From global brands to niche labels, sportswear is the uniform of the street, and nowhere is this more true than in the stylish city of Berlin. We take a look at how brands such as Nike, Adidas and Supreme became the new heroes of street style
Three lines down the side of a tracksuit; a swooping tick across a cotton T-shirt; a laurel wreath logo embroidered on the chest of a polo shirt, and a badge attached to the sleeve of a jumper with two glossy buttons – all distinctive signs of popular brands with sporting heritage, re-appropriated on our streets as everyday attire.
Sportswear and streetwear are merging, as designers and consumers alike are eluding traditional categorisation within fashion
You will have recognised the unmistakable trademarks of Adidas, Nike, Fred Perry and Stone Island. Brands such as these are the uniform of the non-uniform, and a symbol of belonging. These trusted brands are typically adopted by teenagers who are seeking to both stand out and to fit in. Social scenes and youth culture are entwined, with members of each new generation seeking to express themselves in a different way. Finding your style tribe is a rite of passage just as it was for the punks and mod revivalists of the 1970s and 80s.
In recent years, however, it is not just the kids who are adopting the most recent trends. Sportswear and streetwear are merging, as designers and consumers alike are eluding traditional categorisation within fashion. It has been some decades since we have we seen such a resurgence of sportswear brands being embraced beyond the courts and changing rooms.
In 2015, Adidas reportedly sold eight million pairs of Stan Smiths globally. To add context, between 1973, the year the German sportswear giant launched the white tennis shoes, and 2015, it sold over 40 million pairs, according to its own official figures. The revival of interest in retro-style trainers is partly responsible, and influential figures wearing the minimal style, such as Céline’s Phoebe Philo, have made it acceptable for fashionable women to wear flat shoes.
Other relevant fashion moments include Givenchy’s Rottweiler hooded sweater, which became a cult item, gently loosening the silhouette and blurring the line between womenswear and menswear. Then, of course, came the explosive rise of Demna Gvasalia at Vetements in 2014, with oversized hoodies and bomber jackets that were as desirable as gold dust. Fast forward to 2017 and everyone from teenagers to fashion editors eagerly anticipates Supreme’s latest drop, with fans queuing for hours, sometimes overnight, for the latest piece in capital cities. The much-anticipated collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme, formerly a niche, underground label, saw high fashion and hype-fashion collide.
American outdoor clothing company The North Face was, until recently, a popular activewear label of choice for hikers, cyclists and people spending time surrounded by the elements. A collaboration with Supreme saw the brand’s kudos multiply overnight. Patagonia, the technical sportswear clothing brand with a social conscience, was once most likely to be an investment piece for serious explorers – now it is the brand of choice for many urban dwellers.
The bubble has not yet burst, not least in Berlin, a vibrant city with thriving subcultures, renowned for its liberal attitude and alternative clubbing scene. Individual style here has a distinctively punk attitude. While streetwear is a global language, it is underlying attitude and philosophy that truly makes a scene. Navigating the online reseller market requires dedication. Fortunately, Berlin is host to some of the most exciting independent boutiques in the world.
No74 is an Adidas-owned shop, although you only know this if you’re in the know. Its selection of Adidas and Y-3 is extensive and it’s possible to find all the collaborative Raf Simons and Rick Owens footwear. Parties are frequently hosted in the space, which is transformed into an English pub for one night.
Overkill, the shop with a whole wall dedicated to sneakers, is another Berlin beacon for those seeking sporting footwear. CEO Thomas Peiser is highly regarded in the city for the extent of his stock. The range of styles here is impressive, with classic and new models from stalwart favourites such as Nike, Adidas and Puma, as well as those by brands whose popularity has seen a recent surge – Asics and Onitsuka Tiger, for example. The boutique has strong ties to the street art scene, shown in its array of graffiti paraphernalia, and also offers a selection of sporty clothing for men and women.
Perhaps the best example of sportswear’s integration into the world of fashion is its infiltration into the brand lists of some of Berlin’s most respected fashion concept stores. At Soto, a menswear emporium loved by style-conscious locals for its modern and original concept of men’s dressing, catwalk brands including Dries Van Noten, Acne Studios and Raf Simons share the rails with Puma, Adidas and the like. Filling Pieces and Eytys, two young sneaker specialists with cult followings, are also represented. Sportswear for the everyday, it seems, is here to stay.