5 Sports Clothing Items That Entered Mainstream Fashion

5 Sports Clothing Items That Entered Mainstream Fashion

You know the impression you get when you look at old photos? You know how everyone seemed so serious back then, with their fancy hats, coats, fitted suits and long dresses? People today look more casual than they did back in the day, and fashion surely changed a lot over the past century.

old vintage photo elegant man
Your great-grandfather has something to tell you.

There was a big change in people’s day-to-day attire over the past 100 years. The popularity of sports influenced people to start wearing clothing items that were initially used exclusively as a part of sports equipment, and it’s one of the reasons why we dress so differently from our ancestors.

In this day and age, we consider the popularity of sports as a given, but you need to remember that the first modern Olympics took place in 1896 in Greece, after a break of 1500 years! This means that, on one hand, the interest in sports only got revived fairly recently and, on the other hand, this new popularity was influencing more and more people as years passed, making sports not only more popular in our lives, but also more common.

This reflected on our clothing

Some sports items, such as tracksuits, are still seen exclusively as sports attire. However, others have entered mainstream fashion, and they got so widely accepted by the masses that they often get re-styled and lose much of their initial, sport-related traits. Sometimes the main goal of some of these clothing items is not to be comfortable, to give the wearer a freedom of movement, nor to be made of sweat-blocking materials. Their main goal is simply to look good and be trendy.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular sports clothing items that often get transformed into something entirely different from their initial purpose!


Sneakers are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the most widespread clothing item that has its roots in sports equipment. The ancestor of modern day sneakers are the so called “plimsolls” – sports shoes designed in the 19th century that were made of canvas, they had rubber soles, and there was no distinction between the left shoe and the right shoe.

They were first worn during tennis tournaments and gradually became more popular at the turn of the 20th century. However, it’s not until the second half of the 20th century that they became popular in fashion as well, on one hand thanks to popularity of sports, and on the other hand thanks to subcultures that accepted them as their “must have” (rock, punk, metal, hip hop). Today we have many models of sneakers that are quite useless as far as sport is concerned. Elegant leather sneakers were made to suit the needs of young professionals who work in dynamic environments and think leather shoes are a bit too much to be worn daily. Wedge heel shoes were made for women who want to be elegant in somewhat casual occasions, but maintain their comfort and avoid being overdressed. Chunky skate sneakers with sturdy soles, high-platform sneakers, spiked sneakers, all were made to suit the needs of particular subcultures and clothing styles. Along these lines, luminous sneakers, a status symbol of everyone’s childhood, have made a comeback even in adults’ sizes! None of these models can be used as running shoes – and nobody seems to mind this, as it’s not their purpose anyway.

fashionable sneakers fashion statement elegant shoes

You can tell a lot about a person just by looking at their shoes. For example, if they’re wearing any of these sneakers, they’re not training for a marathon.


This piece of clothing may be the oldest on our list, yet its purpose as we know it is not older than 20th century. For hundreds of years before that, they have been worn as leg warmers, sometimes by children, sometimes by women, but more often than not, they were worn by men! As hard as it may be for us to believe, this form-fitting piece of clothing wasn’t always considered feminine.

leggings men past renaissance painting
Ok, in all honesty, this guy probably never said that.

Over time, wearing pants became more common for women, and that’s how leggings made an entrance in female sports attire as well. They were originally worn during sports activities because they are far more comfortable than regular pants. Leggings became common in ballet. Figure skating and gymnastics also made leggings appear very feminine. And many girls wanted to be just like one of those elegant figure skaters, ballerinas or gymnasts. Nowadays leggings, also known as yoga pants (though there are some differences), are not only essential in the gym bag of most girls and young women, but they’re also an essential piece in women’s wardrobe in general. While they’re not always considered to be the most elegant clothing item a woman can wear, when accessorized properly they can still get a pass in many occasions.

black leggings women elegant pilates yoga pants
Leggings are what you make them to be! Here we see the same clothing item in two entirely different styles.

Basketball jerseys

There’s hardly anything more sporty than an outfit actually worn while playing a sport – yet this clothing item managed to step outside the playing field and enter our wardrobes as well. Just like all legit fashion statements, it even has its own “how to wear guides” online, such as this one! It owes its success to the widespread popularity of basketball (and NBA players in particular), and it’s somewhat confined to hip hop subculture, as this movement was the first to widely accept jerseys. If we asked the manufacturers of basketball jerseys about who buys their products the most, they’d probably say it’s the regular people, and not professional basketball players. The players were the ones who showed the iconic jersey to the entire world, but then it took on a life of its own!

basketball jersey lakers yellow sponge bob squarepants funny
An actual basketball jersey… and a funny take on it by fans!

Baseball caps

Baseball, it’s in the name itself, isn’t it? And yet, many people across the world who don’t even like baseball, who never even saw a single baseball match, can be spotted wearing this item. Just like sneakers, baseball caps saw the light of day during the 19th century, when baseball was becoming popular.

This first baseball cap, the ancestor of modern baseball caps, had a brim that was shorter than the modern ones, and over time it evolved into multiple different models that we know today. Some adjustable, some not, some have a curved brim like a classic baseball cap, others, like the snapback cap, have a flat brim, some have a net in the back part (also called netback cap or trucker cap), some have no top and some even have no brim (and thus look a lot like regular caps, save for the adjustable band in the back part).

Not only do these models have many different uses, but they also represent different fashion statements. In Europe, more specifically in the UK, Burberry baseball cap was linked with football hooligans. It reached the point where the brand decided to discontinue its production in order to avoid having the notoriety of football hooliganism linked with their brand name.

Is she a hooligan too?

Across the pond, the snapback was linked to hip hop subculture, and it has even stepped out of those circles and became a symbol of a younger generation of baseball caps. Wearing a regular baseball cap among the young people who favor snapback would probably earn you a reputation of an old-fashioned person.

brooklyn style cap vs snapback

On the other hand, for several decades, wearing a baseball cap the opposite way was a symbol of young boys’ rebellion against rules – a style which was made iconic is several movies and sitcoms.

Puffer jackets

For the most part in history people used wool coats, leather, and fur to keep themselves warm. The kind of jackets that are most often worn by people today don’t come from a distant past. The so called puffer jackets or down jackets were first made in the early 20th century and their purpose was to keep explorers warm during the 1922 Mount Everest expedition. Today almost everyone owns one. Even those who otherwise favor wearing coats and other more elegant outfits will have one puffer jacket in their closet, just in case. Puffer jacket doesn’t restrict one’s movements as much as coats, which makes it perfect for outdoor activities.

As the popularity of outdoors sports grew during the 20th century, puffer jackets gained more popularity and became sought after by the general population, not just by the athletes. This is why the puffer jacket is considered as one of the basic clothing items during winter, despite the fact that most people who wear it aren’t going to climb Mount Everest. In fact, today there is a myriad of different models and styles of puffer jackets, and many of them wouldn’t even be well suited for outdoors activities such as mountaineering.

warm comfy comfortable puffer down jacket winter outdoors mountaineering
Doesn’t this make you wanna hug your jacket?

In conclusion, it’s obvious that the popularity of sports made many sports items desirable in the eyes of general public. Pair this with human creativity and tendency to prefer beautiful and interesting designs, it’s no wonder that many of these items took on a life of their own outside of their initial purpose.