Tracksuits, like those worn by Run-DMC, are back in style

THE TRACKSUIT IS a very evocative article of clothing. For many music fans, the word could easily conjure up images from Run-DMC (above), the fearless hip-hop trio from Queens, NY, who in the 1980s walked through arena stages with Matching Adidas tracksuits. Movie fans might imagine Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller), the depressed father who wore a red Adidas tracksuit in “The Royal Tenenbaums” in 2001, or Bruce Lee, who fought in a yellow-yellow version in “Game of Death” by 1978. Those who over-watch “The Sopranos” will likely consider Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico), the silver-haired heavyweight who wore velvet zipper ensembles throughout the series.

And these are just tracksuits in the pop culture realm. When asked about his associations, Keanan Duffty, director of fashion programs at New York’s Parsons School of Design, mentioned the wild tracksuit sets in a 1983 runway by British designer Vivienne Westwood. Meanwhile, 9-year-old Hussein Suleiman, co-founder of Daily Paper, an Amsterdam-based label, cited a more modern reference: North African immigrants in France who wear the “most colorful” tracksuits associated with football clubs like the Olympique de Marseille.


It’s an easy look to slip on before dragging yourself into another day of video calling.

Despite its existing fan base, the tracksuit gained more followers during the 40s. It became a Daily Paper bestseller over the past year, “when everyone started doing work-from-home outfits,” said Mr. Suleiman, who wears a tracksuit almost every day. Its simple explanation? “People just like to wear more comfortable clothes.”

British retailer End Clothing has also seen a resurgence of interest in tracksuits this year. It’s a “very easy” look to pull on before you work your way through another day of virtual conferences, said Chris Fisher, the store’s main buyer.

The range of tracksuit options has also grown significantly in recent times. According to Edited, a retail market intelligence company, 81% more tracksuits are available on major e-commerce websites this year compared to last year. Krista Corrigan, one of the retail analysts at Edited, speculated that “a propensity for nostalgia and throwback trends” is fueling the popularity of the tracksuit. To be sure you will find plenty of standard solid color tracksuits reminiscent of ’80s joggers, old school English football fans and, yes, Run-DMC. Purists love Adidas’ signature three-stripe tracksuit (now around $ 140) has hardly changed since its introduction in 1967 as equipment for amateur athletes and sprinters in need of warm-up clothing. But many tracksuits today offer a little more oomph than their athletic ancestors.

While more formal clothing has fallen out of favor in recent years, high fashion brands like Gucci have supercharged sportswear. The market is now teeming with four-digit Italian leather running sneakers, cashmere hoodies and, yes, tracksuits in ever more tantalizing iterations. When it comes to price and splash, Gucci is pushing the boundaries with its over $ 3,000 zip-up sets in a polyester and cotton blend infused with the Italian brand’s double-G monogram pattern.

Mr. Duffty of Parsons noted that these Gucci tracksuits echo the work of Dapper Dan, the Harlem-based “knock-upper” who, in the 1980s, created custom – and unapproved – tracksuits that brazenly borrowed from them. Gucci, Louis Vuitton and MCM logos and were ripped off. by hip-hop artists like LL Cool J and even Jam Master Jay from Run-DMC. In 2017, Gucci faced a backlash after its creative director Alessandro Michele produced a jacket that looked like one of Dan’s classic designs. The result: Gucci officially teamed up with Dapper Dan, and the first collaborative collection naturally included tracksuits.

Tracksuits from other brands also simmer with a sensibility that looks at me and makes a simple statement when worn with modest sneakers or a pair of Birkenstocks for walking around the house. Japanese niche brand Needles sells polyester (approximately $ 585) and velvet (approximately $ 670) tracksuits in browns, purples and greens that look like something Paulie Walnuts from “The Sopranos” would wear for a night out in Miami. British brand Ahluwalia makes a jersey tracksuit in a green and blue wave print ($ 1,055) reminiscent of wallpaper in a modernist Palm Springs home. Even Adidas indulged in experimental tracksuits, offering a square tartan ensemble ($ 620) produced in collaboration with the British brand Wales Bonner. It’s a modern take on the classic three-stripe sets from Run-DMC and perhaps even more memorable.

GOOD SPORTS

Tracksuits in retro hues adapted to the modern era.

Two blues

Made from technical synthetic fabric, this particularly sporty version has a funnel neck and reflective piping. Jacket, $ 143, Trousers, $ 132, dailypaperclothing.com

Cinematic set

This dotted duo’s butterfly logo was inspired by Steve McQueen’s tattoo in the 1973 movie “Butterfly.” $ 303, Trousers, $ 249, matchesfashion.com

Original outfit

This three-stripe suit from Adidas is similar to the ones Run-DMC adopted in the 1980s. Jacket, $ 75, Trousers, $ 65, adidas.com

Write to Jacob Gallagher at [email protected]

The Wall Street Journal is not remunerated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for the products. Registered retailers are often not the only retail outlets.

Corrections and amplifications
Hussein Suleiman spoke about the tracksuits associated with football clubs such as Olympique de Marseille. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Olympique and Marseille. Daily Paper is 9 years old. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that he was 8 years old. (Corrected April 29)

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About Dawn Valle

Dawn Valle

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