If you have ever searched for a fashionable sports image for whatever reason you might have noticed that the there are two very different types of images to choose from. One option being fashion focused images where the sports element is a reach. The images are sometimes overtly sexy and not relatable usually found on the pages of a fashion magazine. The other option being sports specific images, usually ads from sportswear companies showing an athlete working out with limited emphasis on fashion and style. These are two distinct perspectives that seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum; one is how the sports world presents a stylish athlete (athletic brands focus on performance and functionality) and the second is what fashion world thinks of athletic fashion (fashion representing style and design). Let’s take a second to summarize what each side offers:
FASHION COMPANIES – Often features fashion models that are not athletic in that they are very skinny and don’t look like they workout (a constant struggle inside the fashion world), or celebrities who are not relatable outside the fashion industry. Models often wear visible makeup with the addition of jewelry and and accessories. Models sometimes lack the skill or ability to play the sport, dribbling a basketball above their chest or shooting with two hands. Equipment and apparel featured is not really functional.
SPORTS/FITNESS BRANDS – Often featuring real life athletes or fitness specific models. Talent often shown in the act of competition, playing the game, or in the midst of a workout. Clothes and/or gear speak to the sport itself but often neglect style/design elements, rather than focus on functionality and performance.
We’re obviously describing these two to their extreme to emphasize each at their polar opposite.
Take a peek at our Heel-Side Pinterest board: EVERY MODEL ATHLETE as evidence of how fashion-focused or fitness-focused an image is.
This is a constant push/pull in the balance of two dominate and deeply opinionated cultures. If you think about who is producing the images it makes a little more sense. Fashion magazines do a sports editorial. It’s possible that no one on the creative team plays that particular sport. The concern doesn’t lie in the authenticity of the model holding a football incorrectly or that the athletic details aren’t relatable to athletes. Then we have sports brands. The creative teams and production of ads are targeted specifically for athletes so authenticity and the representation of a “real athlete” is their primary objective. The style and fashion element isn’t the primary goal here and it often is limited to performance limitations.
But what about everything in-between? Not high fashion but we don’t have a cross-fit fetish either? Well, the good news is that we may not have anything to fill the gap yet but there is progress and exceptions to the rule. We are seeing more and more athletic brands pushing their style limitations and fashion brands that are concentrating more on functionality and athletic authenticity. We are in the midst of witnessing a collision between these two industries and coming to terms with the notion that fashion and style are not only wanted but expected from both sides. As women we deserve that right to express our individual types of style without sacrificing performance and functionality of the apparel and equipment. We expect the latest technology and design innovations that doesn’t sacrifice style and fashion. We want to play hard and we will look good doing it. This movement can be attributed to the adoption of athlesure and a rise in street sportswear popularity, which will further expand the variety and representations of fashion/style/sports. As the relationship between fashion and sportswear continues to evolve we will eventually have access to a multitude of sports and fashion iterations and variations that will span the sport and fashion spectrum. Having the ability to speak to all types and experience levels of athletes and their personal style identity should be a common goal for both fashion and fitness.