Writer Jacopo Bedussi analyzes the tracksuit, reiterated by Alessandro Michele, in the Pre-Fall 2018 collection.
The tracksuit has a long history of genetic and semiotic mutations. Taking its design origins from sport, the tracksuit’s objective were clothes that enabled movement. Between the 70s and 80s, the matching pants and top—considered a hybrid between athletic and hobby wear—became a pop phenomenon: jogging. People ran everywhere, wearing a tracksuit which had evolved into a comfortable and healthy iteration of the original design. The first cinematic expressions of the phenomenon were Rocky Balboa, followed by sports angel Warren Beatty-Joe Pendleton in ‘Heaven Can Wait,’ both archetypal superheroes wearing mélange jersey. The hedonist fitness and aerobics classes on VHS of an equally heroic Jane Fonda turned up the volume of this new lifestyle look.
In 1984, the Los Angeles Olympics is a worldwide declaration of US muscular supremacy. Gold medal athletes become celebrities and supermen, in both a comic book and Nietzsche-style sense. The tracksuit, now colored, conceived, designed and loaded with significance, takes its rightful place while maintaining the traits of a fertile terrain on which larger-than-life personalities are built. You could say semi-divine, even in pop media culture. The tracksuit was worn by Carl Lewis - sprinter and nine-time Olympic gold medal winner—the son of the wind, Florence Griffith-Joyner, with a legendary manicure and a tragic fate, still holds the world record in the 100 and 200 meter events, and basketball great Michael Jordan.
This is the starting point of the tracksuit’s proliferation in geographical, musical and cultural territories. From the techno-posh aesthetic of jet set holidays, from Aspen to St. Moritz, the fluorescent nylon shell suit is born, in a declaration of relaxed well-being, accessorized with high-end touches.
Meanwhile the streets ruled by hip hop's empire from the east to west coast have always been populated with velour and triacetate, utilizing the tracksuit as a shared and democratic second skin. The tracksuit, sporting symbols and customizations, became a look to graft individualism or belonging to a group or musical movement. The Beastie Boys alternated the tracksuit with classic jeans and studded leather jackets; Stetsasonic’s version was completely coordinated, and Eric B. and Rakim wore theirs with a touch of Dapper Dan.
Organized crime in the 90s transformed the tracksuit as an understated power symbol, contrasting against the sartorial splendour of the 80s—as seen in The Sopranos series. Gucci's version coasts beyond the hip hop stars and the bosses, a new homage to the iconic two-piece casual suit, in technical jersey printed with the notable GG motif.