Sportswear is something we all absently know as an American phenomenon, first and foremost.
We invented it, express our style via it, and better than anything else we’ve come up with it broadcasts how we feel about life, health, fun and function.
The American ethos in fashion is all about ingenious ways to make it easier to facilitate whatever lives we’re living without being buck naked or uncomfortably dressed out in public (unless that’s our kink. Which is another article😜).
But Nothing defined 20th century American fashion like blue jeans.
Rooted in our collective sense of hard work, utility and the beauty of a sometimes broken down and into indigo blue, denim was able to showcase the summation of all our rugged individualist ideals as well as our industry, becoming a table rasa for all sectors of society to suit up in.
It went from being the uniform of the simultaneously lauded and looked down upon lower and working classes to an emblem of defiance brandished by those breaking out of the bonds those who looked down had to have in place to keep the hierarchy they benefited from alive.
And like a face with good bones being able to handle any amount of makeup slathered on it without losing its appeal, because of denim’s baseline good design (from the actual weave of the fabric to the cut of items fashioned from it) denim could pull off, showcase and/or ground any rebel yell humanly howled while encased in it.
Like denim, the contender for closet headlining has swam around in the waters of the collective consciousness for decades prior to taking center stage in the American psyche on it’s way to global domination, raising it’s head in various eddies sportively, almost word association style.
But, like pasta for Sophia Loren, all that this contender is set to cash in on in the 21st century it will owe to seeds sown by one thing and one thing only.
The Athleisure tsunami wave we’ve all gotten our sealegs in across the last decade is the most sincere #thisisscifi moment fashion has ever given our society…thanks to Bill Theiss, the costume designer for Star Trek.
You can balk… but the first year of the pandemic just sunk those unseen roots deeper. & you’re probably fussing against this in stretchy clothes.
We all find ourselves justifying eschewing our tried and true structured staples, even lightly so, for leggings and soft pants (and shoes) 90% of the time.
And this is not our first time at this rodeo…this is just cusping on the true tipping point.
The Athleisure movement is going to be what segways our global culture to the futuristic, streamlined, democratic, ambisexual uniforms life in the 21st century is going to wordlessly demand of us all.
& we’re going to be fine with it because the seeds were planted into our subconscious thanks to Spock, Lt. Uhura & Captain Kirk.AngelBrynner
…and for the most part society is going to be clueless to it due to how little importance we consciously place on that clothing aspect of the FOOD/CLOTHING/SHELTER rubric.
This has been a long time coming.
From Claire McCardell to Stephen Burrows, to the true Demi-Ourgos of Athleisure Design herself, Norma Kamali*, who has always been so ahead of the curve on this that she technically owns the patent for the high heeled tennis shoes the real world manifestation of all this stands firmly on.
But the build out around fitness, health and beauty as everything else in the world as we know it crumbles into what will be the foundation of the new world began in earnest with the youth quake of the 60s and recalibrated in the Studio 54 era as the world the revelers knew burned on the far side of velvet ropes.
That is so harmoniously keyed to visions of a future where we all get to comfortably Move in the Entire universe without fear of attack imagined as people died in the streets for civil rights. The audacity to speak life into dreams of a multiculturalism that was not the norm at the time is what set the stage for our culture to receive Star Trek into our homes as we found courage not to cower within them. It prepared the ground, built a new table that accommodated us all in the stars.
Bill Theiss used similar tenets to the current baseline of Athleisure when defining optimistic futuristic design aesthetics to quietly hang worldbuilding on for Gene Roddenberry, costume-wise. & he did this while also bringing fire from the alien civilizations style-wise, quietly speaking to fashion as a psychic building block surviving any extraterrestrial contact we make.
We’re always going to be eyeing what the “Other” has on, perversely, consumptively, honorifically or appreciatively. Look at the cultural appropriation wars that heated up in the noughties trying to stomp the brains out of the passive colonizers mindset overall when it came to sacred ethnic costumes . All Otherness is vilified until colonizers can launch paltry facsimiles of it in this current culture. See Balenciaga sagging pants in 2021 to deep dive this.
It’s just that the closer we get to (publicized) first contact, the more comfy (& stretchy) our own wardrobes are going to be across the board to accommodate the mind stretching that will be necessary to process we aren’t the end all be all in the universe. Because Psychological Expansion happens in clothing first. Then food. Then shelter. Which was what Star Trek was low-key aiming to facilitate.
That is a great thing to celebrate on this Star Trek Day, Septemberian style.
And to all the tailoring purists out there rabble-rousing for suits beyond denim against Athleisure, you guys landed the dead shot that proves my premise with your current champion.
The operatic beauty of the “tactical suit” section of John Wick 2 leads to a glorious movable feast when it comes to uniforms. & I’m sure a conversation with Oscar Mosca (the costume designer) would yield much Intel on what was done To make sure those suits could basically be balletic, albeit violently so. That? That’s a step towards Federation regulation uniformity. & I won’t even bring up the red shirt aspect of the first movie to show how deeply affected our culture is by Star Trek.
I’m not saying Denim is going to die. It won’t die or disappear, just like suiting didn’t and won’t.
But denim knows the battle it is in. That’s what all the lycra tweaks of the past two decades have been about. The latest Battle of the Bulge is about that weird thing too much lycra does that makes jeans bag at the knees.
Full disclosure: This is even being written IN a gloriously broken in Jean jacket. But it’s hovering over camouflage leggings.
Athleisure has been inching into the prime spot in my own story for a little over ½ a decade, after training for my first 5k.
But I Adore denim, mythos to manufacture. Always have. My 6 foot 3½ inch father introducing me to the standardization of Levi’s jeans (28×36 men’s) to encase what I inherited from him when nothing in womenswear could in the late 80s & 90s. That is what kicked open the menswear door for me.
I’ve watched the innovations and flights of fancy designers have leapt into propelled by denim from a sweetspot within me For 30 years.
I’ve even had it on me to scrybe about this since January. But what finally sealed it for me was the end of a birthday ritual passed down to me by my dad: pragmatically getting new Jeans, tees, socks and a coat on my bday & Christmas. For the 2nd December in a row it was a battle to get jeans to complete the socialized dance. And as this September loomed, me on the road totally dissatisfied with the only pair of jeans with me this last leg, jeans that are decidedly not my staple Levi’s … the only thing my body craved was workout gear.
I saw the day coming collectively because actual designhead is what it is. I just never thought there’d be that day...so early…for me. But going forward, I’ll remember it until the day I die.
2021 is the year my frugal bday denim budget ritual sacrifice morphed into a hardcore functional leggings habit .
…I say all this to campily say~
Happy Star Trek Day, bitches!!🖖!
*From McFadden to Kamali, if you’re seeing my #designhead for women as the source of technological advances in fashion… as if I really believe this shit IS the science it is to any of us with fashion truly on our hearts…
You’re paying attention.
Quick Backstory: I went to UC/DAAP, got accepted at Parsons as a transfer but picked FIT and later got into the New School before charging into an apprenticeship. But my first choice program-wise was Cornell University.
Little known fact: Cornell once had a wild fashion program. Not sure if they still do, but they were the dudes designing the fabrics fucking spaceships were wrapped in. I got in, too… but they wanted me to defer a semester…to flagellate myself for being a lazy blerd (traditionally speaking) with no fucks to give for grades as I pulled a 3.6ish GPA with ‘no ragrets’ whilst interning my ass off with local companies AND underage clubbing in the flats. I tested in the 91st & 96th percentiles so going for a 4.0 by giving up Kmfdm wasn’t going to happen. They weren’t offering enough money to encourage me to apologize for dancing on speakers in smoke machine clouds since I was going to be covering any school attended, emancipated.
This particular true vulcan/hephestusing, virgoan designhead chick wanted to wrap fucking spaceships in specialized fibers to facilitate warp speed once lol. My strongest suit after Art & English has always been Physics.
Laidback trekkie for life 🖖for real.