Credit: Jennifer Lopez
Remember when J.Lo made Juicy Couture tracksuits cool?
Delving into the archives of pop culture history, "Remember When?" is a new series offering a nostalgic look at the celebrity outfits that defined their eras.
Remember when Jennifer Lopez turned a kitsch tracksuit into the outfit to own in the early 2000s?
You know the one: a hooded velour jacket and pants, with a bedazzled Juicy Couture logo spread across the booty (subtle, we know). Almost overnight, she created a craze -- and one of the most ubiquitous looks of the decade.
Now, thanks to the number of people working from home due to the coronavirus, J.Lo's iconic look is poised to make a comeback -- both for its comfort and style. (Even Vogue's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has dressed down during lockdown in the UK, sporting a pair of tracksuit bottoms on Instagram.)
J.Lo debuted her trackies in 2001, when she appeared in the video of her single "I'm Real" in bubblegum-pink sweat shorts and a matching hoodie -- plus lots of bling gold chains, hoop earrings and a top knot bun. Little-known L.A. casualwear brand Juicy Couture, which was only 4 years old at the time, had sent her the get-up to "chill and hang out in," as the singer reminisced in an Instagram post in 2018.
But the glamazon loved the outfit so much she decided to forgo the real couture her stylists had brought on set.
"It seemed fitting, since the song is called 'I'm Real'," she wrote on Instagram. "So I decided to be ME!!"
The choice was frowned upon by her music execs. Videos were getting increasingly raunchy -- this was the era of Sisqo's "Thong Song," D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does it Feel)" and Britney Spears' "I'm a Slave 4 U," to name just a few -- and a tracksuit didn't quite scream 'sexy.' But J.Lo wanted to show the world she was just Jenny From The Block (that smash hit would come a year later), and so the joggers got their spotlight.
They soon became the performer's uniform of choice. J.Lo wore different iterations of the pants throughout much of the decade, from a peachy number paired with stilettos and newsboy-style cap (remember that?) during a stop at MTV's "TRL" in New York in 2002, to different hues of the terry cloth ensemble on shopping sprees and grocery runs, including another pink version worn while out with then boyfriend Ben Affleck.
A slew of other celebrities did too: Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Jessica Alba, insert-name-of-early-2000s-star. All of them adopted Juicy Couture as their look du jour, made all the more special when sported with Uggs. Britney Spears went as far as giving her bridal party pink Juicy tracksuits reading "Maids" for her wedding to Kevin Federline in 2004. The groomsmen wore white ones labeled "Pimps."
Teenage girls and "hip" moms followed suit. In the 2014 tell-all book "The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It into a Global Brand," founders Gela Nash-Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy claimed that when they sold the label in 2003 for $56 million, they received an earn-out of $200 million. Until the brand shuttered all US stores in 2014, rhinestone-emblazoned pants were still a thing in most suburban malls, albeit not as frequently as before.
The tracksuit's wild popularity seems fitting, given the celebrity culture of the time. While J.Lo adopted the velour aesthetic to prove she was just one of us, these were also the years of Hilton's and Nicole Richie's reality show "The Simple Life."
"Keeping up with the Kardashians" (Kim was also big on Juicy Couture) first aired in 2007. The brand came to symbolize cool-girl status, but also an idle luxury lifestyle that felt quintessentially Hollywood. It said, "I can wear loungewear anywhere, because I'm rich." It's no surprise that lots of young women wanted to emulate that.
Back to J.Lo, though. We like to think she wore the outfit mostly because it made comfort look "cool" (at the time, anyway). Which leads us to ask: Did she invent athleisure before athleisure was even a trend?
Juicy Couture has become one of fashion's many trends we look at with nostalgia, but also regret. Still, its legacy endures. In 2015, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London acquired a pink version of an original Juicy tracksuit, cementing its status as a defining garb of its era.
In February 2018, the label itself made a comeback at New York Fashion Week, with a show that prompted Vogue to declare: "Juicy Couture is making fashion fun again." Celebrity stylist Jamie Mizrahi, appointed creative director in 2017, has been credited with overhauling and reinventing the brand.
In recent years, Kanye West's Yeezy, Vetements, Gucci and Virgil Abloh's Off-White have all churned out pricey velour sweats and tracksuits -- further proof that, having once sneered at the look, we're actually secretly still hooked.
Or, in the case of J.Lo, we never stopped loving it. Last year, the star was seen sporting a Juicy top on the set of her latest movie, "Hustlers." Once a Juicy Couture fan, always a Juicy Couture fan.