The Return of Retro Athletic Wear

Contemporary active wear is sporting a touch of retro style as seen in this look from Outdoor Voices.

Contemporary active wear is sporting a touch of retro style as seen in this look from Outdoor Voices. Photo: Outdoor Voices.

You know, there’s a lot to be said for the brightly-colored windbreakers and swishy athletic shorts of the 80s, which continue to wield influence over the athletics wear market today. But the market feels a bit oversaturated with stripes and neon colors, and in response to all that, the muted colors and simple styles of years past are making their quiet return.

Tyler Haney’s new brand of athletic wear, Outdoor Voices, promises understated activewear. “think the humble hoodies and sneakers of the ’70s,” says the Wall Street Journal. The brand focuses on clothing that performs well for active lifestyles—no gimmicks, no flash, no moisturizing pants. However, Matt Taylor, CEO of simple running-gear brand Iffley Road, is reluctant to market his brand as vintage: “People think it’s retro because it doesn’t look futuristic,” he says. “I think our stuff is quite contemporary.”

Despite Taylor’s resistance to the “vintage” label, there’s a huge market for anything from decades past, from video games to shoes to music. Many companies make big money by using slimmed-down, basic packaging or by trading just in vintage items as people, drunk on nostalgia for times they probably never lived in, dive in to organic produce and eschew the modern.

Retailers like ThrowbacksNW have created high-priced retro empires. Hats displaying sport teams’ antiquated logos sell for 40 to 50 dollars (and the hats are new, not vintage). An 80s-shaped Mariners baseball sweatshirt sells for $50. So even if companies like Outdoor Voices and Iffley Road don’t want to present themselves as “vintage,” their products are still a refreshing change of pace from the high-tech, loud-color options in althetic wear for sale these days.

Haney founded Outdoor Voices because she felt that there was a lack of what she wanted to wear available in the athletics market. “That wasn’t what I was wearing in my real life,” she says. So she designed what she thought she, and others, needed—a break from neon and too high-tech athletic wear, and a return to real life needs.

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