A tracksuit is an article of clothing consisting of two parts- trousers and a jacket. It was originally intended for use in sports, mainly as what athletes wore over competition clothing (such as running shirt and shorts or a swimsuit) and would take off before competition. In modern times, it has become commonly worn in other contexts.
Tracksuits were very popular with the hip hop and breakdancing scene of the 1980s. During this period tracksuits were manufactured from a mix of triacetate and polyester making them extremely shiny on the outside - ideal for breakdancing on smooth floors and yet fleecy on the inside ensuring comfort for the wearer.
The term 'tracksuit' was first coined in 1921 by Great British Olympic 200m track athlete Dr. Oliver Johnson Schofield, who used the expression to describe the soft, lightweight two-piece-suit he always wore over his shorts and running vest while training - interestingly he would often wear a loosely knotted tie with the tracksuit during competition, often remarking a gentleman should never been seen in a suit without a necktie.
The film Chariots of Fire depicts the 1924 US olympic team as wearing tracksuits consisting of grey sweatshirts and jogging bottoms. The science fiction story The Man Who Evolved, published in April 1931, mentions a "loose white running suit". In the 1978 book Naples '44, travel writer Norman Lewis refers to the dyeing of thermal underwear to be resold as tracksuits during the Second World War. The OED records an early use of the term in 1952.
Beginning in 1964, Adidas began to produce tracksuits as leisure wear . These had the distinctive Adidas three stripes, zipped trouser bottoms and collars, and stirrups, features which remained popular for decades. However, on the whole during this decade, tracksuits were plain dark-coloured garments used exclusively as sportswear. Their real emergence as a fashion item began in the '70s. Suits from firm gloss nylon jersey were produced, jackets and trousers being narrowly cut. From the '80s onwards, jogging suits made from cotton jersey became popular, tapering towards the cuffs of the sleeves and trousers as well as at the bottom and neck of the jacket. As a result, both jacket and trousers assumed a rather puffed-out shape. Sometimes the tops were hooded. Meanwhile a completely new kind of tracksuit appeared, intended for jogging rather than warming up. This consisted of two weights of fabric: a light, silky exterior resembling parachute material consisting of nylon or polyester, and lining made from a lighter, often net-like, textile. In the 1990s, tracksuits became very fashionable, though jackets and trousers tended to be worn separately rather than as a suit, and in fact were generally available as separate items. Tracksuit tops disappeared nearly completely as sportswear. Trousers were worn in new variations of the '70s versions, namely parachute trousers and jogging bottoms. In bodybuilding subculture, new styles of bottoms emerged, which were carrot-shaped with broad elasticated waists - and shirts of different kinds developed. These were also worn outside the fitness scene to some extent. Complete suits were uncommon in this context. However tracksuits in '70s and '80s styles made a comeback in techno and hip-hop subculture and as clubwear. During the early 2000s, brands such as Juicy Couture popularised velour suits as high fashion. From the late 1980s tracksuits were in fashion, however today, in the UK, they are largely seen as the common form of dress of chavs.
In the US, however, variations on tracksuits are still, in some circles, completely acceptable forms of casual wear, although the items are more commonly worn as separates - a hoodie and coordinating, but not matching, sweatpants or yoga pants, for example. It's rare to see someone wearing an entire, matching tracksuit. That type of outfit is more commonly seen on elderly people, and is not considered fashionable, with the exception of the New Jersey - Staten Island - Brooklyn area, where it continues to be fashionable blue-collar leisure wear in certain circles; in popular culture, this conceit is perhaps most iconically demonstrated on the television show The Sopranos, in which the New Jersey Mafia is usually depicted either wearing business attire or track suits.
In the film Game of Death, Bruce Lee famously wore a yellow tracksuit instead of more traditional kung fu clothing. He did this to demonstrate that Jeet Kune Do was a modern purely practical way of fighting and not the pretentious art of traditional kung fu. This signature tracksuit was also worn by Uma Thurman in the film(s) Kill Bill, as an homage to Bruce Lee.