BOOK REVIEW By Belinda Morris
THE GIANTS OF SPORTSWEAR – fashion trends throughout the centuries
by Leen Demeester
(£29.95, Lannoo Publishers)
This is simultaneously a strangely simplistic book… and a rather interesting one. It tells the story of sportswear, our relationship with it and its own relationship with the world of fashion and style. While it outlines the key players in the world of sportswear – Nike, Puma, Lacoste et al – it draws in the history of popular sports and the personalities that have shaped not just the clothing and footwear, but how we, as consumers, relate to the trainers, the hoodies, the running vests…
The author, a fashion writer, charts the coming together of fashion and sportswear, citing Coco Chanel as a key exponent of the dressing for comfort trend, back in the 1920s. I’m not sure though whether reminding us that Chanel has a men’s fragrance called ‘Allure Sport’ backs anything up… Demeester has a habit of skipping from one idea to another without delving very deeply, in order to explain herself. I’m still puzzled as to why she mentions, apropos of I don’t know what, that ‘later on I bumped into Zinedine Zidane on Sunset Boulevard…’ unless it’s simply to let us know that she’s pally with the man?
After a couple of introductory chapters, the book is divided into sections covering the key popular sports – each one kicking off with great vintage images of suitably garbed sports folk. I couldn’t help musing that outfits back then, while maybe not as functional and streamlined as contemporary sportswear, had a certain charm that is lacking now. What’s not to love about chunky fairisles and natty slacks… or is that just me? ‘Skiing is a sport that requires snow. You glide over snow with long skiis attached to boots,’ Demeester begins helpfully, adding: ‘there is always the chance you might fall’. Like I said, strangely simplistic.
But never mind. Interesting interviews with the likes of Stella McCartney, Jeremy Hackett and Tommy Hilfiger – along with the history elements and photography – make this book a good gift idea for a sportswear lover.