The curator Richard Martin put on an exhibition on sportswear in 1985 at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in which he described sportswear as "an American invention, an American industry, and an American expression of style."[4] For Martin, American sportswear was an expression of various predominantly middle-class aspects of American culture, including health ideals, the concept of democracy, ideas of comfort and function, and innovative design which might refer to historical concepts or leisure attributes.[4] The establishment of a five-day working week and an eight-hour working day in America in the mid-20th century led to the need for clothing which enabled the fullest possible enjoyment of such increased leisure time, and was designed accordingly.[4] A subsequent exhibition of 1930s-70s sportswear, also curated by Martin, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1998, was introduced by Philippe de Montebello as showing pioneering garments, whose modesty, comparative simplicity, and wearability treated fashion as a "pragmatic art."[5] de Montebello carefully explained how significant American designers such as Norman Norell, Pauline Trigère, Charles James and Mainbocher, were not considered sportswear designers, as they were not dedicated to the design principles of versatility, accessibility and affordability in the way that Claire McCardell or Emily Wilkens were.[5]
Among the key designs produced by this new generation of American designers were capsule wardrobes such as McCardell's group of five wool jersey pieces from 1934, comprising two tops, long and short skirts, and a pair of culottes; and Maxwell's "weekend wardrobe" of five tweed and flannel garments. Both were designed to accommodate formal and informal occasions depending on how they were assembled and accessorised.[22] McCardell also became well known for designs such as the Monastic and Popover dresses which were versatile enough to work in multiple contexts from swimsuit cover-ups to party dresses.[22][25] Other McCardell signatures included ballet slippers (made by Ben Sommers of Capezio) as everyday footwear and functional pockets in skirts and trousers.[22][26] Dressy garments made from casual fabrics, such as McCardell and Joset Walker's evening dresses and dress-and-coat ensembles made out of cotton, became a key sportswear look.[22] The American couturier Norman Norell declared that McCardell could make a smart dress to wear anywhere out of "five dollars worth of common cotton calico."[22] Other sportswear designs often incorporated elements of sporty informal or casual wear, as exemplified by Clare Potter's evening sweater worn with a long skirt draped like a sidesaddle riding habit.[27]
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.[34][35][36] 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.[22] 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.[22][37][38] Her designs incorporated leather bindings, pockets with purse clasps, hooded jersey dresses and tops, and industrial zippers and fastenings.[22][38] 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,[38] and her ponchoes and hoods (which could be rolled down to form elegant cowl-collars) were originally designed for driving on cool mornings.[22] Cashin became one of the first American designers to have an international reputation.[22] 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."[22]
Think: clothing that not only performs, but also inspires. That’s the winning pairing that Roots of Fight features in each of their pieces, which celebrate legendary athletes like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. As the brand's promotional material puts it, “Each story we tell depicts the unending fight at the root of every human triumph.” This gear has that old school feel with a new school design that performs well in the gym or on-the-go.
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.[34][35][36] 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.[22] 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.[22][37][38] Her designs incorporated leather bindings, pockets with purse clasps, hooded jersey dresses and tops, and industrial zippers and fastenings.[22][38] 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,[38] and her ponchoes and hoods (which could be rolled down to form elegant cowl-collars) were originally designed for driving on cool mornings.[22] Cashin became one of the first American designers to have an international reputation.[22] 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."[22]

In a 1974 essay titled "Recession Dressing," the writer Kennedy Fraser noted how Halston's work, particularly his success with making basic garments in luxurious fabrics, was that of an "anti-designer" who liberated American women of fashion from needlessly elaborate, conventional high fashion from high-end establishment American designers. She also singled out Clovis Ruffin and Stephen Burrows.[40] Alongside Calvin Klein, Jhane Barnes, and Ralph Lauren, Martin has described Halston, Ruffin and Burrows as "paragons" of 1970s and early 1980s Seventh Avenue sportswear style.[4]


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Sportswear is an American fashion term originally used to describe separates, but which, since the 1930s, has come to be applied to day and evening fashions of varying degrees of formality that demonstrate a specific relaxed approach to their design, while remaining appropriate for a wide range of social occasions. The term is not necessarily synonymous with activewear, clothing designed specifically for participants in sporting pursuits. Although sports clothing was available from European haute couture houses and "sporty" garments were increasingly worn as everyday or informal wear, the early American sportswear designers were associated with ready-to-wear manufacturers. While most fashions in America in the early 20th century were directly copied from, or influenced heavily by Paris, American sportswear became a home-grown exception to this rule, and could be described as the American Look. Sportswear was designed to be easy to look after, with accessible fastenings that enabled a modern emancipated woman to dress herself without a maid's assistance.


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