The overlap between performance sportswear and fashion – specifically streetwear – has become a common trope over the past 18 months. Collaborations between luxury designers/brands and sportswear companies are more commonplace now than ever before, and while the 2010s were absolutely dominated by sportswear, the last two years specifically were the culmination of a decade-long trend.
When Virgil Abloh, founder of one of the hottest fashion labels over the past few years and now creative head of Louis Vuitton men’s, is designing football boots for one of the sport’s brightest talents, Kylian Mbappé, it’s hard to ignore the influence performance sports has had on the fashion world.
With that, we take a look back at some of the biggest sportswear moments of the last 10 years.
The biggest sportswear fashion moments of the last decade
Lululemon & yoga pants dominate
If sneakers dominated the end of the decade, yoga pants and athleisure brands (such as Lululemon) dominated the beginning of the 2010s. The comfortable, form-fitting pants migrated from the yoga studio to the streets and were increasingly worn by women as everyday, casual wear. Just as sneakers, jerseys, or other sports gear, yoga pants weren’t exclusively worn for their intended performance purpose anymore, but rather for comfort and style. Athleisure sales reached $48 billon by 2018 and will continue to grow throughout 2021, according to NPD. Similarly, joggers were the men’s version of yoga pants at the beginning of the decade, with brands such as Kith and Publish providing sneakerheads with stylish ways to show off their kicks. Joggers, as the name suggests, were adapted from sportswear staples such as sweatpants, and featured an elastic cuff, swapping out cotton for more casual fabrics.
Kanye West’s YEEZY empire
Upon leaving Nike (citing creative restrictions) and joining adidas in 2014, Kanye West finally got what he wanted: the support to build his YEEZY empire. The first adidas YEEZY was launched to much fanfare in 2015, with countless original silhouettes and colorways following in the years since. West’s biggest achievement is perhaps his ability to keep YEEZYs relevant, while simultaneously making the “exclusive” sneakers a household name the world over.
Nike’s version of what adidas built with Kanye West seems to be Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” collaboration, which started as a highly-limited collection in late 2017 and has since morphed into over 40 sneakers and several apparel collections. Abloh is arguably the most famous designer in the world right now, and his “The Ten” collection changed the scale at which brands and external collaborators can work together.
PSG and Jordan Brand change the game
Paris Saint-Germain and Jordan Brand’s strategic partnership – which saw the Parisian football club swap out Nike’s Swoosh for the Jumpman logo on special Champions League jerseys in 2017 – changed the concept of football jerseys. While the style (particularly retro versions) had been worn casually in the past, the PSG x Jordan iterations were immediately a status symbol, as seen on by Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and anyone else who wanted to be cool – football fan or not. The collaboration legitimized PSG as a lifestyle brand and gave Jordan Brand a way into an entire market that it didn’t have a foothold in beforehand.
Palace takes on performance sportswear
Palace – the fun-loving, London-based skateboard brand best known for its rave culture-inspired collections and hilarious product descriptions – left its mark on the decade, thanks to a daring move into performance sports by way of long-time collaborator adidas. A Palace x adidas Wimbledon collection, historic in its own right, was worn by eventual women’s singles winner Angelique Kerber. Not to be outdone by Jordan Brand, Palace outfitted Juventus as well as Cristiano Ronaldo (arguably the most marketable football player of the last decade) with a special-edition jersey and matching training gear.
Nigeria World Cup jersey
The Nigerian home jersey for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia wasn’t noteworthy because it was stylish (plenty of jerseys had been popular off the pitch before it) – it was noteworthy because it almost overshadowed the nation’s performance at the tournament itself. The jersey’s announcement spread like wildfire online and the initial drop sold out almost everywhere, with some jerseys even being resold for absurd amounts.
Sneakers become mainstream
The sneaker industry’s booming growth this decade is best reflected by the fact that even your grandparents most likely know (or have heard of) YEEZYs, and that resell platforms such as GOAT and StockX have legitimized the secondary market. Whereas before it was a niche group of young men that wore, collected, and traded sneakers, now you’re hard-pressed to find people that don’t own at least a few sneakers because they like the way they look.
The NBA does its best Fashion Week impression
What started as innocent pre-game tunnel images has morphed into what many are calling the NBA Runway Show™. Many of the players attempt to outshine each other with outfits that get wilder and wilder as the season progresses. The players have become walking billboards for brands and stylists, and have even helped spawn social media accounts whose sole purpose is to chronicle NBA fits (though not all are convinced about what’s on show at NBA arenas across the nation). Still, the interest around what players are wearing is at an all-time high, and is indicative of how professional athletes have become even greater than the finely-honed skills they offer on the court.
Luxury brands loosen up and turn to streetwear
Culminating in the Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration, luxury fashion’s transition to casual sportswear and streetwear staples has been a long time coming. As we wrote elsewhere, “what people wear has only ever gotten less formal. The logical end of this 'great relaxing' is sportswear.” It just so happened that with sportswear’s domination of this decade, fashion houses finally thought it the right time to join the fray. Following the Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration, Dior and Jordan Brand are now linking up, as are Prada and adidas. If sportswear defined the 2010s, high fashion’s embrace of it played a large part.
Hiking- and trail running-inspired footwear became 2018’s must-have sneakers, challenging chunky designs for the title of biggest footwear trend. This was in part due to the fact that outdoor brands such as Salomon or Hoka One One stepped up their collaboration game or got co-signs from celebrities, as well as the fact that utility was at the center of the streetwear zeitgeist. Side bags, utility belts, and vests were all very much in, so it stood to reason that utility and performance-focused footwear would be, too.
For much of the decade, Nike was on a mission to create the fastest running shoe of all time. In 2016, the brand announced its Breaking2 project, which was an attempt to break the two-hour barrier for the marathon. Three elite runners – Eliud Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese, and Lelisa Desisa – were chosen to run in a private race in Italy in 2017. Kipchoge ended with a time of 2:00:25, only 26 second shy of breaking the barrier. In a later attempt in 2019, Kipchoge finally succeeded, recording a time of 1:59:40 (though the time was not officially recognized as a world record under IAAF standards).