The Evolution of Athletic Attire at a Glance

The uniforms athletes wear have changed a great deal over the years. While some sports have strict guidelines, others allow more (or even complete) freedom of choice. Of course, performance is the most important reason for an athlete, so the clothes he is wearing should be a support to achieve that. Let’s check out how athletic attire has changed over the years.

Golf is known as a gentleman’s sport and clothing inspired by a serious work setting or business environment have always been the desired look. Players’ styles have certainly evolved over the years. The appearance was once very formal and refined, but over time, it’s become less restrained and oftentimes quite bold.

Knickers, collared shirts, ties, thick tweed jackets, tweed caps, and even waistcoats were the original sought-after items of golfers. As the knickers lost popularity, flannel trousers in plain colors became the norm and the jackets began to disappear. Knitted shirts and slacks made of a lightweight material became dominant, along with durable, now spike-soled shoes. For many years, bright, even clashing colors became the favored look. It may be surprising to some, but turtlenecks were once fashionable on the course!

Then, too, designers have become more experimental, using more and more different kinds of fabrics. These materials included polyesters, nylons, stretch, moisture-wicking, UV-ray blocking, and even leather, which evident on the golf courses today, where polo shirts with trousers are the dominant look. What is interesting about these materials is that they were perfected to be appropriate for sports contexts, as otherwise synthetic materials are a no-go in quality fashion.

Many golfers also wear ball caps, and golf shoes look more like sneakers. Some daring athletes even choose to wear bold colors, but many stick to traditional dark hues.

In America’s national pastime, baseball, player uniforms initially consisted of wool pants, flannel shirts, and hats made of straw. At one point, teams wore satin and nylon materials. Now, uniforms are typically made of polyester or a polyester blend. In addition to the original wool pantaloons, baseball athletes also wore knickers, shorts, and beltless pants.

There’s been a lot of experimentation over the years with teams’ jerseys, from no-collars to regular collars and sleeves to sleeveless. They’ve been lace-front, zipper-front, and pull-over, too. Moreover, uniform numbers and players’ names were not always printed on the athletes’ jerseys.

As far as the overall look of baseball uniforms, there have been numerous alterations. At one point, it was common for the athletes to wear different colored uniforms that corresponded to their position. Uniforms have been designed with patriotic themes, team names, mascot images/names, eye-catching colors, checks, and the always classic pinstripes.

Invented by Dr. James Naismith, basketball has also undergone an evolution of attire. The first true basketball uniforms consisted of wool t-shirts and shorts that landed below the knee. As these uniforms weren’t very practical for athletics, the shorts were then shortened and the players began wearing looser shirts. Still made of wool, the shorts eventually became even shorter, while the shirts were lengthened and even buttoned to the players’ shorts.

Eventually, the wool went away and more breathable materials such as polyester-nylons were introduced. The shorts became shorter, the shirts became sleeveless, and both pieces became tighter. Tube socks also became hugely popular. Then came Michael Jordan, and the longer, looser shorts currently known as “basketball style” was born. Since then, the shorts have become even longer and baggier for the pros, amateurs, and even fans of basketball.

The acceptable attire for most sports’ athletes has metamorphosed over the years. Sports clothes have changed both minimally and substantially (and everywhere between.) Many of the athletes who play these sports make definite, and often unique, fashion statements. Some of these looks catch on more than others, but one thing is for certain, all athletic style is certain to evolve.

The athletic aesthetic is going to be a trend in fashion in the next seasons, as more and more designers are creating high fashion looks inspired by sportswear, which is why knowing references and having an overview of how sports clothes have evolved is useful and fun. This trend is most likely going to be a mark in the evolution of sportswear, as a moment when sports entered the world of high fashion.


Fraquoh and Franchomme






Further reading:

Menswear trend: Couture sportswear

Tracksuits as casual wear?

How to express your sporty personality through style

The four elements every sports watch should have

The philosophy of working out and sports decoded

How to wear sporty men’s sweaters: 10 tips

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