Before we get to the reason why Hélas tracksuits are the hottest thing right now, first a little lesson in sociology (because nobody’s gonna say you ain’t gonna learn anything from reading this blog).
German relational sociologist Norbert Elias once claimed that disadvantaged social strata, in an effort to increase their social capital and move up within the social hierarchy, tend to mimic the habitus and mannerisms of higher social strata. In Germany, for example, it used to be common among the lesser educated to give their kids French names like Jacqueline or Denise, hoping that the aristocratic connotation of the French language would somehow be passed onto their offspring. In turn, the higher social strata, i.e. the bourgeois, began to stigmatize such names in order to distinguish themselves from those considered “beneath” them. Even today, the name Jacqueline is usually associated with low-income and lack of education. Sadly, back when Elias made his observations, the tracksuit had not been invented yet – if it had, he probably would’ve reconsidered the one-sidedness of his theory.
In fact, the appropriation of another strata’s habitus can go both ways. The tracksuit, ironically, seems to reverse the mechanism described above: now, it’s quite fashionable among the well-fed, educated and well-funded street wear kids to sport the symbol of the marginalized. Sure, the fascination of the established with the romanticized “other half” of society has always been strong. It’s really comfortable to pretend you’re a gangster without having to face the repercussions of the actual street life, which are usually untimely death or imprisonment, or both.
The tracksuit, however, is the real deal: it’s not an oversized hoody you can simply throw over any old jeans you have, and it’s not that 59fify cap that pretty much goes with anything even remotely street wear-y. Wearing a tracksuit casually, i.e. not for exercising purposes, is a lifestyle choice. You’re covered head-to-toe in what is essentially a uniform for the marginalized, the surplus population, the losers of the system. Yeah, you’ll still have to wear your nice Sunday dress when your parents make you go visit grandma, but for the rest of the week, you can disguise yourself as that weed dealer hangin’ out in the back alley you’re scared to walk into.
At the moment, probably your best choice to get your fix of underworld fashion is Hélas. Lucas Puig’s label is dedicated to bring you some of the nicest tracksuits out there, complete with striking colors and bold branding. Tracksuits have a strong tradition among French kids, especially among those from the Banlieues around Paris. And the best thing is: you can even wear Hélas tracksuits when you’re going to play golf with your CEO dad, ‘cause if he’s gonna start to scream at your for being “the bane of his life,” you might as well look the fucking part.