Chances are you’re intimately familiar with this mega-brand if you’re a gym rat, athlete, or even if you don't watch sports on the regular. But there’s a good reason that it’s the top dog in sports. That means the brand is always innovating with new technologies like Flyknit and Dri-FIT, which keep getting upgraded and integrated into more of its stellar gear.
In the 1950s and 1960s, designers continued to develop the theme of affordable, practical and innovative sportswear, producing clothing that focused on wearability rather than fashion fads, including Anne Fogarty's coat-and-dress sets and dresses made with removable waistcoats to alter their look. The film costume designer Bonnie Cashin, who started producing ready-to-wear clothing in 1949, is considered one of the most influential American sportswear designers. She was known for her extremely practical layered ensembles inspired by ethnographic garments and textiles such as the Japanese kimono and happi, ikats, and the South American poncho. Her designs incorporated leather bindings, pockets with purse clasps, hooded jersey dresses and tops, and industrial zippers and fastenings. She put a brass clip resembling those used on dog leashes, on a long formal skirt so that it could be securely hitched up to enable the wearer to run up and down stairs, and her ponchoes and hoods (which could be rolled down to form elegant cowl-collars) were originally designed for driving on cool mornings. Cashin became one of the first American designers to have an international reputation. Alongside Cashin, Rudi Gernreich emerged in the 1950s as a key name in sportswear design, first becoming known for his swimsuits, but then expanding into geometrically cut, graphic clothes and knitwear that Kirkland described as the epitome of the "new California."
In the 21st century, Italian fashion remains a leading source for sportswear design outside the United States. Narciso Rodriguez, who is known for streamlined and pared down clothing, launched in Milan in 1997, but moved to New York in 2001. Miuccia Prada revived the fortunes of her family company Prada with her top-quality sportswear designs in the 1990s, and continues designing for the firm.
“Having boxed my whole life and being involved in the culture, I love what roots of Fight is doing. While being comfortable and stylish, they pay tribute to the fighters who helped build the sport and paved the way for fighters like Floyd Mayweather and any up and coming fighters. My favorite is the Mike Tyson sweatshirt that says Brooklyn on it, because that’s where I’m from.”
As more generic, versatile sportswear became more prominent in the Paris collections, the press increasingly promoted the wearing of such garments in an everyday context. By the mid-1920s, American advertisers also began actively pushing the idea that sporty clothing was just as appropriate for regular daywear as it was for active pursuits, presenting it as the epitome of modernity and the American ideal. One advertisement put out by Abercrombie & Fitch in Vogue in 1929 suggested that while men might admire a girl in an glamorous evening gown, they would be less intimidated by her approachable, friendly appearance in good-quality sportswear. Sportswear was also presented as an accessible version of resort wear, a term for the luxurious travelling clothing and holiday wear worn by those who could afford a leisurely lifestyle with multiple vacations, such as cruises, yachting, and skiing. Affordable, well-designed all-American sportswear was presented as a way of enabling a less wealthy customer to feel part of that same lifestyle. However, at first, American apparel firms mostly copied French styles.
In the late 1940s and 1950s non-American designers began to pay attention to sportswear, and attempted to produce collections following its principle. French couturiers including Dior and Fath simplified their designs for ready-to-wear production, but at first only the Italian designers understood the sportswear principle. Italy already had a reputation for fine fabrics and excellent workmanship, and the emergence of high quality Italian ready-to-wear that combined this luxury with the casual quality of American sportswear ensured the worldwide success of Italian fashion by the mid-1970s. Italian designers, including Emilio Pucci and Simonetta Visconti, grasped that there was a market for clothing that combined sophistication and comfort. This was a challenge to the American industry. John Fairchild, the outspoken publisher of Women's Wear Daily opined that Krizia, Missoni, and other Italian designers were "the first to make refined sportswear."
While 1920s Paris designers offered haute couture designs that could be considered sportswear, it was typically not their design focus. A notable exception was the tennis player Jane Régny (the pseudonym of Madame Balouzet Tillard de Tigny), who opened a couture house specialising in clothing for sport and travel. Another famous tennis player, Suzanne Lenglen, was director of the sportswear department at Jean Patou. In contrast to the flexibility of American sportswear, these expensive couture garments were typically prescribed for very specific circumstances. Many couturiers began designing clothing that, whilst suitable for sport, could be worn in a wider range of contexts. Coco Chanel, who promoted her own active, financially independent lifestyle through relaxed jersey suits and uncluttered dresses, became famous for clothes of "the sports type." In 1926 Harper's Bazaar reported upon Chanel's sporty garments, noting the absence of equivalent apparel from New York fashion presentations. However, Martin has noted that while Chanel was undeniably important and influential, her work was always based on couture construction rather than the easy-wear nature of American sportswear.
After the Second World War, the emergence in Paris of the luxurious "New Look" popularised by Christian Dior, with its emphasis on accessorising and femininity, was in direct contrast to the relaxed, easy-wear American look. Sally Kirkland, a fashion editor at Vogue and LIFE, noted that McCardell and others had already been thinking along the lines of longer and fuller skirts and fitted bodices, but that unlike Dior's heavily stiffened and corseted designs, they used bias-cut bodices and lightweight, easy-wear circle or pleated skirts to reproduce the same silhouette. Unlike traditional made-to-measure French couture fashion, designed for specific silhouettes, American sportswear was designed to accommodate a variety of body shapes and enable freedom of movement. With the lifting of fabric rationing and restrictions following the War, American designers were able to use unlimited fabric and the development of permanent pleating meant that pleated dresses and full skirts were easy to look after. In addition to this, American stores had begun to recognise the commercial value of separates, with LIFE reporting in 1949 that separates made up an all-time-high of 30% of clothing sales in the States that Fall.
Like with clothing for men, there's a lot of interesting fashion possibilities with these garments. Look incredible at that wedding reception with a new suit and dress shirt from this line. Pair a cool light jacket with jeans and a great fitting t-shirt for a no nonsense outfit, perfect for playing pool with your buddies or taking your main squeeze to the movies. Start from scratch, or discover the right accessory to bring your favourite old look back to life. Clothing for men from Banana Republic is brilliantly designed to effortlessly go from day to night wear. Run for the last train on that hectic morning commute, run the office like a boss, and unwind with the gang at the local pub. With apparel for men from this line, you'll always be well-dressed.
Rebecca Arnold and Emily S. Rosenberg have noted how the American look, demonstrated through healthy teeth and the use of affordable, good-quality fashionable clothing to present a neat and practical appearance, despite claims of egalitarianism, was ultimately held up against white standards of beauty. Rosenberg has pointed out a six-page spread in LIFE dated May 21, 1945, which explicitly described girls with an athletic 'American look' of good teeth, good grooming, and good, not-too-masculine, simple, neat attire, as being seen as preferable to girls from England, France, Australia or Polynesia.
In the 1970s Geoffrey Beene, one of the first significant male sportswear designers, incorporated relaxed layering and elements of menswear into his women's clothing - details that continue to widely influence early 21st century industry designers. In 1970, Bill Blass, whose fashion career began in 1946, founded his own company, Bill Blass Limited. Blass's wearable designs were designed to be worn day and night and he was said to have raised American sportswear to the highest possible level. Like Beene, he introduced menswear touches to his sportswear, which was described as clean, modern and impeccable in style. Kirkland commented in 1985 that sportswear designers such as Liz Claiborne and Joan Vass were no longer "borrowing from the boys," but had begun making menswear too. In addition to the high-end names who produced apparel in large quantity, a more personal level of sportswear was offered in the early 1980s by smaller designers such as Mary Jane Marcasiano and Vass, who specialised in hand-knits in wool and cotton. By the mid-1980s, sportswear had become a key part of the international fashion scene, forming a large part of America's contribution to the twice-yearly fashion presentations alongside top-end collections from Paris, Milan and London.
We decided to help narrow the playing field by asking some of our favorite fitness experts and trainers—you know, the guys who spend their days (and early mornings, and evenings, and sometimes even nights) decked out in activewear and athleisure. Who better to give you the truth about the best fitness gear? Here are pricey men’s activewear and athleisure brands that are worth the price tag, according to trainers and fitness pros.