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
Sunday 15 March 1998
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.
Life & Style blogs
Snapchat removed the Best Friends list feature and 'stalkers' are upset
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
Taylor Swift’s Twitter and Instagram accounts hacked, apparently by Lizard Squad
Scandal of doctors who get cash from healthcare firms for patient referrals
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
- 3 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Isis publicly behead man in Syrian town square for 'insulting Allah' as he screams for help
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: NON-CONTENTIOUS (0-2 PQE) - A rare opportunity...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Financial Analyst is required to join...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...
£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This major European Intellectual Propert...