Reborn to Run: Retro Athletic Wear
A riposte to overdesigned, high-tech-looking gym clothes, classic athletic gear is staging a comeback.
By JONATHAN EVANS - Aug. 7, 2015 6:08 p.m. ET
TYLER HANEY DOESN’T wear neon and black, which is why she launched men’s and women’s athletic brand Outdoor Voices. The gear that was available, she explained, “wasn’t what I was wearing in my real life.”
The brand’s muted color palette—heathery shades of navy and gray—and lack of logos better reflect her taste. And that quieter approach is something she felt was missing in a market where having a piece look innovative is sometimes more important than actual innovation.
Call it covert performance gear. A new generation of activewear designers is embracing the understated aesthetic of years past—think the humble hoodies and sneakers of the ’70s—but with a functionality that meets modern expectations. They feel the high-tech aesthetic (i.e. running tights that look like race cars) which a number of brands subscribe to is superfluous. “So many garments have features that are there just for the sake of it,” lamented Claire Kent, who co-founded running gear brand Iffley Road in 2013. Iffley’s slim Drirelease T-shirts are utterly plain but for a subtle circular logo on the chest. Running gear brand Tracksmith also uses high-tech materials in simple pieces like its single diagonal-stripe T-shirt inspired by an old Ivy League “sashing” ceremony. Co-founder and CEO Matt Taylor resists the throwback label, however. “People think it’s retro because it doesn’t look futuristic,” he said. “I think our stuff is quite contemporary.”
Though no covert performance brand would label their wares as “athleisure,” some are simple enough to be adopted by fashion folk. Victory Sportswear’s sneakers—made by the wholesale arm of a respected custom running shoe company started decades ago by Bart Hersey—are sold at stylish retailers like Nepenthes. You can still run in them. Said Victory co-founder Greg Cordeiro, “The people that used to wear Herseys can now wear Victory. It’s the same shoe.”
Image, by WSJ, shows our Half-Zip Running T-shirt in Sunset Red