Fashion and Sport and the Unlikely Synergy

Fashion is a powerful force. It can influence what people buy, how they view themselves and even impact the buying behavior of others. Some brands have used fashion to their advantage by using celebrities or marketing campaigns to help promote their products. The rise in popularity of certain sports has created a necessity for them to manufacture and sell quality apparel, like pickleball equipment brands or mountain biking brands. In contrast, other companies have tried to use fashion to gain certain credibility for themselves, like athleisure brands. Social media has also heavily influenced fashion, which has turned it into an even more influential whole.

Off-field brand names

The influence that fashion has on sportswear is more prevalent, especially in the most popular professional sports. With most athletes dressing in high-price brands and designers, it is made clear that brand name items are essential, at least when not playing.

The rise in popularity of major sporting events makes players’ dress an even more relevant factor when deciding how successful a team or individual will compete in these games. As football tournaments are beginning across Europe this summer, for example, people are being reminded of the importance of wearing fashionable garments during matches.

Leisure sportswear

One example of fashion impacting another industry would be how the fashion industry has influenced the sportswear market. The sportswear market used to consist of clothes made for athletes but now consists mainly of athleisure wear. Athleisure wear includes yoga pants, leggings, sweatshirts, basketball shorts, sweatpants, and even sweatshirts. Some companies have also found ways to make workout clothes look fashionable, including turning yoga pants into skinny jeans with rips.

Athleisure wear is considered a hybrid of casual and fitness clothing, but it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon because everybody loves the comfortable style that athleisure wear has to offer. The athleisure trend started way back in 1969 when a group known as “The Sweatshop Union” sold a line of sweatpants to a fashion magazine, GQ. The magazine described the pants as “stylish enough for the city” and helped spark interest in athleisure wear. 

In fact, according to a recent report, for 2021 alone, athleisure wear is projected to be a $306 billion industry. For those playing along at home, that’s bigger than the US movie industry. Not only is it a significant player in the fashion world but also a big job creator. According to Fortune, over 60,000 jobs have been created specifically for creating these stylish clothes.

Event and athlete sponsors

One of the main reasons fashion has impacted the sportswear industry is that prominent fashion designers are now sponsoring major athletic events. For example, Adidas sponsors the X games, Under Armour sponsors athletes like Misty Copeland, and Nike deals with soccer players like Cristiano Ronaldo. However, this idea is not entirely new as Nike sponsored Michael Jordan in his basketball career along with other NBA players so they could sell their shoes to the general public who wanted to emulate their favorite athlete’s style on or off the court.

Photo by Joan Azeka on Unsplash

Young fans and idols

Another reason fashion is so influential in sports these days is that young people emulate their favorite athletes. Nike has used this idea by filling its stores with clothes that the NBA or NFL directly influences to get young people into the store and then sell them more expensive items for them to buy. Some of these clothes include jeans, coats, sweaters, hats, jewelry, belts, watches, scarves, ties, glasses, slides, sandals, socks, wallets, shoes, insoles, backpacks, duffel bags, slippers, slings.

Social media impact

Another reason fashion has impacted sports is that celebrities have used their influence on social media to affect how people dress when they go out. For example, if a star is wearing yoga pants outside in public, in most cases, their fans will follow, and then it will become a trend. Some celebrities that have promoted the trend include Kendall Jenner, Rihanna, Kylie Jenner, and Kanye West.

Adele is best known for her music, but she has ventured into the fashion world with clothing lines and campaigns in recent years. The success of this venture inspired other celebrities to get involved in fashion, including Beyonce, who expanded from music into sportswear. These two women are often associated with their sexy outfits or edgy style and are now branching out into sportswear – competing to be the top fashion icon.

Sport teams

For some teams this season, it appears that just one shirt sponsor will suffice due to their standing in the game’s history and current league position. Real Madrid has announced that they will not be taking up the option of a second sponsor in their jersey, and Barcelona, Manchester City, and Milan have also worn jerseys with just one brand’s logo in recent years. While this may indicate that the team is already at the top of their game, it is perhaps more likely to show that they are popular enough only to need one major company backing them.

Football teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona will often turn down deals from potential sponsors if they deem them irrelevant to the club’s reputation. Football managers have also said that they do not want players spending too much time worrying about their appearance.

 Nike-sponsored athletes like David Beckham would spend hours deciding what outfit to wear before an interview or public appearance (it has been estimated that Beckham has a wardrobe of over 450 different outfits). As a result, there is tremendous pressure on one brand to ensure their sponsored athletes wear the correct combination of garments during training and matches.

Individual players

It is clear to see precisely why teams or even individual players bother with sponsorship deals in other sports. Tennis players such as Maria Sharapova, for example, have been known to wear Nike clothing at all times throughout practice sessions and competitions, regardless of whether they are playing for fun or in a major tournament. Furthermore, female tennis stars have often proudly displayed clothes from sponsors such as Adidas and Uniqlo on the court. The reason for this must be because these companies cannot sponsor an entire team so instead concentrate on one star, who, by doing so, can expect to earn substantially more than if they had just signed for one large brand.

Photo by DIAO DARIUS on Unsplash

Pre-game outfit

The increasing interest in sports fashion is perhaps best shown by the popularity of NBA teams’ pre-game outfits. Now, it has become customary for these athletes to arrive onto the court dressed only in shirts and shorts with their sponsor’s logos displayed all over them. People who play golf will often wear clothing containing suggestions about where they should hit their next shot. As well as this, there are entire television shows dedicated to analyzing what NFL players are wearing on game day (and it seems like half of them appear on TV before playing).

National team wear

Perhaps an essential part of fashion sees which brands each team chooses to wear. While it is commonly known that international groups such as France and Brazil will always play in Nike apparel, national outfits such as Italy and Germany have often switched between different brands on home soil through the years. This may be because companies such as Puma or Kappa can pay a higher amount for sponsorship of these teams than Nike, but there may also be issues with sponsorship rights on foreign soil. As well as this, some sports stars prefer to use their image rights to guarantee they get part of the money made by branding any clothing and accessories they carry, and so it becomes more worthwhile for them if their sponsor pays more money per year.

It seems clear that fashion plays a prominent role in all major sporting events. While certain athletes will still wear the same branded clothes during training as they will in front of thousands of people, many are now carefully choosing what outfit to wear for every occasion.

Good or bad?

While fashion has played a massive role in impacting the sportswear industry, it is still unclear whether this was good or bad for both sectors. While having prominent fashion designers sponsoring major athletic events might have attracted more young people into the store to buy clothes, it also turned what used to be just an outfit for athletes into something ordinary people wear every day, which might have had negative consequences. Another example would be how turning yoga pants into skinny jeans became popular. While some people thought this looked trendy, others criticized wearing them out in public because they looked ridiculous. 

Nevertheless, even though fashion has had a significant impact on the sportswear industry, it might be suitable for both industries overall because it has created jobs and has made the world much more stylish.

Global brand awareness and coverage

This is likely because companies are paying high prices for these famous people to wear their logos, so it has become necessary to do so at all possible opportunities.

Although sponsorship deals have always been an essential part of advertising, football teams’ jerseys have shown just how far this phenomenon can go in ensuring maximum coverage across the sporting world.


Cover photo from Gabriel Porras on Unsplash.

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