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Tracksuit jackets made of nylon
A model of tracksuit used as casual wear
A tracksuit is an article of clothing consisting of two parts: trousers and a jacket. It was originally intended for use in sports, mainly as what athlete wore over competition clothing (such as running shirt and shorts or a swimsuit) and would take off before competition. In modern times, it has become commonly worn in other contexts. The tracksuit was one of the earliest uses of synthetic fibers in sportswear.

Tracksuits were popular with the hip hop and breakdancing scene of the 1980s. During this period tracksuits were manufactured from a mix of triacetate and polyester making them shiny on the outside. Most tracksuits have a mesh interior which allows the user to wear them without any undergarment such as underwear. This is much like a bathing suit. Many people wear it for workout sessions and the mesh allows them to not wear underwear which allows the body to breath better. The downfall is the sweat that is left on the machines but most professionals agree the pros of the body breathing outweigh the sweat on the machines that is magnified by not wearing underwear


The OED records an early use of the term in 1952.

In 1964, Adidas began to produce tracksuits as leisure wear. These had the distinctive Adidas three stripes, zipped trouser bottoms and collars, and stirrups, features which remained popular for decades. However, on the whole during this decade, tracksuits were plain dark-coloured garments used exclusively as sportswear.

The emergence of tracksuits as a fashion item began in the 1970s. Suits from firm gloss nylon jersey were produced, jackets and trousers being narrowly cut.

In the 1980s, tracksuits became popular as leisure clothing. A completely new kind of tracksuit appeared, intended for jogging rather than warming up. This consisted of two weights of fabric: a light, silky exterior resembling parachute material consisting of nylon or polyester, and lining made from a lighter, often net-like, textile. These were often available bearing panels and flashes of many different colours, and were commonly known as shell suits.

Although they were at first mostly worn by athletes, in the 1980s tracksuits became increasingly fashionable as leisurewear, though jackets and trousers tended to be worn separately rather than as a suit. Shell suits became particularly popular in the United Kingdommarker.

In the 1990s trousers were worn in new variations of the '70s versions, namely parachute pants and jogging bottoms. In bodybuilding subculture, new styles of bottoms emerged, which were carrot-shaped with broad elasticated waists. The style of tracksuits seen in 1970s and 1980s styles made a comeback in techno and hip-hop subculture and as clubwear.

Tracksuit tops have now disappeared nearly completely as sportswear. Tracksuit trousers remain popular, although in contrast to the bright colours characteristic of shell suits in the 1980s (which are often cited as a faux pas of 1980s fashion), they are commonly worn in muted colours such as grey, black or navy blue.

Tracksuits as the clothing choice of specific subcultures

Tracksuits are associated (stereotypically) with the chav subculture in the UKmarker but for a much longer time it has been associated with "Scousers", seen on Harry Enfield and Chums from the early 90's.Tracksuits are also often associated with Hip hop fashion especially with Old skool hip-hop. This is because, as stated earlier, tracksuits provide easy mobility for breakdancing due to the fact that they are loose-fitting as well as its ability to slide on smooth surfaces by providing minimal friction.

Popular culture

The Norwegian electro rock band Datarock wearing red tracksuits
  • The film Chariots of Fire depicts the 1924 US Olympic team as wearing tracksuits consisting of grey sweatshirts and jogging bottoms.
  • In the 1978 book Naples '44, travel writer Norman Lewis refers to the dyeing of thermal underwear to be resold as tracksuits during the Second World War.
  • In the film Game of Death, Bruce Lee famously wore a yellow tracksuit instead of more traditional kung fu clothing. He claimed to have done this to demonstrate that Jeet Kune Do was a modern purely practical way of fighting and not the pretentious art of traditional Kung fu.
  • On the television show The Sopranos, the New Jersey Mafia is usually depicted either wearing business attire or track suits.
  • In the film Crank , Jason Statham's character Chev Chelios dons a Puma brand tracksuit after disguising himself as a hospital patient.
  • Welsh rap crew, the Goldie Lookin' Chain, are keen supporters and wearers of the "leisure suit" or tracksuit.
  • Madonna is a keen tracksuit wearer but her daughter Lourdes disapproves of her wearing them.
  • In the film The Royal Tenenbaums, Ben Stiller's character, Chas, and his two sons wear red Adidas track suits though most of the film until the last scene, where they are seen in black.
  • Renton from Eureka Seven wears a tracksuit when performing the the Gecko State hazing ritual.
  • In the film Resevoir Dogs, Chris Penn's character 'Nice Guy' Eddie wears a track suit the whole film.


See also

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