Making the Tracksuit Trendy Isn't a Good Thing | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Making the Tracksuit Trendy Isn’t a Good Thing

Life&Style writer Gabrielle Taylor-Dawson explains why she thinks tracksuits should not be made trendy

Fashion is always a reflection of its time. In the 1960s, rebellion against a society growing increasingly conformist and repressive resulted in the loose-fitting, tye-dyed garments of Hippies. The popularity of alternative rock music brought the simple, unkempt grunge look into the mainstream in the 1990s. Last year, 2016, saw the coming of age of grime music; it made headlines, swept awards shows and dominated social media conversation. Its long-awaited recognition is a source of pride for many, including myself. I know I am not what some people would see as the target audience for such a genre, but to me, grime brings fond memories of my teenage years back home. Grime is knowing all the words to Devilman’s ‘Drum And Bass Father’, the sound of ‘Too Many Men’ getting everyone excited even if you were getting drunk down the park, being asked if you had heard ‘Lean & Bop’ yet?

Grime ‘culture’ has leaked into other aspects of the artistic industry - namely fashion.
 But with the popularisation of grime music, so has come the adoption of things tied to it. Ten years ago, grime conjured up negative images of tracksuits and council estates. Now, with the meteoric rise of the likes of Stormzy and the broader recognition of artists like Skepta and Kano, grime ‘culture’ has leaked into other aspects of the artistic industry - namely fashion.

The Guardian has called the adopters of such grime-related style 'Nu-lads', characterised by their choice in brands such as Lonsdale, Ellesse, Fila, Puma, Reebok, Champion, alongside some higher-priced pieces by Supreme, Palace and Hood by Air. These Nu-lads, according to The Guardian, are the new kind of hipster. Their enjoyment of sportswear doesn’t carry the negativity that the staple two-piece tracksuit of ‘terrace culture’ (a style which grime can be seen to have individualised and revitalised) did in the 1980’s when it was associated with football hooliganism. Two-piece tracksuits have long been vilified as a key signifier of the ‘chav’, of the working class. Not long ago, people credited 'chavs' with single-handedly decreasing the value of the Burberry brand, their apparently anti-social behaviour and uneducated reputation, stemming from their use of slang, putting people off associating themselves with the checked print.

Nu-lads, according to The Guardian, are the new kind of hipster

Now? Tracksuits are cool. They are a luxe fashion statement popularised by the rise in athleisure. Champion and Nike have collaborations with the over-priced high-street brand Urban Outfitters. The likes of Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid are making sportswear ‘off-duty model’ cool - and you too can achieve this look, so long as you have a pair of hoops and a Chanel bumbag on hand.

And people are copying this look, but they are the kinds of people who are wear an Adidas windbreaker from festival to festival, who sport an Ellesse bucket hat whilst burning their chests on a lads holiday in #Napa. Even, the kinds of people (students) who are struggling to find themselves between the financial stability their middle-class upbringings gave them, and the fear of being seen as a part of a wealthier group - so they try to disguise it by dressing like something they are not.

You can listen to and enjoy grime, you can adopt its style, but to do so you must also try and recognise its social importance
 What I am not saying is that in my opinion, you cannot wear a tracksuit. You can listen to and enjoy grime, you can adopt its style, but to do so you must also try and recognise its social importance. This trend may be like all the others that come and fade with each new cycle, with the next new obsession - but please, try and remember that for a large sector of our society, it is a way of life. So when you buy Fila or Adidas from a high street store or as a piece of ‘reworked vintage’, when you wear neon-glow face paint and a bucket hat and shout along to Stormzy, try to take into account the movement's significance. Because they are not just clothes, they (and the music they spawned from) are an artistic outlet for a sector of society, Britain’s working class and minority groups, whose lives are built on struggle.



Published

11th November 2017 at 12:30 pm



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