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Tracking well in retro style


Tracking well in retro style

Jane Stephens believes there is still room in any wardrobe for a comfortable tracksuit – especially if you have the sporty cred to go with it.

“Bring back the tracksuit,” my Beloved declares as he models his flashy new purchase. Navy with three white stripes on the leg and arm, zippered and pocketed – he is pleased as punch, and I admit the look is every bit athletic retro cool. He would have fitted in just as well in the 1970s as today and he is right: winter is the season for the tracksuit.

With their elasticised waists and flattering top lines, tracksuits make all bodies look a little bit sporty. Worldwide, the tracksuit became the lockdown uniform at the height of the pandemic, worn by people who did not usually exercise but yearned to.

The tracksuit was first made by French company Le Coq Sportif in the 1930s for a practical purpose: to keep the body warm before and after physical activity. It was catapulted into activewear culture in the 1960s, when Adidas brought out the highly successful triple-striped version.

And now, 90-odd years after its invention, the tracksuit is also symbolic of subcultures and anti-establishment.

Think rappers with bling, eshays with droopy drawers and you get the picture.

I had an editor in the late-1990s who liked to drop into the newsroom unannounced to surprise those working on weekends, clad in an oversized white tracksuit top with a gargantuan red Nike swoosh – a “Sunday suit” status symbol.

But back to my Beloved and the recent fulfilment of his yearning for a tracksuit.

When we were younger, the best tracksuits were the status symbol of the selected sporty. You got one if you were picked in an elite team. It was presented with ceremony and usually featured the name of the team across the back. Very cool. Other tracksuits back in the day were hard earned, but in another way.

My brother and I wore our lime green and poo brown Milo tracksuits with pride in the 1970s – the result of collecting the paper wraps from around Milo tins and posting them in with, from memory, maybe $10.

We had to drink a lot of Milo and hit up chocolate milk-loving relatives and friends to get a tracksuit each.

My Beloved’s tracksuit is definitely the first kind, even if he bought it instead of having it bestowed – athletic garb for a masters athlete.

He has brought back the tracksuit, to our household at least. And he rocks it.


Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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