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HOW SPORTSWEAR TOOK OVER YOUR WARDROBE

Let’s kick off with a question: what is the most valuable clothing brand in the world? That would be sportswear giant Nike , which topped the 2018 league table with a total worth of $28bn, despite a 12 per cent drop due to “challenges” in North America and some executive misconduct. Buoyed by rampant sneaker culture and shifting dress codes, this should be a surprise to no-one, because there has been a fundamental shift in men’s fashion. Comfort got cool. The tastemakers went technical. Tracksuits became high fashion. At what point do we stop compartmentalising it as “sportswear” and just call it fashion, or clothes? Fashion’s brand rankings are a clear indication, if you needed one, that sportswear is no longer restricted to the playing of sport. Trailing behind the mighty swoosh, according to marketing consultants Brand Finance, are high street behemoths H&M and Zara, which finished second and third on $19bn and $17bn respectively, followed by a resurgent Adidas, up 41 per cent year on year to $14bn (one of Nike ’s principle “challenges” in North America). That’s way ahead of the luxurious likes of Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Cartier, which only just reach double figures – of billions of dollars, but still. Being able to wear T-shirts, sweatpants and trainers for more than going to the gym or the corner shop is, after all, the ultimate luxury. What’s changed in recent years is exactly that: sportswear is no longer just casual dress. Even if you work in an office, there’s a good chance you’ll have a pair of sneakers on, perhaps some drawstring trousers. There could be a sweatshirt slung over your chair, a baseball cap on your desk, a track jacket in your bag. Today, it’s completely normal to look smart in clothes that were originally designed to sweat in. This isn’t brand new, of course. Rene Lacoste’s 1927 innovation of a lightweight, breathable “tennis shirt” was subsequently adopted by polo players, Ralph Lauren and the rest of us. Sporting on-court clothing off it is something your grandfather started.

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