A History Of Awful Sportswear: 1987 – Present Day.


The 80’s were notable for giving us many great things: MASSIVE yellow plastic personal stereos, the rise of the ubiquitous Greggs restaurant and the modern sportswear movement. But deep in the casual goldmine of wedge haircuts, Farah trousers and Chipie jumpers was a colossal seam of fools gold. Lairy golf jumpers, dodgy looking tracksuits and anything with a label on the outside. It’s this shocking aspect of those times which we’ll be mining here today. Regarde….


At the end of the 80s Troop sportswear appeared on the backs and feet of the second generation. First it was American and then British hip-hop artists, a ‘Patrick Bateman-like’ statement of wealth that went hand in hand with huge gold chains and cars with dead massive exhaust pipes. The XR3i of sportswear, Troop trainers were covered in all sorts of unnecessary accruements, eg, a see-through plastic bit in the sole, a stupid logo on the heel, and of course, a tongue so huge it could sleep a family of four in relative comfort.

British Knights

A favourite with the early rave crowd, British Knights begged one question: What was a British Knight? Was it some ancient order of Arthurian warriors bent on defending the glory of Albion? Was it a secret Masonic organisation? Or was it just a shite American sportswear company who made boots so obviously rubbish, that only people who’d spent the 80s wearing Gallini and Bukta on the mean streets of Blyth or Darlington would ever consider them remotely stylish? You decide.


Admiral are the Mary Celeste of sportswear, disappearing for years on end (thankfully) before re-emerging from the ether with another batch of shit, unwearable gear, usually made of shiny fucking polyester. Their most memorable reincarnation took place in the mid 90s when the tache-sporting ‘Happy Mondays’ were brought in by their advertising company in order to convince us that Admiral were in fact ‘old skool’, as opposed to the makers of the worst England Football kit of all time.

Prada Sport Trainers

There is a wise maxim that goes: “Thou shalt not, under any circumstances wear sports shoes made by anyone other than a sportswear manufacturer.” Prada Sport proves this. The makers of this shoe got one thing wrong about the product: a trainer must be designed – at least on the surface – for some sort of sporting activity, even if we all know they’re only going to be used for hanging around outside an off license. Prada trainers contravene all trainer law. They are not for anything, except drinking in identikit central city bars talking about sepia-coloured fashion spreads in shite Sunday newspapers. The fact that they look like a pair of geriatric slippers that Buck Rogers would wear when he got old merely rubber-stamps their awfulness.

LA Gear

LA Gear trainers were bought by people who thought that ‘authentic’ street wear had to have some sort of link to America. The fact that their LA Gear shoes had suspiciously thin soles, sparkly laces and a range of colours thought up by Zippy off Rainbow didn’t seem to put off the large numbers of clueless posh tossers and teenagers who bought these monstrosities in order to get ‘hip to the beat’.

Rugby League Tops

Up until 1990 rugby league manufacturers churned out the same kit designs year after year – simple, unfussy, middle-class garments that while not exactly threatening ‘Chanel’ or ‘Armani,’ had a simplicity that reflected the tiresome nature of this incomprehensible game. However, with the advent of the Murdoch money and the Super League, the teams decided to inject some much needed glamour into their sport by adding ludicrous American-style suffixes to their names. Suddenly Wigan became the Warriors, Newcastle, the Falcons and Huddersfield, yes, that Huddersfield, the Giants! Shirts-wise, out went the simple lines of old and in came crazy splashes of colour, three-quarter length sleeves and big sponsors’ logos. Luckily, the fans kept a link with the past by continuing to wear half-mast Lee Cooper jeans and Hi-Tec Silver Shadow trainers.

Travel Fox

Kylie Minogue wore them, Shaun Ryder wore them, even Tony ‘I used to present the weather on Granda Reports’ Wilson had a pair. Yes, they were Travel Fox, the glamour training shoe that said, “I am a pop star and I live in a hermetically sealed bubble of bad taste and too much money, please feel free to laugh at me openly in the street!” Most things the Italians design are low key tasteful affairs, yet Travel Fox, however, unfortunately appealed to the other side of Europe’s most stylish nation – the part that likes ugly fuck-off gold jewellery, Buffalo platform shoes, sleeveless t-shirts and trance music.


If ‘Ultravox’ were around today they’d wear Acupuncture trainers. Think about it: Acupuncture shoes have space age bendy rubber soles, a preoccupation with the colour grey and a clumsy ‘A’ logo that sits atop the ridiculous Velcro fastening they use. Appealing mainly to post-university Jesmond types who take their fashion cues from magazines full of pictures of skinny models wearing striped tank tops. Acupuncture are for people who decide to re-invent themselves as tag writing ‘graff’ artists after spending their first 18 years ‘fagging’ for prefects at public school.


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