After only coming back from Manchester over a week ago and comparing both Dublin and Manchester ever since, one thing is evident: the people of Manchester care so much more about what they wear on a daily basis. But it wasn't only that that caught my eye. Sportswear is huge across the water. And I'm not talking about bicycle shorts and asics runners. I'm talking about the sleek and sporty person who is able to cleverly mix and match tailored pieces with casual attire. We all know that it’s no secret that sportswear is big news in menswear these days, with everyone seemingly bandying around the term ‘sports luxe’ with wild abandon. Although this movement has been prevalent for more than a few successive seasons, like all men’s trends it has evolved at a steady pace, with fresh takes on the look emerging with each new wave of collections. If 2012 was all about athletic silhouettes, and summer 2014 the season of the surfer, AW14’s mix of Parisian skater, Ivy League and urban commuter is set to see the trend take on another dimension.
The much-derided tracksuit pant is no longer seen as a slovenly stay-at-home garment, or the uniform of delinquent youths. Designers have applied the luxe treatment to joggers this season: cuts have been streamlined, details developed and fabrics enhanced. Cuff detailing and slimmer fits give form and proportion to a traditionally sloppy silhouette, while smarter styles in technical materials or wool/flannel can be dressed up for an on-trend urban look.
In recent years, no bag has made a bigger comeback than the backpack. Pushed aside in the pre-sports luxe years in favour of messengers and satchels, the practical backpack has returned with a bang. Gone are the lumpy nylon styles associated with the tech geeks of the 1990s, and in their place we have sleek leather versions, eye-catching colour-block designs and vintage revival rucksacks. Leather details, hard-working canvas cloths and sporty technical fabrics are all selling points of the modern backpack.
One items influence that is yet to wane is the infamous bomber jacket. It has been the must-own outerwear silhouette for several seasons now. With its origins stemming from the apparel of wartime pilots, this cover-up comes supplied with instant hero status. Designers have been quick to jump on the bomber bandwagon, with a huge array of styles available to choose from. Fabrications and finishes are focal points, with clean-cut wool, luxe leather, heavyweight suede and statement print designs all part of today’s bomber mix. Contrast fabric combinations are a smart way to approach the look. A wool-bodied bomber with neoprene or leather sleeves references contemporary street wear trends. The varsity jacket is another excellent choice that has seen a marked return to the style consciousness – its unique blend of preppy cool and vintage Americana make it ideal for tapping into classic collegiate-inspired dressing.
However, if anything serves as a barometer for the rise of sporty street wear, it has to be the fashion trainer. As designers have stepped up their game creating ‘dressier’ models, sports shoes are now acceptable wear in smart city institutions, where they were previously on the dress code blacklist. Leading sportswear brands like Nike and Adidas did much to kick-start the appetite for the fashion trainer, while New Balance seemed to re-emerge almost overnight as the go-to label for the urban dresser. This season’s trainer edit includes a mix of luxe multi-fabric designs, with neon accents, textured finishes and colour-block schemes all key details.
My footwear for any given outfit was always a huge thing for me and when I began to see the rise of the trainer I immediately cringed. Even though I spent much of my youth in Nike Air Max's, I just couldn't picture myself wearing them now with my current attire. However, once I got to Manchester last week I seen a whole new light to the trainer. Of course the trainer isn't going to work with every outfit but it does work once they are paired up with the right garments. If my trip thought me something, it was that I actually really like this sportswear trend more than to just sit around and have lazy days in it and that I need to lighten up and experiment more with my clothing.
The sports luxe trend is one that’s set to stick around for some time because it’s a style of dress that suits the way we live now. As the pace of life quickens, we require garments with multi–faceted qualities: comfortable enough to wear on the morning commute, yet still stylish enough for after-hours engagements. When executed effectively, today’s urban street wear aesthetic feels inherently modern and fit for purpose.