Tracksmith is the running-apparel brand paying homage to the original spirit of the sport

“Going back to the earliest days, it was much more about the human will and performance and all those things, rather than it being about the money”

“We wanted to do something that was quite distinct. We wanted a brand that felt timeless,” says Matt Taylor, founder and CEO of Tracksmith, the Boston-based running-apparel brand that’s fast become the connoisseur’s choice of label thanks to an ability to dovetail top-end performance with a heritage-style aesthetic.

“Between 2005 to 2010, even earlier, that’s the period when I started putting the pieces for Tracksmith together,” Taylor says, before elaborating that the spirit behind the brand was, in part, to cut against the trends of that time – the swathes of neon, the large splashes of fluoro, flashes of hazard-greens, canary-yellows and volt. “It was quite bright and loud. This, for me… I wasn’t comfortable in [wearing bright-orange shirts]”, he says. “From an aesthetic perspective, a real strong influence was looking at how I dressed, and how friends, family and other colleagues did, and then what we put on to go for a run… there was no continuity between those things.”

Two people running down a lane, for a Tracksmith campaign

Officially launched in 2014, in Wellesley, Massachusetts (rather aptly at the halfway point of the Boston Marathon) and driven partly by an ethos to create gear that’s performance-focused but could also translate into lifestyle, Tracksmith is indeed defined by this irresistible throwback look that Taylor hoped to attain and one hardly seen within the ranges of the behemoth brands.

Tracksmith’s ‘Grayboy Tee’, for example, with its block text and colour options in soft, deep hues, such as ‘wine and ivory’, brings to mind the type of garment that high-school track teams might sport to the death when clocking up the laps in their off time; meanwhile, the ‘Van Cortlandt Singlet’ sash, made in a lightweight mesh, is pared-down and takes its style cues from the Cornell track-and-field teams of the late 1800s. The new summer collection – ‘Run Cannonball Run’ – is a line designed to encourage the wearer to jump into cool bodies of water, mid-run, in order to ‘quell the season’s heat’ and it features a tight edit of fine-weather essentials with old-school aesthetics; the quick-dry ‘Run Cannonball Run Shorts’, in ‘navy and ivory stripe’, say, have a distinct look that harkens back to the golden age of East Coast beaches.

Tracksmith model, wearing swimshorts and diving into water

Driving this distinct style – one that is undeniably aimed for running puritans; the ones synced into the rhythms of lacing up in the early light of the morning, the chaos of the day, or the dark of night to rack up some high miles on pine-needle trails and wood chip paths – is a by-runners-for-runners ethos that looks back to the amateur roots of the sport and champions a demographic of non-professional, yet competitive, enthusiasts.

Foldout chairs on a beach

“This sport has a long history of the ‘amateur spirit’ – and, even today, very few runners are actually making a living as professional runners,” says Taylor. “Going back to the earliest days, it was much more about the human will and performance and all those things, rather than it being about the money.”

Beyond its range of wears, a quick browse of the editorial branch of the Tracksmith website – which focuses on original films, photography and articles – will corroborate the authenticity of this approach. The film, Church of the Long Run, for instance, captures nurse practitioner and runner Sam Roecker on her long run on a Sunday, in the foothills of Rollinsville, Colorado, with the feature aiming to act as both a celebration and an appreciation of the subject’s dedication to this weekly process. Another piece zones-in on a small list of the world’s best doughnuts, a food that is considered the original post-run sustenance. One photo journal takes to Iffley Road track, the location where Sir Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile.

“There was a cultural void,” Taylor says about the reasoning behind creating the content. “There was an opportunity to tell the stories that were really true to running. Maybe the bigger brands want to please everyone – but when you do that, you actually please no one. So, we’ve been able to stay really, really focused on someone who’s committed to running and it’s part of their lifestyle.”

Lending more credibility to it all is the fact that members within the company are themselves dedicated to the sport. When asked why the brand feels so convincing and genuine, Taylor replies “Silly answer… but because it is. People that are working here care deeply about the industry and the sport.” Details, such as the drawstrings on a pair of shorts, or the exact placement of a pocket, can be discussed at laborious length, as staffers know, from experience, what sort of impact the minutiae can have. “Our creation process and the stories that we tell come from that authentic place. It comes from us. It’s what we live and breathe every day.”

Tracksmith model, wearing a Tracksmith t-shirt and sitting on a chair
Tracksmith model, wearing an orange towel

And it’s from this notion of care that lends a tangible substance – in other words, high-performance and high-quality – that underpins and gives cachet to the classical stylings. “One is quality: we use better raw materials – because of the pricing structure of the bigger brands, they just weren’t using [our] fabrics, [our] trims,” Taylor, the one-time ‘running category marketing’ head at sports behemoth Puma, says, when asked what gap Tracksmith is filling in the industry.

Combing through the continents in search of materials that offer premium performance for each item’s function, Tracksmith deals heavily in high-spec fabrics, which are then shaped and padded out with the correct details in order to make each run more productive and fuss-free.

Up top, the ‘Strata Singlet’ is an airy piece that makes use of what Tracksmith calls its ‘lightest and most advanced fabric’, which is produced from 78% nylon and 22% elastane and has been crafted to draw away moisture in record time. A featherweight slub cotton blend is evidenced in the ‘Run Cannonball Run Tee’, a refined top designed for hot climes. The ‘Twilight Split Shorts’, an item that’s traditionally clingy, goes against convention by offering an easy feel that comes courtesy of the ‘Bravio’ fabric, which stretches to match the runner’s stride.

The ‘Tracksmith Eliot Runner’, the label’s debut footwear, perhaps best typifies this high-grade approach. “That was the longest development process we’ve had at Tracksmith,” says Taylor, who goes on to state that the team started with apparel because it was the lowest barrier to entry in the market, from a cost-and-timing perspective.

“But we just couldn’t get the product right,” he says. There were a few starts and stops, and they tried to do it externally – but the plug had to be pulled on several occasions. “And then we were eventually able to bring the right people, with the right skillsets, in house.” Many miles and a lot of prototypes were logged – “the nice thing is that there’s no shortage of people on the team who can run 50 – even 100 miles – a week, and wear test products” – before a final product was settled on.

The result is a trainer with a clean, neutral profile, a woven label on the tongue, a sash on the side and a racing stripe on the back, and the Pebax® footbed is triple the thickness of its counterparts on the market, making for a plush run with high-energy returns. “The thing that a lot of people have said, which is probably the best compliment we can receive, is that this looks like the Tracksmith shoe.”

Though rooted deep in New England, Tracksmith has made it clear that its ambitions go beyond the state. A late 2022 collaboration with J.Crew, one of the most influential menswear retailers in the US, gave further style kudos to Tracksmith, getting the brand wider recognition across the country with a capsule that doused its signature pieces in J.Crew-exclusive colours.

In June of this year, Tracksmith also partnered with Gentleman’s Journal on an early-morning run through the streets of Florence, an event that welcomed friends of both companies and key figures in the menswear scene.

Houses on the River Arno, in Florence
Tommaso Capozzoli, holding a blazer over Tracksmith clothing
Friend of Tracksmith, wearing a blazer over Tracksmith clothing
Friend of Tracksmith, wearing a blazer over Tracksmith clothing
Matthew Woodruff, pulling on a blazer over Tracksmith clothing

And, in terms of brick and mortar, the company has recently opened on Chiltern Street, in London, its first physical presence outside the US and a pitch-perfect move to a celebrated stretch of the city that’s known for its boutiques and storefronts that emphasise fine quality and timeless style. As with its store in Boston, Tracksmith’s London space – which is flush with walnut, oak, brass, and a terrazzo running track inlayed in the floor – goes beyond the traditional retail remit, acting more as a community hangout for runners, with weekly events, such as morning 5k runs, on the calendar.

Tracksmith London store, on Chiltern Street, showcasing shelves and aspirational running imagery
Tracksmith London store, on Chiltern Street, showcasing clothing and aspirational running imagery
Tracksmith London store, on Chiltern Street, showcasing clothing

“London is one of the running hubs of the world – there’s the traditional clubs, lets say, but there’s also this thriving run crew scene,” says Taylor. “It’s also an important market from a fashion perspective, from a European perspective. For an American brand, thinking about Europe as a potential area for growth, London is an opportunity to get the brand in front of a lot of people.

“We also just wanted to make our ambitions of being a global running brand very clear – and if we had opened four stores in the US, that would have said something very different,” Taylor continues.

When it comes to next steps, Taylor says that content growth is certainly one focus – “the reality is we do best when we do really impactful, emotionally led content, whether that’s storytelling, film, photography, words or lookbooks – as is looking to expand the community further. Of note are the group runs and workouts in London, and this summer there will be the ‘Twilight 5000’, a series of 5,000-metre races on the track, which originated in Boston but will extend to 16 cities across the world, including Toronto and Mexico City. “You know, we’re big proponents of real-world events over pixels on screen,” Taylor says.

“And then, really, it’s retail and footwear,” he says of the goals to blossom the company.

“We fully expect we’ll venture into more permanent retail. And then footwear – we have a single style right now. But, we have new colourways and some other things coming. The vision there is to have a number of styles in the line. Nothing specific is yet planned – but we know what the roadmap is.”

Want more from the brand? Read about the Gentleman’s Journal x Tracksmith morning run through the streets of Florence…

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