Ready for anything: tracking the tracksuit as sportswear for non-sporting activities

Turney, J (2012) Ready for anything: tracking the tracksuit as sportswear for non-sporting activities. In: Design History Society Conference ('The Material Culture of Sport'), September 2012, University of Brighton, Brighton.


"This paper investigates the contemporary phenomena of the re-appropriation of sportswear (specifically the tracksuit) into everyday/non-sporting dress. Following recent media moral panics regarding social disobedience, deviant behaviour, lack of civic responsibility and consequent links to masculinity in crisis, issues surrounding sartorial coding have never been so central to the political agenda (i.e. ‘hoodie’ is an object; but it is also a person, deemed outside of normative culture and society). From ASBO youths to casual loungers, acrylic sportswear has become a staple of the male wardrobe, particularly for those not engaged in sporting pursuits. This paper, much like the tracksuit, is composed of two distinct but inter-dependent areas of enquiry that aim to consider sportless sportswear, its popularity and why these synthetic garments pose such a threat to the status quo. These are, the subversion of normative dress codes, and, contemporary performances of masculinity in a ‘leisure’ society. Here, the juxtaposition of the words ‘track’ and ‘suit’ will present a critique of the construction of masculine ideals through dress, whilst the performance of dominant and formal modes of masculine behaviour (such as sport and competition/rationality and business) will be comparatively discussed with reference to informal and anti-social activities. The two-piece tracksuit is therefore presented as indicative of new binary codes that dictate popular performance modes of masculinity, i.e. competition/consumption, competitor/spectator, active/passive, smart/casual, etc. By analysing this prolific and seemingly innocuous sporting garb as both object and myth, the discussion positions the tracksuit as a sign of transitory masculinities and consequently indicative of social instability, and possible social threat. The tracksuit heralds the death of patriarchy. As an item of sportswear, the tracksuit is a pre-performance garment; it warms the wearer, keeping muscles flexible and the wearer largely hidden, and only through its removal are the intentions of the wearer as competitor visible. It is a garment of restlessness, of preparation, of thinking, of focus and ultimately one that when unzipped, literally releases the beast. In everyday life, the tracksuit has similar properties; it hides the wearer and by association, intent. But what and whom are in competition? What will be released when the body (potentially) emerges? The tracksuit, when worn on the street, will be considered in these terms: as the garb of the socially resting competitor; the temporary outsider for whom normative codes of behaviour and performance are viewed suspiciously from the side-lines.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
Divisions: Bath School of Design
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2014 09:02
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:35
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