Style police: Warning: fashion disaster ahead

The shell suit, blight of the Eighties, is cool in the Nineties? Surely some mistake. Dead right there is. Do not try this at home, not even in the name of irony

CROSS YOURSELF three times and read on. Even medicinal marijuana won't prepare you for the shock. The shell suit is, according to Paula Reed in Conde Nast Traveller magazine, making a comeback. US designer Richard Tyler was apparently responsible for reviving microfibre pants with elasticated waists, gathered trackie hems and the sheen of new nylon. "And it looked good. Really!", says Reed. Really.

It's a dangerous mission, but someone has to find the origin of the shell- suit species. Sportswear guru Jack Gordon, PR for Sergio Tacchini, says, "It all started with the big names in Eighties tennis: the big Mac, Jimmy Connors, Agassi and Pete Sampras. The microfibre track suit was meant to keep you warm while practising. It was lightweight, water-resistant and made anyone other than a professional sportsman look like a prat."

For a microsecond in the mid Eighties, Harrods was mobbed by fashionables panting for a white Sergio Tacchini or Diadora shell, as worn by Andre Agassi. Before we knew it, every four-unit family north of Watford had matching designer shell suit knock-offs.

"It was an example of technology pushing fashion in the absence of design," says Gordon." Shell suits weren't made for schlepping round a shopping mall in mid-America. Being water-resistant, they worked like pressure cookers when worn by sweaty, overweight shoppers. The shell suit's popularity was a genuine surprise to sportswear designers. It was the people's choice. God knows why."

We've ascertained that the shell suit was never actually in fashion. So how could it be revived? Fashion consultant and former owner of Sign of the Times, Fiona Cartledge says, "I can remember three years ago, a group who used to play the London club Smashing who wore shell suits. It was ironic fashion: the kind you'd find shot by Dazed & Confused. But you've got to be careful when a trend is not too far away, like the shell suit. It isn't far enough from our memories to be cool. And it never was cool in its first incarnation. I think shell suits are back in the magazines because there are too many ironic stylists styling for each other and not the fashion consumer. It's a game of who can make the worst taste good."

To be fair to Paula Reed, she did point out that the shell suit fabric is not being used by the designers; just the silhouette. At Ralph Lauren, the track pant is cut in parachute silk. Man-made fibres like metallic nylon are treated to look like liquid silk, not tatty old, cracked-egg- shell polyester. A designer like Calvin Klein wouldn't know what a shopping mall looked like; let alone be inspired by the shell-suited Tellytubbies who frequent them. Apart from Tyler, the designers like Klein and Donna Karan have eschewed the elasticated ankle of the sports pant and stuck to leather-look PVC or 100 per cent silk.

"I have to say there has been a fresh interest in shell suit sportswear," says Gordon. "Men's Health magazine and Loaded have both taken Sergio shell tops and sports pants on location this week. But it is back to its original sportswear context rather than fashion". So it may be acceptable to wear the real thing on the tennis court or football pitch again. But on the High Street? A-hem.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

    Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

    Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

    £10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable