Are you hoping to develop a “look” of your own when it comes to running, or before/after running activities? Without appearing to be an ad for Nike, Under Armor, or a combination of big-business sports outfitters? To make more of an effort than merely reaching for the “must have”, most expensive, or celebrity-endorsed yoga/tights/pants brand?
I’ll confess, I am. However, I want my look to be understated, as if it was almost magically acquired with my long experience running. Without big logos. And I want it to PERFORM. My baggy 30+ year old Disney Mickey Mouse poncho is only for days when the weather is so bad no one will be able to see it or determine who was wearing it. This garment is THE MOST AUTHENTIC piece I own, having survived so many years of being worn while I slogged through winter, fall, and spring precipitation events. It’s terribly permeable to moisture now though, no longer offers protection from rain or snow, and is not stylish..
Admittedly I’m searching for new clothing that SEEMS to be authentic by both fashion and performance standards (i. e. warmth, protection from wind, moisture wicking, etc). I’m willing to give traditional natural wool, silk, and cotton materials /blends a chance as they possess valuable functional properties that synthetics may not be able to match.
Recently I ran across an article from METER magazine about the history of cross country running, and learned that the publication was offered by Tracksmith, an apparel company that offers some clothing made from these traditional materials by local manufacturers. The METER website proclaims that it “takes a long look at the hidden side of running culture and at the athletes, heritage, and events that make running the greatest sport in the world.” I was lured into checking out Tracksmith clothes by this statement and thought other style conscious runners might like to see what the company is about.
I found three online reviews of Tracksmith, one of which also reviewed 2 other new brands. The article “Modern Running Brands: Tracksmith, Soar, and Iffley” by PermanentStyle.com, ran on July 11, 2016. The author was not specifically identified, however Simon Crompton (the site indicates he was chosen by Esquire magazine as one of the 2016’s “Top 10 most influential men in fashion”) addressed questions and provided comments after the piece. As expected, this review is mostly concerned with the fashion aspects of these brands.
Crompton writes, “Tracksmith, focuses heavily on style and experience” and explains that because the company is headquartered “just outside Boston, their stories are about New England racing, about inspiring runners and the beautiful local scenery.” One of the company’s founders (Luke Scheybeler) is cited as coming from Rapha, a cycling apparel store, and thus it is considered by some as the “Rapha of running”. The reviewer admits he “is a sucker for style” and is drawn in by the New England vibe.
Iffley Road, which advertises itself as, “British Crafted Runwear” is an English brand. Crompton considers this clothing to have a very understated logo and overall appearance, especially compared with Tracksmith. “If you like the low-key aesthetic”, he recommended this brand.
From merely looking at the website and not wearing the actual clothing, my impression is that the two brands are similar in evoking a pared-down vintage look compared to the other more flashy, technically-oriented, modern athletic brands. Tracksmith is American Ivy League-ish and Iffley Road is sleekly English with a few throwback stripe and chevron decorated items.
Mr. Crompton sees the 3rd brand, Soar as different in “its more modern style and make”. He is impressed by the bonded seams of this clothing line but admits that personally, “chafing” of presumably non-bonded seams “has never been an issue”, and that “more importantly, the aesthetic of block colors and diagonals isn’t really” his taste.
Another review, released a few weeks later on July 26, 2016, addresses the technical running-related qualities of Tracksmith apparel by Meagan and Thomas of BelieveInTheRun.com’s GEAR REVIEWS. The practical aspects and relatively expensive price of this brand’s line were discussed and despite some comments on the downside of wearing Tracksmith clothing items, both reviewers concluded that they loved the clothing.
The last review by Scott Douglas for RunnersWorld.com also only covers the Tracksmith line, and was published in early August 2014, just after the company launched its business. At that time Tracksmith offered only men’s clothing.
The reason to read the piece would be to better understand the company’s origins, ethos, and pricing strategy, especially if corporate background information will influence your desire to purchase. The significance of co-founder Scheybeler’s experience with the “boutique British cycling brand Rapha” is also brought to light. Douglas indicated this high-cost brand is well known to cyclists for being high in quality as well, and that it evokes “the Tour de France of 45 years ago”. Seems like a similar formula was applied to the running apparel brand, in which early sport culture and nostalgia were combined to create a clothing “experience” for runners.
The marketing genius of Tracksmith is the other founder, Matt Taylor, who had a reputation as being the first “interesting running video blogger” and as an “innovative marketer within running for the last decade”. Taylor told Douglas that the company drew its inspiration from New England and RUNNING IN FOUR SEASONS, believing more in the elite amateur runner than the über-professional.
If you’re more into experiences than stuff, one of the new brands may appeal to you. Tracksmith and Iffley seem to want to take you to back to simpler, earlier running times. Based on the reviews I would love to give Tracksmith’s Harrier Long-sleeve Top, Van Cortlandt Singlet, and Van Cortlandt Shorts a trial run. I may still want my Nike reflective jacket for running in the dark of winter, but wearing a new pair of vintage-style shorts may be just what’s needed to jump start my enthusiasm in the spring on the first warm day when the weather permits running with bare legs!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. In 1978 I began participating in 10K road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health and longevity.
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