Menswear looks to vintage sportswear for inspiration

Old-school sportswear style is moving up into today’s top division, says Tom Stubbs

Ermenegildo Zegna Couture silk bomber jacket, £2,340, and silk trousers, £860
Ermenegildo Zegna Couture silk bomber jacket, £2,340, and silk trousers, £860

I have always been fascinated by the elegance of vintage tennis kit and American college sportswear,” says Gigi Boglioli, co-founder of The Gigi. He’s not alone: sportswear has had a defining role in luxury casualwear in recent years, with new genres evolving, including sports-luxe and athleisure. It stands to reason that vintage-sportswear-inspired menswear would eventually have its moment, given how much attention has been paid to reviving heritage brands and the styles of the 1960s and ’70s. Such old-school collegiate sports style appears in The Gigi’s bottle-green and yellow jersey cardigan (£330) with knitted ribbed facing and cuffs – evoking a streamlined Letterman cardigan, minus the letters. The brand’s double-breasted performance-polyester Ziggy jacket (£515) has generous, swept peak lapels, but its collar is striped and ribbed, just like the cuff of a vintage tracksuit. It looks both relaxed and suave. 

What We Wear neoprene jacket, £240, and matching trousers, £130
What We Wear neoprene jacket, £240, and matching trousers, £130

This trend reinterprets vintage sports style in luxe fabrics and borrows classic motifs, including chevrons, zips, stripes and piping, for pieces. “I created a fusion of tailoring and tracksuit in response to customer demand,” says Boglioli. The brand’s tailored navy poly-jersey Angie jacket (£565) has a red striped tracksuit collar and patch pockets; think of it as an easy-to-wear, versatile track-blazer

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Ermenegildo Zegna’s Couture line further refines the paradigm; its lotus-pink and grey-white bomber (£4,870) in calfskin suede feels like an über-luxe tracksuit top, while the matching double-pleat trousers (£4,740) hang like tracksuit bottoms, though they are pink suede. Another blouson (£2,340) ups the luxe with a white, gold and terracotta silk combination. Such blousons take athleisure up a notch; I’d team them with wide white trousers or shorts, though they look strong with the brand’s bronze cuffed-bottom track-style trousers (£860) reinterpreted in silk.

From left: Valentino leather jacket, £2,150. Fendi lambskin/goat leather parka, £2,670. Hermès Toilbright blouson, £2,110
From left: Valentino leather jacket, £2,150. Fendi lambskin/goat leather parka, £2,670. Hermès Toilbright blouson, £2,110

Silvia Fendi’s graphic tracksuit-inspired blousons with chevrons reference 1980s windbreakers, but in lieu of rustling polyester there is sumptuous lambskin and goat leather. These striking upgrades come in navy and pink (£3,035), putty, blue and pink (£2,670), and a Prussian-blue/chocolate chevron (£1,745) in silk and goat leather that takes the ultimate laurels. Elsewhere, tracksuit-style zipped sweaters (£800) are emblazoned with motifs by the artist Sue Tilley in a fantastic reimagination of cult styles from 40 years ago. Chevrons can also be found at Valentino, on a putty and emerald-green leather jacket (£2,150) with popper fastenings and drawstring. 

The Gigi polyester Ziggy jacket, £515, and cotton cardigan, £330
The Gigi polyester Ziggy jacket, £515, and cotton cardigan, £330

This striking graphic look might be a bit strong for some tastes, but there are plenty of options that give a more subtle nod to the trend. At Hermès, a teal and brown blouson (£2,280) in a new rubberised, leather-effect fabric called Toilbright has a sporty striped sleeve edged in white piping and a micro-herringbone pattern. Piping, this time in yellow, can also be found on a raglan-sleeve hooded blouson (£2,110) in bright green and dark khaki Toilbright. Similar detailing is on Kent & Curwen’s cotton/silk trousers (£215) – the amber side stripes evoke vintage cricket gear; the sharp crease says “old school slacks” but the fabric feels fresh and modern. Berluti’s take on the track trend is similarly crisp; black wool trousers (£1,060) are slickly executed with white piped side stripes, while the sky-blue trousers (£1,060) with white side stripes have a track and field-meets-cavalry feel. Meanwhile, at emerging brand What We Wear, a zip-up track top-cum-jacket (£240) chimes with the retro mood, but its neoprene fabric updates the look; its matching track pants (£130) are very smart.

From left: Berluti wool blend trousers, £1,060. Kent & Curwen cotton/silk trousers, £215
From left: Berluti wool blend trousers, £1,060. Kent & Curwen cotton/silk trousers, £215

It feels natural that a generation of designers who grew up in the sportswear revolution of the early 1980s should look to this genre for inspiration. Tracksuit culture has been a key part of their style evolution and now it has moved firmly into the luxury firmament.

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