Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the sports world had never been bigger. From tennis to football to boxing to MMA, live sports broadcasts and streams remained some of the most-watched content. That’s not to mention the thousands in live attendance, filling the stands and cheering on their favorite athletes. Sports is a huge part of life even during a pandemic. And it also has a deep-rooted relationship with fashion. From Chuck Taylors to Air Jordans, the influence of fashion on sports and vice versa is all around us.
How Fashion and Sport Co-Function
Sports clothing, especially when it comes to professional sports, is very different from your everyday clothes. Even the best American made clothing is not always designed for vigorous physical activity. In the 21st Century, however, fashion and sports have a distinct overlap. Professional sports clothing is designed to improve comfort, performance, and breathability. But a lot of attention also goes into how the clothing looks. So you have professional sports clothing that looks very fashionable. But you also have very sporty-looking everyday outfits, also known as sportswear or athleisure.
Fashion Icons That Are Also Sports Brands
Let’s look at two of the most popular streetwear brands as examples of the fashion/sports overlap. Adidas is an iconic streetwear brand today, but it originally started out as a sportswear brand. It has roots going as far back as 1949 in post-War Germany. Adidas creates professional clothing and kits for a range of sports including golf, football, rugby, cricket, and basketball. But at the same time, Adidas has been responsible for several of the most iconic footwear sensations in the last decade. From the Superstar to the Rockstar, Adidas footwear is everywhere.
Similarly, Nike is a prominent sponsor in virtually every sport from pro tennis to PGA. The American sports brand dates back to 1964 and has grown to be one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Like Adidas, Nike has given us some of the hippest and iconic footwear for at least two decades. From the Air Jordans (yes as in Michael Jordan) to the performance-focused Air series, Nike remains a huge influence in both sports and street fashion. And the brand itself draws inspiration from both.
Gym wear Designed to Look as Good ss It Fits
Streetwear may look like it can let you do a few lunges, but don’t be tempted. You should only exercise in clothing that supports it instead of just looking good. But what if you could have both? Anyone who has social media has seen enough posts of influencers in great, form-fitting leggings and tops. And since influencers make them look so good, it is only natural that we want to do so too. After all, you never know if you might meet someone at a gym. If you do, you don’t want to be in an ugly, blocky T-shirt from high school. Brands like Gymshark specialize in making gym clothing that doesn’t just improve performance and breathability but also looks amazing.
Athletic Wear as Streetwear
Sportswear originally referred to clothing that was designed for sports spectators. When in the 1920s, skiing emerged and became very popular with the wealthy, certain fashion brands recognized the new opportunities. High-street fashion brands like Hermes began creating stylish apparel for the wealthy buyers involved in skiing. But the real switch came sometime in the 1970s, and many can thank a martial arts legend for modern athleisure clothing. Yes, Bruce Lee made it not just normal, but downright cool, to wear a tracksuit every day. Even with wearers not doing anything athletic, mainstream fashion started creating more fashionable tracksuits and other athletic wear.
Branding is all about getting your name where it can make a lasting impression on your audience. This doesn’t just mean billboards and signage around a sports event. Many brands use the athletes themselves as the perfect model to showcase their clothing. It makes solid business sense. Many sports have millions of fans all over the world, and they’ll watch broadcasts very carefully. Players or teams are very visible, and therefore great advertising real estate.
Certain athletes can skyrocket to global acclaim, even among people who do not generally watch the sport. In MMA, for example, Connor McGregor became UFC’s first real superstar. Former champion and still undefeated Khabib McGregor made history as the number 1 P4P MMA fighter in the world. But he’s still best known for completely dominating McGregor in the octagon, with millions of Instagram followers overnight. Thanks to social media, brands can use the visibility and surge in the fan-following of sports stars. Getting a star to endorse a fashion product is a great way for brands to get their name out there. That is why many brands like Nike and Adidas often chase after fast-rising teams and stars.