Once upon a time, the tracksuit was an object for pure performance. adidas even sold theirs in boxes to reiterate just how serious it was. They were synthetic fabric, form-fitting for lithe athletic types. Then, somewhere down the line, the triple threat of hip-hop, a fitness boom and legions of folks dressing up for the terraces had us wearing them to show off. Several brands that used to require oligarch cash lost their lustre when strange licensing deals meant they ended up at Sports Direct and JJB, but some brands have sustained their brand power. adidas’s pioneering Run-D.M.C. deal (though we should doth a bucket hat to PUMA for equipping Beat Street cast members with Savannahs and running a little campaign to highlight that deal) led to bright red leather tracksuits with suede stripes and trefoils, but Nike took it even further in 1989 with some gloriously garish suits to accompany ostentatious basketball footwear.
This was the era when Nike introduced the Flight series to their basketball offerings, which was an extension of its Air Jordan line (hence the script on the AJIV’s tongue that year) that Erick and Parrish helped legitimise away from the court. Force would be sold as Flight’s alternative, with David Robinson becoming a frontman alongside his soon-to-be neighbour, Charles Barkley (Peter Moore’s semi-basketball, militaristic Force design is one of the best sub-brand logos ever). What better way to celebrate than by going completely batshit in the fabric room? Just as Agassi was taking stonewash denim effect shorts to Wimbledon, the Force denim line offered a couple of washes. Was this entry into some distinctly non-performance fabrics an official response to Harlem’s Dapper Dan and a slew of Canal Street imitators’ luxury bootleg creations? I can’t deny the appeal of the half zip design, but the jacket and pant in the grey stonewash is full Mario Lopez. And what better way to channel your Eddie Murphy HBO special swag than the leather Flight suit that was sold as a match for the black and grey IVs? This was way outside my clothing allowance at the time, and it never seemed to drop in kids’ sizes, otherwise I’d have even more to embarrassed about in the family photo albums.
Away from the big two, I think that the warm up suits created to match the not-that-good (contrary to nostalgia) Air Pressure were cooler than the shoe itself, complete with colourways in the line art based on some unreleased makeups of the fondly remembered failure.