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How To Work Sportswear Into Your Wardrobe

Five ways to add an athletic edge to your everyday style

So much of the modern wardrobe can trace its roots, in some way, to sport. The sweatshirt. The sneaker. The baseball cap. Then there are the less obvious examples – the ones that don’t bear the name of the sport for which they were originally intended. The button-down collar, for instance, was designed to keep polo players’ shirt collars from flapping while they were in the saddle. The polo shirt, meanwhile, was designed by Mr René Lacoste not for the polo field but the tennis court – the name being derived from the assiduous polo player who inspired Mr Lacoste.

When it comes to the way we dress, there are few influences as constant and widespread as the sporting world. (The only thing that comes anywhere close is the military, which gave us the bomber jacket, the trench coat and the T-shirt, to name just a few.) And as fashion designers continue to incorporate performance fabrics and athletic cuts into our everyday wardrobes, this influence is only likely to grow.

With that in mind, we’ve chosen a few of our favourite sports-inspired pieces, and given you a little background on how they came to be while we’re at it.

The sport known today as rugby union began life in 1823 on the playing fields of Rugby School in Warwickshire, England. As the story goes, a young lad by the name of Mr William Webb Ellis caught the ball in the middle of a school football match and, with a wanton disregard for the rules, decided to run upfield with it. Thus was born, by some roundabout means, a sport whose governing body today honours the winners of its quadrennial World Cup competition by presenting them with the Webb Ellis Cup. The early players wore cotton shirts with bow ties, as was the custom at the time; it wasn’t until the following century that the first proper rugby shirts began to appear. These long-sleeved cotton-jersey shirts became popular off the pitch in the middle of the 20th century, and are still a preppy classic today. Speaking of which, Polo Ralph Lauren – arguably the quintessential preppy brand – has delved into its extensive archives this season and remade a few of its America’s Cup designs from the early 1990s. This unapologetically loud rugby shirt is one of them – and we like it.

Wear it with

  • J.Crew Cotton-Ripstop Trousers

  • Converse One Star OX Suede Sneakers

The polo shirt was designed by Mr René Lacoste not for polo, as the name might appear to suggest, but for tennis. The Frenchman was inspired by his friend, the Fifth Marquess of Cholmondeley, who showed up to play a game of tennis one day wearing a short-sleeved shirt – a radical move in an era when players were expected to wear a smart but impractical ensemble of white flannel trousers, long-sleeved shirts and V-neck sweaters. Mr Lacoste debuted his new “polo shirt” at the 1926 US National Championships, taking it commercial seven years later. The polo shirt as we know it today has transcended its sporting origins to become a staple of the male off-duty wardrobe, a versatile garment that manages to exude a casual air while never leaving the wearer feeling underdressed. This contrast-trim polo shirt from Theory – in a Wimbledon-appropriate colour scheme of white and green – is a prime example. Wear it during the day and throw a blazer over it before heading out for the evening.

Wear it with

  • Folk Navy Unstructured Garment-Dyed Linen and Cotton-Blend Blazer

  • Common Projects Original Achilles Leather Sneakers

Unlike the polo shirt (or should that be tennis shirt?) there is no etymological uncertainty with regard to the tracksuit, whose name offers a perfectly accurate description of its provenance. It first appeared in the 1960s, when it was worn by track athletes such as Messrs John Carlos and Tommie Smith, the duo who became famous for their Black Power salute on the winners’ podium at the 1968 Olympic Games. It vaulted into the mainstream during the 1970s thanks to shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, became a part of the “B-Boy” look rocked by Run-DMC in the 1980s and finally hit a style nadir in the 1990s when it was adopted by portly mobsters and ageing ex-revolutionaries such as Messrs Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. Nothing stays out of style forever, though, and recent years have seen intrepid designers such as Mr Alessandro Michele at Gucci take it upon themselves to reinvent the tracksuit once more. The results are largely in line with what you’d expect from a design house as radical as Gucci has become under the tenure of Mr Michele – if the bold azure shade of this zipped track jacket isn’t enough of a statement, there’s an image of a snarling tiger embroidered on the back for good measure.

Wear it with

  • Balenciaga Tapered Zip-Panelled Shell Trousers

  • adidas Originals F/22 Suede-Trimmed Primeknit Sneakers

Is there any sport more quintessentially English than cricket? A game which, when played in its traditional format, can last for five whole days and still result in a draw? A game which schedules into its daily playing time a 40-minute break for lunch and a 20-minute break for tea? Cricket was born and grew up on England’s soggy village greens, and its traditional uniform reflects the vagaries of the English summer. Take the cricket sweater, or cricket jumper as it’s known in Britain. A white or off-white V-neck sweater with a chunky cable-knit pattern, it was originally designed to keep players in the outfield from catching a chill. As with many an item of old-school sportswear, though, the cricket sweater has found a non-sporting audience, who appreciate it for its practical qualities as much as its elegance. We’re rather taken with this version from Savile Row’s Anderson & Sheppard, a brand that’s as English as strawberries and cream itself.

Wear it with

  • Drake's Easyday Slim-Fit Button-Down Collar Cotton Oxford Shirt

  • Kingsman + Cutler and Gross D-Frame Tortoiseshell Acetate Sunglasses

No discussion on the influence of sport on dressing is complete without reference to America’s national pastime – not least because it gave America its national hat. (Apologies to our friends at Stetson, but the cowboy hat surely has to take second spot to the baseball cap in the nation’s hearts.) Aside from headwear, we must also discuss the classic pinstripe baseball jersey. Pinstripes were first used in 1907 by the Chicago Cubs in their inaugural World Series-winning season but have since become synonymous with the New York Yankees. They’ve been employed to winning effect on this denim baseball jersey by Beams, a Japanese brand that does a fine line in vintage-inspired American style. Adapt it for the modern day by wearing it unbuttoned over a long-sleeved T-shirt.

Wear it with

  • A.P.C. Matt Striped Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt

  • James Perse Slim-Fit Garment-Dyed Linen and Cotton-Blend Cargo Trousers

Or try these

  • Balenciaga Oversized Shell Track Jacket

  • Aimé Leon Dore Tapered Logo-Embroidered Cotton-Fleece Sweatpants

  • John Elliott Striped Loopback Cotton-Jersey Sweatpants

  • Moncler Slim-Fit Grosgrain-Trimmed Nylon and Cotton-Blend Track Jacket

  • Flagstuff Colour-Block Shell Track Jacket

  • CMMN SWDN Buck Slim-Fit Piped Satin Sweatpants