During the 1920s many men and women began to participate in such sports as golf, tennis, and swimming. Affluent people enjoyed yachting and polo. To provide comfort and ease of movement, new styles of sportswear were designed. Additionally, with young people increasingly aware of style trends, sportswear designs reflected the spirited, celebrity-conscious sensibilities of the decade.
Famous athletes inspired some of the more popular styles of sportswear. American tennis star Bill Tilden (1893–1953) wore white lightweight woolen flannel slacks and cable-stitched white or cream-colored sweaters. From 1920 to 1926, the years in which he won seven consecutive Davis Cup matches, Tilden set the style for men's tennis attire. In 1927 French tennis star Jean René Lacoste (1904–1996), nicknamed the Crocodile for his perseverance, beat Tilden to win the Davis Cup for France. Not only did he become the new champion, but he became the reigning fashion trendsetter as well. Like Tilden and other tennis and polo players, Lacoste wore a cotton polo shirt, a short-sleeved, pullover, knit shirt with a turned-over collar, for maximum upper torso movement. Beginning in the mid-1920s Lacoste decorated the left side of the chest with a crocodile embroidered logo, reflecting his nickname. This was the first instance of a trademark appearing on the outer side of a garment, and the fad caught on with Lacoste's fans. Tennis players who cheered for Lacoste were inspired to wear polo shirts with crocodiles just like his own. Lacoste eventually partnered with a knitwear manufacturer to market polo shirts decorated with embroidered crocodile logos for tennis, golf, and sailing.
Style conscious golfers wore knickers, loose-fitting pants that ended just below the knees. They often were worn with colorful argyle (diamond-shaped patterned) woolen knee socks. By 1925 men wore three-piece sports suits, consisting of jacket, vest, and knickers or plus fours, for golf games and for casual wear at resorts.
Thanks to the freer moral code of the decade, swimsuits for men and women became more lightweight and followed the line of the torso. They allowed for more athleticism in swimming, rather than simply bathing in a bulky garment while at the beach or in a pool.
Women's sportswear followed general trends towards the boyish look. For tennis, women wore pleated, knee-length white skirts with sleeveless white tops. For golf they wore pleated skirts of various solid colors and plaids with knit tops and short or long-sleeved cardigans, sweaters that button up the front. French designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (1883–1971) introduced loose bell-bottomed trousers, pants that flare at the bottoms of the legs, for women to be worn while sailing or yachting. They looked like trousers worn by sailors. This style was controversial since women did not wear trousers, even for tough sports.
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Peacock, John. Men's Fashion: The Complete Sourcebook. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1996.
Peacock, John. 20th Century Fashion. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1993.
Wallis, Jeremy. Creative Lives: Coco Chanel. Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library, 2002.