How to Style: Retro Tracksuit Tops

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Styling a vintage track jacket

A garment which has stood the test of time, the tracksuit top has been adopted by many subcultures over the last 60 years. Since its first appearance in the 1960s, the retro tracksuit top is the perfect example of fashion’s adaptability to modern times.

The history of the retro tracksuit top

The retro tracksuit top, also known as the shell suit top or track jacket, was first worn by sport stars such as Tommie Smith in the 60s. Used as warm-up and cool-down attire, designs made from cotton or polyester sported subdued colours. The retro tracksuit top kept its athletic relationship going into the 70s as the general public began wearing them for exercising. Bolder colours have since been introduced to the design, as well as vibrant prints.

In the 80s, hip-hop artists began sporting the vintage track jacket. Groups like Run-D.M.C were known for making it a collective look. Wanting to portray a more luxurious feel, the toxic, drab tones of the 70s were thrown out the window and the retro tracksuit top now came in more muted, earthy tones. Sportwear brand, Adidas were a leading force in the creation of tracksuits, and they still make them today.

As more hip-hop artists followed suit, the tracksuit top could be seen on Jay Z, Diddy, Ice Cube and even Dr. Dre. The 90s saw the tracksuit top adopt streetwear branding on a massive scale. The vintage track jacket became a huge hit. In the 90s throughout the UK and Europe the retro track jacket was closely associated with the rave scene, whereas it was adopted more widely by the hip-hop scene in the USA.

Moving into the 00s, the retro tracksuit top broke into mainstream pop culture as stars such as the Spice Girls were seen wearing matching sets. The track jacket was also associated with what we call now ‘lad culture’. Football fans across the country wore the tracksuit top as well as Brit-pop rival bands Blur and Oasis. It gained a working class, ‘man of the people’ perception.

Even today the popularity of the vintage track jacket endures. Celebrities such as Kendall Jenner, Asap Rocky and Jonah Hill can be seen wearing them. Illustrating the retro tracksuit top’s relevance for over 60 years, luxury fashion houses such as Gucci are jumping on board this ever-lasting trend with their own versions. The most recent, insanely popular version of the tracksuit top can be spotted in the Korean series, Squid Game.

Celebrities Wearing Retro Tracksuit Tops

Our favourite ways to style a vintage track jacket

Go all in

Celebrities such as Kendall Jenner, Zendaya and Stormzy have all perfectly executed the matching tracksuit top and trousers in different ways. Replicate Stormzy’s look by wearing a bold coloured top and trousers. If you prefer a more muted look, aim for a monochromatic design. The all-in-one look can also be made to look classy and elegant, pairing it with a heel and timeless trench coat.

Stormzy Wearing a Tracksuit Top

It was acceptable in the 80s

Propel the bold late 70’s, early 80’s retro tracksuit top into the 21st century. Choose a vibrant top featuring block colouring and dynamic patterns to stand out from the crowd. Let the top do all the talking and pair it with a simple t-shirt and loose jeans or trousers. Keep the sporty feel and slip on your favourite pair of trainers.

Fancy dress

The retro tracksuit top is an easy jumping point for finding an outfit for Halloween or a fancy-dress occasion. The top is so versatile you can choose which ever decade/subculture you want to be from. Go 90s by pairing the top with loose bottoms, a bucket hat, a bum bag and rave glasses. Or you could go down the entertainment industry route by wearing a matching tracksuit from Squid Game or Kill Bill.

Kill Bill Retro Tracksuit

Be smart

Whether neutral or a bold colour, sport the modernised retro tracksuit top in a more fitted style. Pair it with a simple t-shirt, jeans and a smarter shoe.


For more fashion news and updates, stay tuned to OneOff Vintage.

Also, we have a huge collection of vintage and retro track jackets. So whether it's an oversized graphic tee or baggy trousers that you're after, you should checkout our full range. We usually stock a mix of Nike, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and much much more.

1 comment

  • Posted on by Amanda Carter

    What is crazy is that I used to think that these looked silly. When I got my first tracksuit, I changed my mind. I found I was able to wear it mixed and matched, I can pair the tops with jeans and look stylish as heck! I now have at least 10 tracksuits, 4 of which are vintage finds that I adore. I am glad these are still trendy. I was late to getting on board with them.

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