PLAYING THE GAME
LONG BEFORE FRED PERRY WON WIMBLEDON IN 1934, SPORT HAS HAD A STRONG INFLUENCE ON MEN'S FASHION
Tailoring Ambassador Maurice Mullen reports:
Physical activities and I have never been the most comfortable of bedfellows. A sad fact which is attributable to two factors. The first was an early life filled with unfavourable comparisons to my late father who could swim, box, ice skate, ride and handle a shotgun irritatingly well, and the second was (and is) my own frail, pale and less-than-ideal physiology. Whilst perfectly healthy, I’ve never weighed more than 10st 7lb – that’s 147lb to our US friends – so I’m hardly what you’d call an asset on the rugby field. Sporting prowess being such a desirable masculine quality my general ineptitude was a bitter pill to swallow but, as Quentin Crisp once observed, “If at first you don’t succeed, maybe failure is your style”. So, I reluctantly accepted that the only exercise I’d ever really enjoy was running up bills and jumping to conclusions. I also realised that half the battle in avoiding utter derision was (a) to eschew participation in any team endeavour and (b) at least to look the part and this is where the right sartorial choices came into their own.
Back in the day
Sports-appropriate attire has been one of the most significant influences on the modern man’s wardrobe. Towards the end of the 19th century what we now call the ‘lounge’ suit was regarded as an informal garment, appropriate only
for sporting activities or leisure time spent in the country. The origins of the modern jacket date from the morning coat, which in the Victorian era, replaced the frock coat, and had a cutaway front making it easier to ride in. In 1964, Sir Hardy Amies, one of London’s most successful couturiers, recognised in his ABC of Men’s Fashion the role played by popular sports. He wrote: “In tennis, as in skiing, it is the pleasantness, almost the elegance, of the costume which adds to the attraction of the game for both spectators and players…you will be helped by dress that falls little short of immaculate.”
But as far back as the 1920s, René Lacoste was already a style leader on tennis courts across France in his short-sleeved, soft-collared top which was to become what we now call the ‘polo’ shirt. And then came British legend Fred Perry.
Prada embraces sporty details for S/S18
Fast forward to the 21st Century and huge technical advances in fabric manufacture and garment construction have made the connection between sports and fashion ever stronger. In 1996, Dirk Bikkembergs took football as the inspiration for his creativity in performance-engineered fashion. Then 14 years ago, Yohji Yamamoto partnered with Adidas to create Y-3, one of sport and fashion's most enduring collaborations. Today's athleisure phenomenon imprted to the UK from the American West Coast. (and the more European 'luxe-leisure' trend) has had a huge impact. We expect to see the sector grow by eight per cent over the next year, outpacing overall UK clothing sales. That a £2.5 billion market fuelled by brands like Bottega Veneta, Loro Piana and Berlutti offering everything from baby cashmere joggers to zip-through, high tech hoodies. We've come a long way since the 1960's when I shivered on the sidelines. Who knows? In clothes like these I might even have made the team...
Maurice Mullens is Head of Fashion and Luxury Goods London Evening Standard and ES Magazine