Sport Culture – How Sport Influences American Culture
I can’t remember a time when the sport culture wasn’t part of the very fiber that makes me who I am. One of my earliest memories is of my father sitting me down to watch the Denver Broncos’ spring training at University of Northern Colorado.
While he was inside teaching, I watched Number 7’s rookie year unfold before my eyes. It was influential moments like this that inspired me to become an athlete. In college, I had a part-time job working for the recreational sports department as a designer. It was an amazing experience to watch people’s lives being transformed by a combination of team sports, wellness, and personal fitness; I witnessed Freshmen enter the program unhealthy, then leave feeling confident and strong, having made the mind-body connection that would propel them toward physical, mental, and emotional success.
It isn’t any wonder that I continued to follow in this vein throughout my career at Nike. Having experienced the backbone of an athletic culture throughout my childhood and well into adult life, I now see sports as an important piece of the DNA that makes up our communal identity and offers us the drive and motivation to be better, stronger versions of ourselves.
Self Improvement and Achievement
Regardless of athletic interest or affiliation, people everywhere possess the same inherent drive for self-improvement and achievement that athletes thrive on. For athletes, the sense of competition—with oneself or with one’s rivals—fuels the quest for advantage and perfection.
For many of us, our desire for personal excellence mirrors the kind of drive embodied by devoted athletes of every sport. What’s more, staying focused on goals and attuned to one’s personal intentions is a kind of individual training plan that keeps us on our toes—even in the off-season. As a culture, we are constantly striving to be at the top of our game, a mentality that is easily observed in all kinds of sports. The way that an athletic mindset influences so much of what we do in the business, design, and marketing spheres—and beyond—is a cross-pollination of practices that we like to refer to as Sport Culture.
Sport Culture – A Macrotrend
Sport Culture is a Macrotrend whose mentality is realized on a large scale, and whose influence is made evident on a smaller scale in many of the aesthetic choices we make as consumers. Sport Culture extends beyond athletics; it has seeped into the cracks of our identity and has spread its influence from the city streets to the feet on Hollywood’s red carpet.
One hundred years ago, while being an athlete may have garnered attention in some arenas, it certainly wasn’t something one could make a living off of, let alone consider a career. However, by the latter half of the 20th Century, devotion to a particular sports team was as good as having a family crest: your affiliation let the world know where you came from and who you were loyal to.
By the 1970’s, no Midwestern family would let a weekend pass without spending a day with the Browns or the Phillies, and here in Oregon, that same fascination and dedication to sports emerged through the track boom of the 70’s, led by Steve Prefontaine. The Olympics encouraged the sports hype on a national level, and the 80’s ushered in an NBA revival through players like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
All of this public interest in athletics rippled out past the bleachers and television sets and made its presence known in sports fans’ apparel as track jackets, running shoes and basketball jerseys became popular fashion trends. In the 90’s extreme sports swept onto the scene with figures such as pro-skateboarder Tony Hawk and BMX champion Matt Hoffman: influencing youth culture through their signature video games; and fashion through branding and sponsorship.
So much of what we wear today is influenced by Sport Culture. Consider the fact that both uniforms and street apparel are patterned after the sports industry’s breathable, flexible fabrics and form-fitting aesthetic. Casual is the new norm, but it’s not all about jeans and t-shirts anymore.
A combination of yoga, track, and outdoor sports apparel creates an amalgamation of athletic looks that says “fresh,” “fit,” and “casual” while maintaining a sharp, pulled-together exterior. Comfort doesn’t mean sloppy or old anymore, it means competitive, performance-driven, and ready for anything. And this trend doesn’t just stop with fashion: cars are continually made to look sleeker and faster, even if they aren’t. It’s the testosterone-inspired physique of vehicles like the new Toyota Prius that makes their drivers feel safe and edgy at the same time.
Sport Culture is here to stay. Athletic teams and events gain more fans every year and continue to rake in huge amounts of money for communities and cities. They also provide a rallying point for community building and offer fans a sense of belonging. From collegiate to pro, team-based to individual, there’s a high probability you’ll encounter a sport of some kind wherever you go in the world.
And the cultural influence of sports is not only limited to the field and court; Sport Culture informs the fashion on the streets and its aesthetic has become the fabric of the Millennials. Embracing this culture simply requires awareness, focus, and the desire for a competitive edge. So, channel your inner track star and get ready to lead the pack because this Macrotrend is only going to continue to take first place again, and again.