Sport and fitness fashion and technology has had its fair share of dos and don'ts through the decades so we thought it would be fun to have a look at some of these.... and to remind ourselves how lucky we are.
The choice we have today is overwhelming; modern technology has allowed us to not only look the part, but to choose our fitness clothing to match our activity. The right clothing can even enhance our performance and help us regulate our body temperature. So spare a thought for the plucky sports and fitness fanatics of yesteryear when you're jogging along in your warp knit, ceramic core technology second skin.
In the Victorian era of conservative living, it's hardly surprising that sports clothing was equally conservative. This is Charlotte Cooper in the 1904 Olympics wearing ankle length skirt and full blouse in the hot and humid conditions of St Louis. Charlotte was considered to be the best female player of her time, winning Olympic gold at age 30 and 5 Wimbledon singles titles, amongst other accolades (and having 2 children). A feat made even more impressive by the fact that Charlotte had been deaf since the age of 26.
Even though they looked rather dapper, golfers of the time wore restrictive clothing with heavy wools, stiff tweeds and the inimitable plus fours
Leaping ahead to the roaring 20's now. The stuffiness of the Victorian era had started to relax just a little and the fashions of the day became quite playful. Sport and fitness clothing became less restrictive, although not always entirely practical. These young women are taking part in a drill exercises, an early type of aerobic class:
Another defiant female sportswoman; this is Ethelda Bleibtrey, winner of three gold swimming medals at the 1920 Olympics. In 1921 Ethelda was playing beach baseball with her swimming club. At the time women were not permitted to show their bare legs in public, and Ethelda and friends were ordered to cover themselves or leave. Bleibtrey refused to pull on her stockings and left.
These chaps were Olympic swimmers, they wore small trunks called 'athletes' underneath sheer body suits:
In a post-war world, the 1950's were becoming a lot more free and easy for both sexes and they were even able to add a touch of glamour to their workouts - who better to demonstrate this than Marilyn Monroe lifting some weights:
Or Ginger Rogers playing tennis:
The very first bodybuilding contest was held 1891, but it wasn't really until the 40's and 50's that it blossomed; the National Amateur Bodybuilders Association was formed in England in 1950, and the famous muscle beach in LA was becoming increasingly popular. Gone were the muscle men leotards and in came the skimpy briefs.
The 1960's brought change from every corner of life; the younger generation were challenging traditional lifestyles and fighting for equality for all. Fashion, music, peace and love are synonymous with 60's. The sports enthusiasts of the time also enjoyed a greater degree of freedom, able to wear the kit they needed to perform at their best rather than what society deemed acceptable.
What goes up, must come down and we find ourselves in the 70's. A decade filled with questionable haircuts, facial hair, leotards, and a LOT of brown sports clothing; perfectly encapsulated in Coventry's 1978 away strip, which was voted one of the worst in history.
And we can thank the 70's for these inflatable air shorts. We're not entirely sure why these didn't take off, excuse the pun. From the advertisement: "Slip into these astounding new slenderizing shorts and inflate them with the little hand pump we provide. Then merely do a few simple exercises, housework or any usual daily activity. What happens after that is likely to amaze you. The puffy, snug-fitting pockets of air which surround you actually work to provide gentle pneumatic support plus effective massage while they generate additional body heat."
Moving swiftly on to the golden age of aerobics and the decade that brought us spandex and shell suits - the 1980's. Sports brands, like Fila and Sergio Tacchini also made the leap into everyday wear, and became the uniform of the sports casual as well as the sports stars.
If the 80's were all about the tighter the better, then things relaxed somewhat in the baggy 90's. Sports wear technology was also in rapid acceleration; from new, breathable fabrics, to hi-tech performance footwear. The sports and fashion world would now forever be linked.
And proving advances in fabric technology wasn't always a good thing, the 90's brought us the Global Hypercolour t-shirt. These t-shirts changed colour with body temperature, so after a workout there was no hiding your hot bits:
And that's where we'll leave it - the 2000's onwards aren't nearly as interesting. Yet...
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