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There was a time in late April 2020, the peak of the first wave, when, like many people across the country, I realized that the only way for me to get through the pandemic was to exercise like a crazy every day. It was either that or developing a drinking problem.
And while I eventually learned to love trotting the slow 5k around my local one night park, what I absolutely didn’t learn to like was the clothes I wore to participate. Because the truth is, exercise equipment is almost universally ugly.
As proof: my personal look consisted of a pair of bright orange Hoka sneakers – which looked more like a pair of confusing bananas – neon neon shorts and a gray tee shirt that was worn like cling film. Of course I could have gone all black to the the undergrowth in Card castle, but I wanted to be visible and as far as I know it was an aesthetic conundrum affecting the rest of the South London running community as well.
In search of something better, I discovered a wave of surprisingly chic, totally retro sportswear whose designers seem to have grown tired like me of the neon tyranny of contemporary sportswear. And they all have the same technical chops as their uglier brethren.
British brand Sunspel, which produces all of its clothing in the UK, has just unveiled a range of sportswear made entirely from its patented Drirelease fabric, which looks like cotton but acts like ultra-absorbent nylon (it is made from a blend of polyester, cotton and elastane). The hoodies and sweatpants are cut in neutral tones and look exactly like what Rocky Balboa might have worn if Rocky had been to Oxbridge.
Elsewhere, Parisian label Satisfy produces ultra-high-end running clothes with a folded 1980s rocker – think tie-dye featherweight running jerseys with high-cut running shorts produced in retro hues of khaki. and coffee – while at Andy Murray’s Castore brand simple running jerseys and sleek shorts rub at the hems with ribbed-collar track tops in subdued hues, all of which feel equally ready for the wardrobe department – dress from a Wes Anderson movie only for the race track.
If, however, you’re really in the market for style rather than substance (and there’s nothing wrong with that), you could be doing worse than looking at the range of bloated leisure wear brands that have come together. grafted onto the “athleisure” trend and interpreted through a tinted lens from the 1990s.
Sporty & Rich produce vintage-inspired, Ivy League-style sweatshirts designed to be worn oversized and very ‘Princess Di at the gates of school’, while American label Rowing Blazers takes inspiration from the preppy theme, selling oversized rugby jerseys in candy tones. next to mesh shorts – although in reality you can go to your local vintage store and buy a whole bag of similar items for a fraction of the price.
And that’s before you consider the trendy golf apparel revolution. From rapper Macklemore’s new Bogey Boys label, which produces classic pieces in retro patterns and undertones (think sky blue and coagulated cream checkered polo shirts and preppy plaid pants), to Manors, the British label that produces essentials. country club ready, including chino shorts and the kind of vests Arnold Palmer might have worn. Hitting the fairways in style has never been easier.
As for references to the new retro vibe, the best figures to look for are tennis players from the 1970s and 1980s – think Björn Borg and John McEnroe at Wimbledon – and the Olympians (real or fictitious) of the second half. 20th century, by Lord Andrew Lindsay in Chariots of fire to Sanka from Cool races. Me? I’m going to channel Usain Bolt, however, let’s face it, I’ll probably be more like Bananaman.
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