The evolution of sportswear

Sportswear manufacturing has improved over the last few decades and as such, the industry has shifted as newer technologies have allowed brands to innovate
4 minute read

The evolution of sportswear

Today, the world is driven by sports. It's present in everything from entertainment to fashion and therefore, is one of the most lucrative sectors for someone to be involved in- inviting a lot of different characters, personalities and appearances; ultimately meaning that sportswear can really be anything you want it to be.

In this blog, I will very briefly reflect on the history of sportswear, so that we can better understand why it is how it is today and three potential trends to consider when building a sports apparel clothing brand, or even looking for a uk based sportswear manufacturer.

A (Quick) history lesson

Pre industrial-revolution, sports were seen as a pastime for the upper class- those who weren't physically exerted from hard labour and those who had the means to pay for the kit and gear associated with different sports. However, after the industrial revolution and with machinery replacing a lot of the manual labour, the working class also had the means and energy to enjoy sports as a way of entertainment and fulfilment. Around this time, film and photo also allowed those who weren't able to go to live games to also enjoy it (as well as start the monetisation of the game, which now is a multi-billion pound industry)

Sportswear trends

Let's be honest- think about what you've worn today. I mean all day... it probably includes trainers, joggers, a hoodie, or a polo shirt at some point, right? Or a pair of leggings? Most definitely!

Now, somewhat unknowingly you've probably spent most of your day in activewear. I mean, there's a reason Americans call trainers (tennis shoes)- it's because those, alongside polo shirts were designed for the tennis court but gradually over time, they begun to be worn in a casual and now even a professional setting (hence the rise in athleisure)

Even hoodies started out as active wear, but do you know how they became so popular? Let's discuss the brand Champion: in the early 20th Century, the Feinbloom brothers started a brand that they would later re-brand as "Champion" and it was actually their prototype of a protective layer of clothing for working outdoors that transformed into a sweatshirt, used by players before and after games to keep warm. As part of this product's development cycle, they decided to add a hood so that it could trap more heat in and keep players warm and hence the birth of a hoodie. Today, Champion has revamped their brand identity, to appeal to consumers who want to spend a little bit more money for a brand with real American roots.

Maintaining new styles

If you're reading this, then you're interested in the evolution of sportswear. You might even be interested in starting your own sportswear brand- great! Let's chat, but I have one question for you:

How do you plan on maintaining, changing and implementing new styles as sportswear trends change and adapt to keep up with people's lifestyles?

In order to truly answer this question, we have to discuss three main trends within the sportswear sector today and we can't do that without discussing the female sector:

The women's segment of the sportswear market is expected to be the highest growth with an annual rate of nearly 6% throughout 2019- 2026 and this is a great example of a market's response to societal shifts.

In the early 1900's, women's sportswear was designed to show their femininity, as per the social norms of that era. However, fast forward to today and women are involved in sports professionally, recreationally and culturally- which brands are recognising and therefore seeing the business potential.

Sports, fashion and e-commerce all working together, in harmony

If this Coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it's that no business is invincible and that having sale funnels online, or an e-commerce store carries less overhead and is still accessible during this time.

E-commerce is expected to have the largest growth in the sportswear sector (duh) and you have to bare in mind that now-a-days, there's more competition than there ever has been and people buy into brands, not businesses- you therefore need to build a strong, coherent brand image that is consistent on all social platforms.

It's important to constantly push the boat out on different styles, cuts, colours and fabrics within the sportswear sector; as generally speaking- consumers are much more likely to experiment with more outlandish styles. In order to do this, you must ensure you've got a steady supply chain in place- a manufacturer who can produce new garments in a timely manner for you- White2Label Manufacturing

Influencer marketing, or selling the dream

Most of us have a sporting idol. Mine is either Conor McGregor, or Canelo Alvarez (yes, you can probably guess my favourite sports) but ultimately, I might have absolutely no need for Rival's brand new, premium leather 14oz boxing gloves because they're for professionals, but is that going to stop me from buying them? Absolutely not! The power of influencer marketing stemmed from idolisation and vicarious ownership and it's one effective way of predicting trends within the sportswear sector.

Let's break down a great example: you see guy in the gym wearing a brand new Gymshark seamless tee and you think- that looks nice, but what does this actually represent?

- Does it represent the guy imitating his favourite fitness icon who posted a picture in that tee last week?

- Does it represent their personal style and is it a true expression of their character?

- Does it represent the power of a Facebook ad campaign that re-targetted him after he added the product to cart and then left for an unknown reason?

- Or is it a demonstration of the advancements in the textile industry?

Ultimately, it could be all of the above or it could just be he fancied a new shirt, so bought a seamless one because it looks comfortable and fits well.... who really knows?

The future of sportswear: quality and manufacturing

There's no denying that the sportswear market is booming and even more so in developing countries who are progressively getting more disposable income and free time. Although, this means there are more brands now then there ever has been and I was asked quite an interesting question the other day in an AMA (ask me anything) session that was along the lines of:

"With most brands now going to China and the quality being very similar across the board, do you think the difference between successful and not so successful brands is a result of marketing and branding?"

In short- no. Consumers are more quality-conscious than ever before. Brands are constantly upping the stakes and investing into product development, so you have to stay on the top of your game.

In conclusion

Creating a steady, reliable supply chain is very important- so that you can keep up with the trends in the sportswear market, but this isn't as easy as it seems. Here at White2Label Manufacturing, we are experienced in procurement, supply chain management and product development; so we can assist you if needed in these areas! If you're interested in hearing more about our products or services, head over to our homepage and leave your contact information and one of the team will be in contact!

About the author
Anthony Mellor

Anthony Mellor is a fashion entrepreneur, writer and consultant. Anthony writes in-depth articles about topics related to fashion, business and supply chains.

Anthony successfully scaled and exited a D2C fashion brand at the young age of 20. Since then, he's gone onto start and successfully operate two multi-6-figure clothing manufacturing businesses and currently offers up one-to-one constancy to brand owners.

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