The rules of tackling the retro sports look
Words: Max Dylan Lazarus | Styling: Robin-Jade Carolus | Photography: Bevan Davis
Remember that guy at university notorious for dressing exclusively in tracksuits? Little did we know he was actually ahead of the curve. He got to 2017 (more or less) just by wearing the same old-school gear for four years, while the rest of the world had to bide its time, picking up inspiration from Balkan football ultras, African football kits and Soviet-era olympic uniforms to eventually get to the same place. This isn't the slick, modern sportswear of recent years, all high-tech and streamlined and futuristic – nah, this is nostalgic, easy-to-find and easy-to-wear. So call up your weird uncle with the garage full of old wooden squash rackets and ask him if you can raid his cupboard: it’s a damn near certainty that he’ll have a killer Kappa jumper for you to wear this weekend.
Finally, the polo shirt is cool again! For years it was the go-to uniform of the prat, paired with stone-wash jeans and loafers, used in an attempt to get into whatever shitty club happened to be offering a cane-train special while also insisting on an arbitrary “strictly formal attire” rule. Now it’s ours to wear in style, paired with cropped trousers or shorts; an undeniably smart look, while still remaining overtly casual. You know how everyone loves Roger Federer because “he’s such a gentleman” and “such a throwback” – this is what they mean. The polo shirt is what they’re talking about.
Ah, trackpants, we meet again. Get yourself a pair in polyester and move your legs as fast as you can! Can you hear the sound? Can you feel the heat? You’re basically wearing a rave, baby! But seriously, these guys are the glue tying your look together. If you can find a pair that matches your sweater or track top, you’re doing good, especially if, like my friend from university, it’s got some prominent retro branding. Feel free to hike them up and show off some socks, or tuck in a top and wear with an open shirt. Either way, trackpants are a party.
The debate rages on: who of the Big Three is winning between Nike, adidas and Puma? Who’s poached the sneaker designer from whom, which celebrity has signed with who, who’s got the best campaign? It’s an ongoing cold war in a closed oligopoly, only starring big players, and it’s absolutely exhausting, Finally, some of the smaller names are coming to the fore: historic brands like Kappa, Fila, Champion, Reebok, Umbro, Ellesse and others are valuable commodities, especially if they’re original relics. If you’re wearing one of the big three from head to toe, you’ve missed a trick. Go find a retro brand, see what they’ve launched recently, and gain some well-deserved clout.
The beautiful thing about retro sportswear is how much colour is in it. Whether it’s because kits were designed to be seen and distinguished easily by an audience, or maybe because synthetic materials were easy to produce in bright and brilliant colours, iconic sports uniforms have always had a pop to them. Think Olympic kits incorporating national flags, or basketball teams like the Lakers or Knicks employing complementary colours. Don’t be shy – skip out on the denim and other textured materials, embrace big pops of colour and make an impression.
Respect your heritage. This simple lesson was given to me by my grandfather at my barmitzvah, and by the head stylist ahead of writing this piece. Be sure to style your feet with hall-of-famer sneakers only, nothing newer than the 90s please! Embrace chunky silhouettes, with blocks of colour and big, comfy soles.