Premium sportswear has long had a twofold identity in society. Its essence of quality and luxury, mixed with a practical durability, spoke to different audiences – those who wore it on the field and those who wore it in the streets. The most obvious example of this would be the emergence of New York’s Lo-Lifes in the late ‘80s, a crew whose dedication to Polo Ralph Lauren is as unwavering as their resistance to pay for the merchandise. In Europe, the Dutch gabber scene exploded in the ‘90s with thousands of youths adopting a uniform of over-priced Australian tracksuits, Cavello jackets, and Nike Air Max’s as the outfit du jour for hardcore raves.
Inevitably, the look permeated popular culture and became associated with anti-social behaviour. Contrary to its original function, the sportswear look became emblematic of a marginalised group who lived on the fringes of mainstream society – a uniform that was intrinsically linked with the suggestion of violence and petty crime. Pockets of the culture prevail in Australian suburbs, and photographer Ryan Cookson has spent some time in the suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne with members of the Australian Lo Lifes and those with vast collections of premium sportswear.