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February 12, 2024
Several License Global articles over the last couple of years have highlighted the shift of sports apparel trending toward more mainstream fashion. The alignment is no real surprise; License Global’s Top Global Licensors Report asked brands what they predict to be the most important areas in which to grow engagement in 2024 and fashion came out on top among respondents (60%) and sports eighth (40%).
To delve deeper into the trend, what’s behind it and what the future looks like, License Global caught up with Harris McQueen, sales and marketing director, EMEA, Outerstuff.
Headquartered in New York, Outerstuff was founded over 30 years ago and is one of the leading designers, manufacturers and marketers of licensed children’s sports apparel for all the major sports leagues and U.S. colleges in North America. Over the last decade, the firm has expanded, with offices opening in London and Shanghai to support servicing more than 2,500 retailers globally.
Outerstuff’s sports licensing portfolio has also expanded in recent years, including into soccer, with clients such as FIFA, and motorsports, with the McLaren F1 Team and Stake F1 Team, the newly confirmed name for the team run by Sauber.
Harris McQueen, Outerstuff
Sports teams and stars are established pillars of our communities, which create subcultures. Sports live and breathe in our communities in many ways, creating stories and emotional connections, which fashion embodies and the two industries are not shy to connect.
McQueen admits that it’s an exciting time for the sports fashion market.
“As one consumer group matures, they become open to investment pieces and are integrating sports fashion into their day-to-day outfits,” McQueen says. “We are seeing different styling of sports coming together with the likes of streetwear and workwear, with influencers from hip-hop, prep, outdoors to create striking outfits. Types of fabric have also gotten more interesting, with the likes of knitwear in sports silhouettes and fashion shapes. We can see a lot of influence from brands such as Aime Leon Dore, Kith and many more having a trickle-down effect with sports fashion to the high street.”
On top of that, McQueen says that newer audiences are wanting to make statements through sports fashion, while keeping the true colors of the team of core importance.
“77% of global sports fans are interested in fashion and buy product that reflects their favorite teams and players,” says McQueen, speaking about Outerstuff’s market research. “It’s an opportunity to have a connection to the sports team or star that they love, to show their badge of honor, be part of a community. A sports kit is not always for every occasion day-to-day, so consumers want the option to be able to wear ‘fashion’ pieces, to dress in and showcase their style and unique identity.”
Trend and style play a huge part in what is popular in sports fashion. With the blend between sports and fashion, McQueen says consumers are known to purchase items of sports apparel because of what’s fashion-able and trending, just as much as their love of a team or brand. An example of this is the resurgance of the Y2K motocross trend, which sees motorsport illustrated prints on genderless clothing items such as jackets, trousers and shirts.
“In terms of design and style, I believe sports fashion should be treated like brands such as Kith and Palace Skateboards, which with current trends, shapes, gar-ments and build meaningful stories with campaigns that connect with consumers,” says McQueen. “Sports fashion and high street presence can allow teams to attract wider, more casual sports fans and it is an opportunity for the clubs to engage with a wider audience and deepen connections with current fans. It has now been widely acknowledged that brands can exist at different levels of retail harmoniously. Sports teams, in the main, have confidence to be present in the fashion high street if the offering is executed well.”
Zara NBA Jacket, Outerstuff
We know what’s trending, we’ve learned what makes a successful piece of licensed sports fashion apparel, but what’s on the horizon for the category?
“McLaren F1 team will be launching in Europe in the fashion channels later this year,” says McQueen. “We have plans across the kids’ and adult markets to launch across the U.K., France, Spain, Italy and Nordics shortly.”
As mentioned earlier, Sauber Motorsports has a new name – Stake F1 team. The rebrand was launched in January by Canadian rapper, Drake, who, along with Everton Football Club and the UFC, is one of Stake’s celebrity, sport and lifestyle partners.
“We are excited to launch the Stake F1 team range, which is due at the back end of 2024, with more F1 teams to follow,” McQueen concludes.
Finally, the NBA continues to perform well and its popularity is strengthening in both the kids’ and adult market, while NFL had a successful International Games at the back of 2023, and Outerstuff has subsequently seen huge interest for Superbowl 2024 and beyond.
Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA, License Global
Ian joined the License Global editorial team in May 2022 as digital editor for the U.K. and EMEA, becoming Senior Digital Editor in April 2023.
Ian is a huge fan of sports and entertainment brands and, as a father, toys and kids' brands are a large part of his life!
He has been at Informa (formerly UBM) since 2018, where he was previously the editor of SHP, a B2B digital publication aimed at health & safety professionals.
Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in B2B trade print media, in the automotive sector, working on various publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.
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