Paris Hilton. Tulisa in her N-Dubz days. Vicky Pollard. What do they all have in common? A penchant for tracksuits, of course.
Cast your memory all the way back to 2004 and it was the look du jour, with Juicy Couture velour iterations filtered in eye-searing shades reigning supreme on the wishlists of any teenage girl worth her WKD (and oh how well the blue version would coordinate with the luminous beverage!) And if that wasn’t your thing, adidas side stripe joggers would probably tick your boxes (bonus points if they had popper sides, easy removal was so risqué.) Fashion was always escapism, and I spent my youth running from these awful tracksuits – and occasionally the chavs that wore them – in favour of the gloss, glitz and glamour splashed across the pages of Vogue and Marie Claire. But after years chasing the fashion dream and finally (sort of) finding my place in the industry, gone are the glittering dresses, the Manolos and Chanel bags. In their place? The chavtastic tracksuits I remembered peppering the parks in my memories. Blame Vetements, Chloé, and Gucci, propelling the currently buzzing culture of bad-taste dressing. Whereas tracksuits were once considered the uniform of society’s outsiders, they have now found themselves to be the new powersuit, donned on the body of every notable editor or street style star last fashion month. But before you start hollering oioi yer wankar! at passer-by’s and Googling how to get an ASBO, it’s time to reconsider this trend in all of its new found glossy glory.
The key to it’s success? Dressing up is out, and dressing down is most certainly in (remember the boom of normcore?) But it’s hard to see the line between dressing up and down when chav-chic has become so borderline costume-esque. At a recent fashion party, my friend (a teacher) said to me “Sophie, look around! Everyone’s dressed like chavs!” and she was right. The dance floor certainly did look a little bit like you’d dangled a Burberry scarf (pre Christopher Bailey’s comeback) by a park bench circa 2004, with tracksuits, sportswear and caps galore. Whilst the art of dressing down aimed to divert fashion away from its peacocky rep, it’s beginning to feel like this sartorial wave has become a new kind of peacocking in itself. Who can look the most street? Like they made the least effort? Double up your track top with matching bottoms, throw a polo-shirt under for good measure, and add some bling – you’re well on your way.
Instead, think the ineffably cool offspring of Sporty and Posh Spice, and suddenly it becomes all too easy to work this trend into your wardrobe with a glossier finish. Try it out with a tailored jacket and you’ve elevated your side stripe jogging trousers into a slick, street interpretation of a tuxedo (sort of) Sliders and box-fresh white trainers are undeniably sleek, but balance the athleticism with slinky camisole tops to nail the high/low aesthetic. If you’re opting for heels, keep them as clean and minimal as you possibly can – mules, like these Masion Margiela ones, are a refined finish. Opt for any other heeled style and it’ll all go a little Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas (aka, the cool girls at the school disco in year 8.)
Karl Lagerfeld may have said that to wear sweatpants (aka, tracksuit bottoms) is a sign of defeat. Well if that’s the case, pass me a mid-noughties Burberry scarf and a can of red stripe because I’m done.