Is Sportswear More Than ‘Just Fashion’?

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It's the NFL season over in America and fashion week happening in London - what better time to talk about football jerseys, the influence of sports on fashion and hip-hop culture. Has sportswear turned into fashion statements, or do they mean something more?

Shaniqua vs Sophia

Sportswear has had an undeniable impact on the fashion industry and high street clothes. For ’90s hip-hop and fashion fan, Sophia, it’s all about the style, whereas for American sports fans like Shaniqua, it’s so much more than clothing. Hear is what they had to say about jerseys, fashion’s relationship with sports and Kendrick Lamar.

On the influence of hip-hop…

Sophia: I think it is okay to wear sports jersey’s if you don’t know the team or the players because there are different factors that have had an influence on fashion, such as hip-hop culture; the baggy jerseys, the pants, the boxers – everything. There’s a rapper called Kurtis Blow who released a song called Basketball [who] kind of like, you know, created the connection between hip-hop, jerseys and basketball.

On wearing sports jerseys when you’re not a sports fan…

Shaniqua: I just think that,  if you’re going to wear [a sports jersey] at least know who the team is, who maybe even the player is, so when people are like, “So, what’s your jersey?” you can be like, “Oh, it’s the New Orleans Saints”. Not everyone is going to know, but it’s trying to find out who the team is, so you can tell someone [if they ask].

Sportswear is a huge thing in fashion at the moment, it’s everywhere, it’s not even [about] the actual team now. People will now go to other shops and they’ll see these [points to her jersey] because you can get them for cheaper. In America they’re so ridiculously expensive, so it’s a good fashion statement to make now, but if you’re making that statement you should at least know what team you’re wearing.

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Sophia: The whole fashion thing is a relevant point and I kind of see where Shaniqua is coming from, like, trying to understand about the background of the team, the names. But I think it also depends on the type of people that you hang around with, because my friends, they’re really into fashion – old, new and the name [of the team] doesn’t really matter as long as it looks good.

On the Americanisation of fashion in the UK…

Shaniqua: Alexander Wang, he’s someone who has a lot of sports looks because it is a very American thing – that’s because America is all about sports. I don’t think [the fashion industry] really care about sports teams. If you look at baseball jackets, they’re really thick, really big – I even have one from H&M – but it’s not the same quality of clothing because they’re attributed to players.

That’s why my jersey is so big because it is a man’s one, it needs to be big because they are a football players. They have all that padding and obviously it needs to be durable because they’re always on the field, they’re getting dragged up, they can’t have anything flimsy because it’s going to be torn off. It’s just kind of a rip off from what they’re selling.

Even though I studied fashion, I hate following trends. I will go and buy what I like. If it’s on trend, I don’t care. People will stop wearing trends. I don’t get people who get something that is in season, and then stop wearing it. Fashion is a very interesting thing, but they don’t respect the teams. It’s just about them selling the clothes and people liking it. It’s comfortable and easy clothing to wear is what I think what it is.

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Sophia: X Factor was on, and, you know Chris Brown’s Loyal video? Everyone in X Factor had that [outfit], the chequered shirt round their waist; really long, t-shirts. If you go to places like Shoreditch, I mean that is like, it’s still popping off there.

I’ve noticed that whenever a British person tries to, like, dress in an American way, people will cuss them saying, “Oh, you think you’re American”, “Oh, you think you’re Chris Brown”, “You think you’re this”, so I guess, in that way, America have more of a standing point [when it comes to sports fashion]. As soon as we wear something, you know, we’re all of a sudden copying them.

Shaniqua: British fashion, the industry itself, is the most innovative. London is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Even in America, it’s kind of getting…it’s very basic, their fashion has always been kind of very similar. In a way I prefer their fashion because they’re more about everyday wearing clothes. If you look at British fashion, it is very quirky, very kooky; very crazy. In America they’re not very original – the sports thing, definitely, people are copying that. It’s kind of just a weird circle, I guess.

On Kendrick Lamar…

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Sophia: I recently went to a Kendrick Lamar concert and I’m a major fan of him, like, his number one fan. I was supporting him since Section 8.0 and all of that, and I went to [one of his] concert’s, and no one knew any of his old songs. And I was really just like, “Don’t come to the concert if you don’t know any of his songs!”, do you know what I mean? And I can see why that’s the same thing with jerseys and fashion.

I’m a really big rap fan, and people will talk about rappers and they don’t know the most basic things about them. I get really offended, like, “Don’t disrespect the culture!”. So, I can see where Shaniqua is coming from [with jerseys], but maybe because sports isn’t my thing, I’m not really as passionate about it.

On being a female NFL fan…

Shaniqua: It’s mostly men’s jerseys [they sell online], even if you’re on the women’s section. You’re looking at the women’s section and it could be the men’s section. It’s difficult because, women don’t really have their own NFL. I got this one [points to her jersey] because I like the Patriots and it’s Tom Brady’s [shirt] and I love Tom Brady, he’s, like, my favourite quarterback. It is harder because, if I wanted to get a women’s one, I’d have to get it from America. With sports as well, it’s very….male centric. They’re always thinking about men, rather than women. So it is harder and [you get comments like], “You’re a girl and you’re into the NFL” and you’re like, “Yeah, well?” [laughs].

On the ’90s fashion revival…

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Sophia: I look at all my baby photos from when I was like, 10, then all of my other photos from when I was 15, and I noticed I’ve always had this tomboyish sort of style. It’s something that I’ve stuck with. I feel like it’s me, I’m at home when I wear these ’90s sports inspired clothes. To see it make this sort of comeback is kind of like, well, at least wear it properly! I guess you can’t have your personality on shelves and this [wearing sports style clothes] makes me feel, you know, happy.

@sophiakweli  and @ShanqMarie 

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