The evolution of sport fashion

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How did we come from practical clothes to fashion excess and vice versa!

When Maria Sharapova walked onto centre court at the U.S. Open in a little black cocktail dress, complete with beaded crystals and white Nike swoosh, the game of tennis seemed to enter a whole new era of grit and glitz, sweat and sequins.

Ms. Sharapova wore the “night dress,” as she called it at a news conference, her sartorial style was getting loads of buzz, spurred by Nike’s “I Feel Pretty” ad campaign featuring the Russian tennis star.

Her little black dress »has generated a lot of interest«. The frock was stitched together in-house by a team of designers and with input from Ms. Sharapova, who has said she’s a fan of Audrey Hepburn.

Did the outfit enhance her game or detract from it? This is one question that I can’t answer.

Sport clothing has evolved considerably from when different sports first emerged. Today’s sport clothing focuses more on the sport rather than echoing the fashion of the day. But it was quite the opposite a century ago, especially in tennis.

Tennis is a sport that has been played for centuries. Initially created as a hand ball game for monks to play, the monks wore the full habit of their order. When tennis moved more into the mainstream, men and women joined the game. Men wore fashionable attire of the time, including full-length pants, ties and soft soled shoes. Men were required to wear full length pants at Wimbledon up until 1946.

In the 1860s, women’s fashion included fur, bustles and full-length skirts. Clothes were made of heavy fabrics, such as serge and wool.

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As fashion evolved, so did colour choice. White has always been associated with the game of tennis. And the reason is simple – sweat. White does not show sweat as easily as other colours, making it ideal for the relatively upscale sport. Nowadays, technologically advanced fabrics wick sweat away, making colour choice more varied for tennis players.

As the game evolved, so did the clothing. Players today wear clothing built for sport. The clothing is closely fitted to the body and enables movement. The focus of the clothing has moved away from echoing the daily fashion worn on the street to becoming a fashion unto itself. It is driven by tennis stars such as Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters as well as the technology derived in labs and on the court.

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Performance fabrics, including polyester, nylon and spandex, let athlete to stay cool on and off the court. They also keep their shape and retain their colour far better than earlier fabrics used for tennis clothing. They’re also extremely durable.

What about men in pink shoes?

Latest trends of wearing snoods (circular scarves), warmers and bright coloured boots, is rocking football. Football is considered to be the most popular sport across the world. It has a legion of follows who claim support of their local or favourite team by wearing their football shirts – jerseys.

In the early days of football there were no uniform kits instead players would wear what they had and distinguished themselves by wearing coloured caps, scarves or sashes.

With the invention of the Football League in 1888 and the growing interest from the working class, clubs were instructed to provide matching clothing and choose the colours. Clubs often chose the colours of the schools or universities that they were most closely associated. With the formation of more teams came the first manufacturer of sportswear in the UK by a company called Bukta which was established in 1879.

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Branding of football clothing became popular in the 1970s when companies saw the potential of large TV audiences. Much like the rest of the kit, football boots in the early days were not regulated or uniformed. Many players wore heavy leather work boots which came up over the ankles. Below ankle boots became standard in the 1960s and the 1970s saw the emergence of sponsorship. In the 1970 world cup, Pelé was asked by his boot sponsor, Puma, to bend down and tie his laces at the beginning of the game, ensuring huge exposure for the name.

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In the 1970s soccer teams made the first commercial deals to have brand sponsors on their clothing. This has become big money for the modern day soccer club and is considered by many clubs as one their primary income streams. Jersey sales today represent the core business of many clubs and are often responsible for around 50% of merchandising revenue.

Sport uniforms say a lot about how the game is played, and the changing needs of athletes (who are getting better and better). Jerseys may change colours and shorts may change lengths, but the most important things about sport never seem to change: teamwork, sportsmanship, and good old fashioned spirit.


Did you know?

13.7 million replica shirts were sold in the 2009/10 season in 10 European football markets (England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine). The two sports equipment giants, Adidas and Nike, enjoyed a combined market share of approx. 83%, whilst the remaining 34 kit manufacturers in the ten leagues sold a mere 2.3 million jerseys in total (17%). / Source: Sport+Markt

Hard-line boss Sir Alex Ferguson has banned his Man Utd stars from wearing trendy snoods – declaring: “They’re for powder puffs. Real men don’t wear things like that.”

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