I could lie and say that my obsession with sportswear, and it is an obsession, has been ignited due to the pandemic and 2020's nostalgia-fest, but it's not. I went to a school in Sheffield where I could wear anything I wanted, and during the late '90s, Adidas trousers, Kappa jackets and Calvin Klein jumpers were daily wardrobe staples. It didn't matter the gender—anyone could wear these items—and I loved that because it took the pressure off trying to feel "sassy." You got immediate cool points for wearing three stripes. But it's more than that. During that time, Britpop pin-ups Damon Albarn and Liam Gallagher both were regularly spotted wearing Reebok and Adidas T-shirts. AllSaints, the coolest girl group of the '90s (don't @ me), wore oversize, sporty, combats with strappy tops too. Since those days, I've always loved this style of sportswear. I have amassed a small collection of pieces that I wear on repeat, including a pair of Adidas trousers, a jacket and a T-shirt, plus a Champion cap for good measure.
Fashion has embraced the sportswear look for some time now, so I won't bore you with the history of how trainers are cool because that's old news. But there are looks, such as this one of Vogue deputy editor Sarah Harris (below) wearing a pair of Firebird Adidas trousers, which I think could sway anyone into adding more sportswear into their wardrobe. Personally, I think about this outfit often, as I love how polished it still looks but gives off the easy-going vibes that only sportswear can bring to an outfit.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I'm really trying to indoctrinate you on my way of thinking about sportswear and how it can look incredibly cool. But I also think it's worth knowing that vintage and resale pieces, in particular, are still as popular as ever, especially in the time of COVID. Take this quote from Depop, the peer-to-peer pre-loved clothing app: “We’ve seen record breaking performance on Depop across all of our key markets, and globally, traffic on the app is up +200% since April. In the UK specifically, we’ve seen consecutive weeks of record breaking growth in the business with triple-digit growth in our business.”
I also spoke to Scarlet Eden, vintage buyer for Beyond Retro, who told me that her customers "love sweatshirts, T-shirts and trackpants—anything that is comfortable, easy to wear in any situation and works well with most people's styles." And the biggest brands people are after? Nike, Kappa, Fila, Adidas, Tommy, The North Face and Columbia.
Vestiaire Collective, another resale site, noted in its Smart Side of Fashion report that "loungewear and athleisure saw a huge increase in sales for example Adidas is (+71%)* and Nike (+64%)*." And Lyst, a global fashion search platform, revealed that both Nike and Adidas featured in its list of the most popular brands of 2020 so far.
This love of nostalgia, investment in vintage (and a more sustainable way of shopping), plus a need for comfier clothing, leads me to one conclusion: Vintage sportswear is a total winner. Keep scrolling, then, for my guide on how to find the best vintage sportswear pieces.
1. KNOW WHAT YOU'RE AFTER
WHO WHAT WEAR
Okay, let's say you've seen someone wearing a great outfit that features a Nike vest worn with high-waisted jeans or, like me, a pair of tracksuit trousers worn with a roll-neck and black sandals. Start looking at all the vintage sites you can think of. I personally like eBay and Etsy as well as Vestiaire to hunt down quality pieces. If you can't find what you're after immediately, you can set up alerts to find the pieces you're after.
However, I also spoke to Alex Clark, head of social media at Cow Vintage, about the best ways to hunt down a piece of vintage sportswear. "Always go to a vintage store with an in-store reworked team because you know the pieces coming in have been cared for. You'll know they only sell grade-A vintage," she recommends. Clark also confirmed that sportswear is selling really well thanks to the pandemic, with plenty of customers after those pieces that are cool but comfortable.
I'd say this rule should apply to your wardrobe in general, but when adding a piece that might stand out more, work out how it will go with other items you own. Once you have it, you might even find that it works surprisingly well with an item you hadn't even considered. Case in point: a Zara blouse with an oversized collar I bought last year goes well with my favourite vintage Adidas jacket. Eden also told me that "it's the original looks that inspire high-street trends every season. They never go out of date, are very versatile and easy to wear."
I can't stress this enough, and perhaps it's obvious, but just because you like it, if it has holes, smells weird, or doesn't fit quite right, then don't buy it. Just because it's vintage doesn't mean you should part with your money immediately. Message the seller you're buying from for more photos and ask about any snags or holes.