Sporty chic, sport is fashion

To understand how we got to the point of bringing oversized k-way models, crop-tops and acetate overalls, basketball tank tops and socks, dancer's body and silk boxer's bathrobe to the catwalk, we need to call Guy Debord's "The society of the spectacle" into question. To explain why sportswear suddenly became stylish, we will then have to take a tour of the various media productions, and in the social life of celebrities and influencers mainstream: apparently even in the life of VIPs we have returned to the era of comfortable and versatile clothing, democratic and timeless with a sporty style. If the Oscar winners also go shopping with their sweaters at home, even if those who count, according to Forbes, travel in overalls and shoes, why shouldn't we do it?

Sport and fashion: the era of athleisure

In 2016 sportswear had a turnover of 46 billion dollars (34 million of which went to leggings alone), a figure that will probably double within a five-year period. For a couple of years now, the hooded sweatshirt, baseball cap, socks and trainers have not only been the norm, or rather the choice of a basic and unpretentious outfit; they are a precise statement of style. In short, we are certainly facing a real moment of glory, for the fashion label athleisure.
It is not by chance that some historic brands, which have been overshadowed since the early 2000s, are experiencing a second renaissance and, with the same determination as David against Goliath, have returned to compete with multinational sports companies such as Nike and Adidas. The luxury brands, for their part, are drawing on the experience of those who have explored other possibilities of textile processing and manufacture, and are borrowing the inspiration of sportswear designers for haute-couture collections. This incessant transfer of styles and stylistic elements from one declination to the other of fashion, creates the contamination of sporty chic, sportswear reinterpreted in a luxury way by the fashion stakeholders.
Today it is possible to wear an acetate suit with side buttons, a sweater, a lycra body, pants or socks, a miniskirt or a polo-dress, without appearing to be customers of the flea market. Today you can be cool in a bomber jacket and vest, or dressed in a Formula 1 style, whether there is the name of Gucci, Versace, Dior, or Alexander Wang, to make it a guarantee.

The first signs of change were the return of the T-shirt, which has found a way to enhance its simplicity by hiding under the jacket of the tuxedo, or in the combination with skirts and pants. At the same time the leggings, in a variety of fabrics, ceased to be runner's clothing to be worn with dizzying heels beyond Kim Kardashian and the sneakers became the must have of the man in his career, perpetually racing against time. The revolution of sporty chic began, in essence, when the three basic garments of sportswear were emancipated from their purely utilitarian function to be relocated to casual outfits and glamour.

A culture of images

The transition from costume, understood as a shared habit, to fashion (affirmation of the trend) is a process as trivial as it is elusive. We are all very clear in our minds how it will materialise, but we are never fully aware of its implementation. What is the exact path and time when a mass-media trend becomes mass-market? We are the visual culture, we are living the historical moment in which the word has delegated part of its driving power to the image, we build worlds with photos and through them we tell our story. The signifier is valid as such; it is no longer necessary that it underlies who knows what its deep meaning is, it just has to be in the wake of the contamination that is affecting the arts and technologies, and it hybridizes the media. At the same time, its value lies in its evocative character, in the fascination it exerts on the person through the mechanism of recognizability.

The theory of nostalgia

There is something inherently reassuring and comfortable about things that seem familiar. Today's stylists and creatives were the teenagers of the 90s, those who grew up with vintage souls, with the mythology of superheroes, gymnasts and athletes with extraordinary performances. Those who recognized the plots and characters of Beverly Hills and Dawson's Creek, those who aspired to be figs like The Prince of Bel Air. The collective imagination of an era has glossed over the generational leap and lives again in today's pop culture, from publishing, with the return of science fiction, to TV series such as Stranger Things, to fashion. And our look is nothing more than the story of what we are living: the need to bring back to life a significant piece of our past history.
The sporty chic exists since the 90s, but until 2010 no one has considered it Fashion. The Spice Girls are an example: in 1996 their screen debut with the video of the debut single, Wannabe. "Sporty Spice", aka Mel C., bursts with four friends into a reception of the London high society. She wears an Adidas suit and cotton top, and performs an acrobatic performance that won the MTV Awards for best dance video.

The same year he released the video Just a Girl by No Doubt, a piece against the stereotype of female representation as a weak sex. The song was a global hit and Gwen Stefani, the group's voice, set himself up as the undisputed icon of sporty chic, with Vans on his feet and succinct cheerleader tops. His style was inspired by baseball, basketball and American football in its colours and selection of garments. The same look will be found, in an evolved and rigorously personalized form, in the breathtaking outfits of Iggy Azalea.

Sport on the runway

Sportswear is no longer under culture, it is no longer indie or cobbled together as it once was, when only rappers were allowed the privilege of dressing sports and still make trend. Sport is fashion today.

The technical clothing companies produce garments for those who practice sport but, many of those cuts, materials, solutions that are adopted to meet the needs of those who must move in maximum comfort, end up being adopted on clothes intended for everyday life that, with the approval of the brand, become catwalk clothes. At the same time, classic sportswear improves itself: from a technical point of view, with the discovery and use of high-performance fabrics; from a conceptual point of view, working on aesthetics and brand identity, also through important collaborations such as the one between Puma and Rihanna, which signed the Fenty capsule collection.

If VIPs have restored style to sport, sport can turn the ordinary man into a style icon. Fitness models, ambassadors and ambassadors of athletic style, are a contemporary phenomenon. They are mainly professional athletes, passionate models of a certain discipline, sport-influencers and fitness bloggers; on social media they advertise sportswear and collaborate with sponsors as brand-testimonials. Their popularity suggests that sport is no longer a niche phenomenon, nor the memory of a childhood trauma: training, showing an active lifestyle and an eye for health practice, today is trendsetting and putting on your suit is no longer a sacrifice.

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