Fitness Fashion History after 1960
By the sixties posing in sports clothes began. The track suit was a phenomenon
of the 1960s. Matching
bottoms were added to the anorak tops athletes wore and the track suit was born. Zip fronted boiler suits were a development from space clothes of 1969 and when
made up in fabric like stretch velours were exceptionally sexy 1970's party
gear. By the late seventies sportswear and fashion was merging.
After 1975 fabrics
that had been used primarily for mountaineering, expeditions and hiking also
moved into mainstream fashion.
Chlorofibres were used
to make vests and underwear to keep expedition teams warm. In the UK, Damart
gained a huge following as its specially designed thermal underwear allowed
people to wear thinner top clothes without feeling cold. Diana, Princess Of
Wales used to wear Damart underwear so that she could wear lighter fashionable
top garments for visits in cooler weather.
At about the same time
huge advances in breathable fabrics were being made. Gore Tex was the original
product used to make breathable, but water resistant windproof outer
garments. Gore-Tex is not a fabric, but a membrane which is laminated to other
fabrics such as polyester or nylon to suit a manufacturer's end use for
Other fibres like Activent a breathable fabric from Gore, and Ecolite
with its ecological breathable coating and Tactel a lightweight nylon which can
have an applied waterproof breathable coating, all perform in a similar way. Throughout the
was used primarily in skiwear, golfing and expedition wear.
Sympatex is an ultra
thin membrane about 1/100th of a millimetre which like Gore Tex needs to be
laminated to a backing fabric. The laminated Sympatex seams are sealed to make
seams water tight and help create a weather proof system that protects the
wearer in adverse wind conditions against hypothermia. Body perspiration vapour
passes out from the fabric, but external vapour cannot penetrate the outer
garment fabric working in tandem these feature keep the wearer dry inside
Sympatex was used
throughout Europe in the 1990s for outdoor everyday jackets and
rainwear as well as for golf wear as protective windproof tops and
trousers. These outdoor
garments always have a good range of pockets following in the spirit of Barbour
jackets and military wear.
By 1979 exercise had
become a routine part of many people's lives. Yoga was very popular throughout
the sixties and seventies. Some played squash, others tennis, some jogged,
others joined health clubs and took on the whole package of aerobic working out
and pumping iron. For
more detailed description of yoga see here.
Dance studios with jazz tap exercise and step classes
mushroomed. One famous studio was the Pineapple Studio in London. As the craze grew so did a practical need for sports clothes that
were up to the task of being easy care for busy people.
Synthetic fabrics with their easy care, strong and often
stretch properties were the ideal choice for most sports. Synthetic materials
could also be dyed in strong vibrant colours which were the hallmark of the 80s. Many people liked the comfort of sports clothes and soon clothes designed
only for the gym were being worn in the streets.
The 80s saw the
arrival of the shell suit - a lightweight front zippered nylon jogging top
loose bottom trousers cuff gathered and with an elasticated waist. They were
either self lined, lined in fine
knitted fabric or lightweight fine silky towelling.
Colours were bright and often combined with a contrast
secondary colour and white. Typical combinations were navy and white or sea
green, sea green and purple, purple and pink, purple and mauve, purple and
yellow, peach and sea green, sea green and pastel aqua, royal blue and pale
blue, black and white, red black and white or multi computer generated prints of all those colours
with just about every colour in the design.
Initially those who bought shell suits first were those actively
involved in sports and seeking suitable wear. Then of course those who took a
fitness class once a week began to
pose in them wearing them for shopping and picking up children from school. Until then, the only people walking around in any kind of jogging
or shell suit were Physical Education teachers rushing into the supermarket on
home from a day's work.
So the shell suit moved into mainstream fashion, but as
manufacturers began to produce nastier and nastier, ever cheaper looking
versions, it became so affordable that it was soon a mass fashion. Suddenly
pensioners began to wear them and within a few short months they lost all cachet
and almost died an instant death. A comparative item today is the fleece jacket
now worn by grandmothers and great grandmothers.
Those who were really
keen to tone and hone the muscles of their body wanted clothes to show their
hard work. A shell suit would never do that as its whole effect was blouson. The
answer was aerodynamic Lycra as used in cycling shorts.
remained popular with some groups and became a cult with specific dress and hair
styles that marked each era of its popularity.
The New Look inspired puffball
net petticoat and tulle dresses of the 1950s gave way to longer above
ankle dresses of chiffon and floating semi sheer fabrics with feathered hems all
ideal for Quick Steps, Waltzes and Foxtrots.
Latin dances such as the
Rumba, Cha Cha and Samba required exotic dramatic Brazilian style performance
garments with flesh toned areas of stretch Lycra enhanced sheer fabric, amid
strategically placed appliquéd sequin pieces with the whole hugging the body
like a decorative glove.
were developed to provide lightweight warm garments for hill walking, hiking and
expeditions. Garment manufacturers like Berghaus produced quality fleece outdoor
garments that kept a good appearance long term. Windbloc or Microfleece or
Stretch are still the types of fleece to look out for as they offer better wind
protection than ordinary fleece.
Initially the fleece
made from the highest quality fleece, but as time has gone on the grades of
fleece produced included lower grades of polyester with the resulting
unattractive pilling. As there are well over 100 types of fleece the consumer
needs to pay special attention that they really are getting the quality end. Marks & Spencer
sell a wide range of average priced value for money fleeces.
In the 1990s, fleece was used to produce a wide range of simply
cut, easy care casual tops worn by all age groups. Fleeces are likely to go the way of the shell suit as a
fashion item if inferior grades continue to be made up into garments as the better
quality garments become tarnished by association with lower grade goods. This
really would be a shame as the lightweight, practical fleece has its place in
fashion and is cosy in specific situations.
It was not only
physical excellence that interested viewers of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but also
cutaway track sportswear. By 1992 sportswear was very serious commercial
business. Manufacturers insisted that the skin tight materials used in 1992
sportswear gave competitors a technical edge that would help athletes achieve
record breaking results.
Linford Christie's one
piece running suit was made of a double layer of fabrics. The outer layer was
hydrophobic - water hating and it rejected perspiration sending it into the
atmosphere. The layer beneath next to Christie's skin was hydrophilic - water
loving which absorbed moisture. The combination was ideal to keep the runner dry
and also cool. Christie's one piece suit has become standard wear for sprinters. To keep athletes even cooler in hot climates the garment midriff has often been cut out. Women did their
own version of this with a cropped top and second skin shorts.
more about the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
Back in 1992 the Australian
produced an innovative range of swimwear called S2000 using a fabric designed by Pentland
Industries intended to improve a swimmer's speed. S2000 was a fabric made from
polyester microfibres and Lycra elastomeric fibres and then given a special
finish. It was more water resistant
than skin because it had a low drag coefficient so all in one up to the neck
swim suits became a fashion for men as it improved performance by 15%.
In 1992 Speedo wearers
took 7 gold medals and 4 world records. By 1996 some 77% of swimmers wearing
Speedo swimwear won medals.
Today the main sports
manufacturing names are dominated by names like Nike, Reebok and Adidas. They spend huge sums of money
forging links with athletes and sports personalities. Their aim is to ensure
that fans will spend cash on their very own branded sports goods from footwear trainers
to head and wrist bands to bag carry hold alls.
To be fair to them
they do a great deal of research into producing performance enhancing products. In the
1990s they were all hugely successful
as sports and casual wear were favoured as daywear in a dress down
Whilst we are a long way from the restrictions of the 1920s once thought
so liberating, even today arms go up in horror if it is suggested that a new fabric
or sports shoe gives a sports competitor unfair advantage by improving technical performance
with wind, grip or water resistance. The 21st century promises new fabric
technology that will enhance sports performance and will ultimately benefit ordinary
For up to date information follow sports magazines with
articles on all the latest products and know how to achieve excellence in
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