Running's Rising Esteem in the World of Fashion

By: Louis Sartori

Running is not known as a particularly fashionable sport. In the act of kitting up for a run, we’re usually accepting some sacrifice in the style department. But that's just par for the course; we like practicality, we like sweat wicking fabric, we know Paris Fashion Week doesn’t lie at the end of our favorite five mile loop. Where sports like tennis and golf perhaps feature attire of a more sartorial nature, running has never been an avenue through which sporting convention and fashion has met. At least... until now?

Kind of, for a multitude of reasons, running is having a real fashion-moment right now. Actually, let me rephrase that. Fashion is having a real running-moment right now. The former makes it seem like running is taking an active role in the process. Not quite, but the world of fashion seems to be taking a real interest in our sport at the moment and I for one am slightly confused, but very excited about it.

On two simultaneous fronts, running clothing has become a muse for contemporary style. There are the retro running aesthetics; characterized by baggy athleisure and 80s track attire. These are being heavily played on by designer’s everywhere. Some of my favorites include Emily Oberg’s Sporty and Rich, a streetwear brand prizing evergreen longevity and comfort has long since toyed with vintage running motifs. Elsewhere, Russain designer, Gosha Rubchinskiy’s PACCBET, primarily a skate-inspired brand, is branching further into an embrace of retro running aesthetics. Vintage running-event merchandise is also all the range right now. One only has to search for old tees and sweatshirts on any pre-owned clothing website to see the premium that is being placed on wearable memorabilia from these 80s-90s  races and meets. This in particular, I think,  could be loosely attributed to the wider clothing trend of vintage Americana. A mode spearheaded by brands such as Kapital and Visvim, who have been lovingly reimagining classic visions of American workwear for years.

You also only have to look at the casual shoe silhouettes we’re all wearing and I guarantee a good proportion initially came out as performance running trainers. The Nike Cortez, Air Max and the Adidas ZX series are all re-iterations of practical road running shoes from yesteryear. They’ve simply been rebranded for the lifestyle market and we’re all wearing them 

(Off-White's Summer 2019 Show)

On the other hand, there is the futuristic, forward facing-vibe; popularised by Nike’s over the top shoe and kit innovations. These too are capturing the imaginations of designers from streetwear to the highest of high fashion houses. In 2019, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White runway show for spring/summer was track and field-themed with models pacing up and down a stretch modeled after the home straight of an athletics track. He also brought in athletes to model his new wares, including Dina Asher Smith who won gold in the 200m at Doha, that same year. Abloh has also collaborated with Nike many times in the realm of footwear, this has produced reworks of some of the brand’s most iconic running silhouettes. Elsewhere, brands such as Balenciaga have long-been taking the idea of the modern running trainer and suping it up to the max to provide inspiration for their latest footwear.

It's clear to see that this interest from thou who art better dressed, is rubbing off on running minds. In recent years we’ve definitely seen a surge in fashion-forward running apparel. Tinman Elite have seen mass fervour over their specially released apparel capsules. In particular, their decision to model the training group’s merchandise in the image of an exclusive streetwear brand is paying serious dividends. Elsewhere, Tracksmith and Lululemon are two brands making inroads into Nike and Adidas’ kit-market-monopoly. Their focus on marketing garments towards the fashion-conscious athlete is only attracting more fans.

Ultimately, I think the bizarre melange of high fashion and running clothing that was Kipchoge’s GQ shoot from last year, epitomizes the whole trend in its entirety. The feature saw an explicit partnering of running and fashion. No blurred lines, little subtly, just the incongruous mix of Kipchoge’s rural training base, his usual Nike-branded kit and some high fashion pieces and haute couture thrown in. It typifies the trend. It shouldn’t work, photos like this look odd and bizarre. But for some weird reason, it does work. I can’t place it, but it does.

Opinions on Kipchoge’s outfits aside, I think we can all agree that interest of any kind in the sport is good. Thus, I think fashion’s eyes are ones we should welcome. That doesn’t mean that we have to understand them! Trends move fast and we may not enjoy this limelight for much longer. For now, it's been a pleasure to watch clothing conventions we consider routine be picked up and complemented by less-sporty outlets. Cultural appropriation or appreciation? You decide.