Tracksuits: The Unlikely Connection Between Football, Fashion, and the Mafia

Tracksuits: The Unlikely Connection Between Football, Fashion, and the Mafia

The Tracksuit: A Symbol of Football, Fashion, and the Mafia

Football’s governing body FIFA recently announced that the 2026 World Cup final will be held at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, a state synonymous with the Italian-American mafia. This connection has sparked a humorous observation: with the influx of football players wearing tracksuits, it will be difficult to distinguish them from New Jersey locals.

The tracksuit, invented in 1939 by Le Coq Sportif, initially gained popularity among sportspersons. However, it became a mass fashion item in the late 1960s thanks to Adidas’ collaboration with German football legend Franz Beckenbauer.

Tracksuits quickly became ubiquitous, worn by people from all walks of life. However, they also found favor with gangsters. While bosses preferred tailored suits, lower-ranking members embraced tracksuits as a comfortable and practical attire. In Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, they became known as the “Bensonhurst Tuxedo,” providing ample space for weapons and cash.

The popularity of tracksuits among wise guys is evident in numerous films and television shows. “The Sopranos,” despite its avoidance of stereotypes, featured many characters in tracksuits. Costume designer Juliet Polcsa explained that clothing plays a crucial role in storytelling, and tracksuits were essential for portraying the authenticity of the characters.

Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti in “The Sopranos,” noted that the show’s costumes reflected the real-life attire of mobsters. “There’s the casual look, which is the jogging suits and jeans and a nice shirt, and then there’s the suit for going out,” he said.

Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” also showcased the tracksuit. Ray Liotta’s character, Henry Hill, lounges in a trendy Adidas tracksuit while incarcerated. However, gangsters had to maintain a certain level of decorum, even in their casual attire. James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano, was often shown in shorts on “The Sopranos.” However, he received an anonymous call from a supposed mafioso who expressed admiration for the series but criticized Gandolfini’s character for wearing shorts.

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