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A BRIEF HISTORY OF RUNNING SHORTS

Shorts have long been a staple of the runner’s wardrobe. From knee-length, loose-fitting shorts to high-cut shorts worn by the likes of Sir Roger Bannister, to colourful nylon shorts and tough trail running shorts, they’ve come in many different styles and fabrics over the years.

Although the garment’s past is a fashionable one, it hasn’t been a very long one. Shorts weren’t really seen as a comfortable clothing option for athletic and outdoor activities until the 1930s.

In fact, recreational running, enjoyed by people all over the world today, didn’t gain momentum until the 1970s. That means the market for running apparel was a lot smaller with much less variety.

Fast forward 50 years and you will find a great selection of running shorts, including our very own EVOSSI HERO Short.

 

Running shorts over the years.

To see how far running shorts have come in fabric, features and style, we decided to take a step back in time:

19th and Early 20th Centuries

Before the 1930s, shorts were widely viewed in Western culture as outerwear for young boys. In Europe and America, shorts were typically worn by boys until they “graduated” into long trousers.

Boys in uniform shorts at the Synge Street School in Dublin. Wikimedia

Two of the top runners in the 19th century, Lon Myers and W.G. George, were fierce competitors during the 1880s. Photographed below, the fashion appeared to be high-waisted, knee-length running shorts in light and dark colours. 


W.G. George (left) with Lon Myers. Wikimedia

 

The same shorts style – long and in contrasting colours – made an appearance at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, too.

 

The men’s marathon at the 1900 Summer Olympics. Wikimedia

1930s

While shorts became more common outside of school and the military in the 1930s – women started picking up the trend – running was still far from going mainstream. As John Hanc put it, “The idea of running 26.2 miles [back then] was akin to flying an airplane around the world: a risky venture attempted by few.”

Nevertheless, marathon runners and track & field athletes continued to compete and set world records. One of the greatest athletes during the time and still to this day, is four-time Olympic gold medalist, Jesse Owens.

Jesse Owens starts his record-breaking 200m race during the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. Wikimedia

 

As this electrifying photo shows, running shorts were starting to shed material and become more lightweight in the 1930s.

1950s

In the decades that followed – the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s – shorts steadily gained popularity as an informal clothing option for leisure and sporting activities.

Around the track and at competitive races, short shorts were perhaps the most well-known style for the bottom half, to have come out of this era.

Roger Bannister in 1953. Wikimedia

 

Sir Roger Bannister, the first person to break the four-minute mile, perfectly exemplifies the high-cut running shorts trend that still exists today.

1970s to present

Before the 1970s, running wasn’t considered an everyday activity. People didn’t usually run for fun or physical exercise. In fact, “those who did were considered eccentric.”

But when big cities started organising public events like the New York City Marathon, which started in 1970, and the first London Marathon in 1981, running culture in the U.S. and Europe began to take off.

London Marathon in 1982. Robin Webster

 

With this surge in interest came many different running shorts styles and new advances in fabric. From high-cut shorts with large splits on the sides to longer shorts with minimal or no splits, options became aplenty for sprinters, trail runners and marathoners alike.

EVOSSI Runners Leader, Sam, sporting EVOSSI through Hampstead trails.

Modern design

While the cut and general silhouette of running shorts have remained largely the same, the biggest and most exciting changes in the garment’s development have been in material and technology.

EVOSSI men’s HERO Short in maroon (front/pocket for essentials).

At EVOSSI, we embrace these technical advancements and design performance wear for adventurous and inspirational runners who love the sport. The HERO Short is our latest example of this, made from premium, breathable fabrics that are comfortable, quick-dry and hardwearing. We’ve also built in subtle pockets for your essentials and reflective elements to increase your visibility.

EVOSSI women’s HERO Short in black (front and back).

This step back in time has shown us how far running shorts have come. Thank you for celebrating the past with us. Here’s to it propelling us forward!