike and Converse have always been big players in the trainer market; this is indisputable. But brands such as Celine are also incorporating trainers and other clothes, which have been previously associated with the lazy and even the unemployed, into their collection. This may appear to be due to the spike in trainer sales after the ‘Stan-Smith effect’, but it is evident that the root of this popular trend and fashion statement is much older than the realm of the past decade.
The ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) in London currently hosts the first major solo exhibition by Judy Blame, an accessories designer, art director and fashion stylist. His non-conformist attitude led to a vast styling success with black rap-artist Neneh Cherry in the 1980s, due to the controversy of pieces selected for her to wear. The contrast between sports shoes and high-end luxury outfits was something that simply wasn’t done for that era. Although his work was considered revolutionary at the time, the origins of combining sportswear with fashion starts in the 1960s.
Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin and Courreges were the first designers to release clothes integrating sportswear into their collections, even if the customer would never wear them for physical exercise. However, due to the body-revealing obsession of the sixties, ‘sportswear’ declined as an influence for collections, with favourite materials at the time being plastic and vinyl. Nonetheless by 1978, stretch velour and towelling tracksuits were even considered acceptable party wear, if the colours were bright enough. By the end of the 1970s, exercise had become an obsession; whole ranges of clothes would cater for it.
Nevertheless, sportswear still wasn’t integrated with day-to-day fashion; the designs were simply more and more inventive. What Judy Blame accomplished -combining actual sportswear with high-end attire- was the first stepping stone for the craze of fitness fashion today.
Looking at the garments themselves is one way of analysing this growing trend, but the popularity of smart gear, such as Fitbit and Apple Watch, could also be seen to contribute to the rapid integration of sportswear with high-end fashion.
First, let us consider Fitbit. It began in 2007 with their activity trackers, which calculated the distance walked, calories burned, floors climbed, activity intensity and duration. From here, Fitbit has grown, to the point where their wristbands are rather common, as well as being relatively cheap. This trend of wearing fitness gear along with your everyday wear, although it is an accessory, makes a statement, and increases the amalgamation of fitness and everyday styles. This is especially apparent with the very sleek and stylish Fitbit Alta, which has been released recently.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, leading the luxury market, is the Apple Watch. Fitbit really paved the way for stylish, wearable, health and fitness trackers and watches, but Apple has been highly successful since the release of the smart watch last year. The watch is a statement in itself, regardless of the fitness and health capabilities that it offers. It is a very desirable item to have. This growth and acceptance of smart gear has heavily influenced the quick integration of sportswear with high-end fashion, especially when brands with such a luxurious reputation, such as Apple, develop a product.
It has been relatively easy to dissect the various reasons as to why fitness has become so integrated with high-end fashion, but there is a question that remains unanswered: why now?
This could be due to the rise in unisex and gender-neutral collections hitting not only the catwalk, but also high-street retailers such as Zara. The push for gender-neutral clothing, as well as for gender equality remains, unfortunately, an ever-present problem. But with the acceptance of unisex lines, this may have created the perfect atmosphere for women and men alike to wear the same items of fitness fashion, whether it be trainers or a hoodie.
I know that my collection of trainers will simply continue to grow, alongside that of my mother’s. I honestly hope that this is a trend that will never die or grow tired, because this acceptance of comfortable, luxury fashion is one that I, and my feet, are ecstatic about.
Text by Olivia Mitchell, image by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images,
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