If you’re not familiar with the brand: Esprit was a popular sportswear brand and mall store that was huge in the 80s and 90s. They offered fashion lines for men, women, and children — along with home goods. (You can even see what they offer today at esprit.com.)
As you can see as you scroll, their designs often incorporated bright colors, geometric patterns, and even some funky accessories like suspenders.
So kick back, and we hope you enjoy this spirited and colorful blast from the past as much as we did. – BB
Esprit founder Susie Tompkins
Co-founder Doug Tompkins (then Susie’s husband) is pictured on her pedestal
Also see: Old-school cottagecore: The prairie dress had its first big comeback in the 80s
Vintage 80s Esprit
Esprit fashion conveyed vitality, youthfulness and authenticity while giving off “I’m not trying too hard” casual vibes.
This is a vintage trend (unlike, say, the mom jeans revival) whose revitalization we fogies could like, totally, get behind.
The retro fashions shown below include:
- Bulky knit sleeveless cardigan made of a color-flecked mohair wool blend
- Cotton blouse with rounded neckline has a front placket edged with lacy openwork
- Classic double-pleated cuffed walking shorts are made of a warm tweed wool blend
Some of the old-school Esprit tote bags shown below:
- Field bag in cotton canvas
- Plumber’s bag in cotton canvas with doubled black leather handles
- Fisherman’s bag in cotton canvas with black leather and buckle closures
- Triple pocket canvas bag with zipper closures and black web shoulder strap
- Esprit tote in durable cotton twill
Polos! Still the most popular knitted shirt in the world
Old Esprit 80s hats, gloves, scarves, belts & socks with personal style
Classy variations of the essential white shirt
Athletic grays/revitalized with bright accents
Fall ’82, an upbeat collection for the urban-outdoor girl. Pulled-together looks from city components making flexible and acceptable looks are the hallmarks of the season.
It’s not everyone who has wardrobes for both city and country, so we’ve put together a combination of both that strikes no compromise. the emphasis will be on imagination the individual’s personal style.
Fair Isles, tweeds, wools, sporty bright colors, rich mixtures and masculine/feminine feelings are the backbone of this fall’s “Metropolitan Outdoor” look.
The sporty denims – America’s (and all the world’s) favorite pant
Also see: Look back at Caboodles, Sassaby & other retro beauty organizers from the ’80s & ’90s
Fresh approaches – Fashion sweatshirting
Vintage 80s Esprit products, left to right, starting with middle model:
3633 In bright new colors! Sporty cardigan of soft cotton sweat-shirting with deep side pouch pockets is flocked with our logo. Shown in cobalt. Also available in scarlet, turquoise, purple. Sizes S-M-L $33.00 ($2.00)
3623 Traditional cotton knit three-button polo shirt has Esprit embroidered on the front. Shown in winter white and all the colors shown on pages 20-21. Sizes S-M-L $20.00 ($1.50)
3634 More bright ideas — Athletic sweatpants of cotton sweat-shirting accented with a white stripe down the side. Shown in cobalt. Also available in scarlet, turquoise, purple. Sizes S-M-L $30.00 ($2.00)
3630 Raglan sleeved sweatshirt in bright cotton sweatshirting is flocked with our Esprit Sport logo. Sorry, scarf not available. Shown in scarlet. Also available in cobalt. turquoise, purple. Sizes S-M-L $25.00 ($2.00)
3635 The sporty skirt in bright cotton sweatshirting accented with a white piped hem has an elastic waist and side pockets. Shown in scarlet. Also available in cobalt, turquoise, purple. Sizes S-M-L $26.00 ($2.00)
3632 One-piece raglan sleeved. V-neck, cotton sweatshirt has an attached white polo collar accented with our flocked Esprit Sport logo. As shown in turquoise. Size M Only. $30.00 ($2.00) 3635 The sporty skirt in turquoise.
3631 Turtlette- neck cotton sweatshirt with dropped shoulders and 3/4 length sleeves. Bright colors accentuated with white piping and our Esprit Sport logo. Shown in purple. Also available in cobalt, scarlet, turquoise. Sizes S-M-L $26.00 ($2.00)
3634 Bright cotton sweatpants accented by white piping. Shown in purple. Also available in cobalt, scarlet and turquoise. Sizes S-M-L $20.00 ($1.50)
Shetland sweaters: Bright and sporty/you can’t have enough of them
Country wools for the city slicker
Don’t miss! 24 stylish ’80s swimsuits: Shapely, slimming, sexy summer swimwear
A 60s-founded clothing company with an 80s legacy
Founded in 1968 by Susie and Doug Tompkins (who, incidentally, were the founders of The North Face, as well), Esprit enjoyed its heyday internationally in the 1980s.
“Inspired by the revolutionary spirit of the 60s, the brand developed a clear philosophy – always celebrating real people and togetherness, in line with the brand’s promise: ‘We want to make you feel good to look good.'”
Esprit was one of the first brands to use everyday people in their catalogs, not even talking about how the brand fit into their lifestyle or anything like that — just a little snapshot into their own lives and interests. The company appealed to the masses with this relatability factor.
That makes it extra interesting to scroll through this next set, perhaps imagining where these vibrant people are now (um 40ish years later — eek!).
Anyway, with their forward thinking attitude and care for the environment way before it was cool, Esprit was ahead of its time in many ways!
1985 & 1986
80s vintage Esprit
“Because clothing is one of our most basic means of self expression, the fashion industry lends itself toward the communication of values, and offers us the challenge and opportunity to interpret the ongoing changes throughout the world.
“Our corporate mission statement is: ‘Be informed. Be involved. Make a difference.’
It may seem like an idealistic and unusual guiding philosophy for an international fashion company, but Esprit has never been ‘business as usual.'”
Libby Edelman, Esprit’s Merchandising Manager
Esprit De Corp’s summer ’85 shoe collection: High-heel sandals
Vintage Esprit jazz shoes in a rainbow of colors (1985)
Leather woven sandals for spring 1985
Vintage Esprit Sport: 1986
1988 & 1989
Vintage 80s Esprit bedding in grey and white
Esprit kids – 80s Fashion for girls
Retro 80s Esprit bedding for the home from 1988-1989
Retro winter Esprit fashion for men and women (1989)
Don’t miss! 135 most popular vintage perfumes from the 80s
Colorful sweaters & jackets from the late 80s
Vintage 90s Esprit clothing
The late 80s and early 90s were tumultuous times for the company. Leadership upheaval and pivots in the brand’s direction, as well as the emerging fast fashion trend all likely contributed to declining sales.
By 1992, both founders had largely severed ties with the company.
Under steady new leadership, the brand managed a turnaround, enjoying a resurgence of growth throughout the decade.
Also see: Do you remember these 32 shampoos & conditioners from the ’80s?
“The success story of Esprit is based on two pillars: Delivering joy every day through laid-back tailored, high quality essentials and carefully selected fashion-forward pieces while staying true to its core values of sustainability, equality and freedom of choice.
Example: In the early 90s, long before ‘Eco Fashion’ became fashionable, Esprit debuted its first ‘ecollection’ made of 100% organic cotton and featured its own team instead of models in in honor of their ‘Real People Campaign.’”
90s Esprit – The catalog is back! Branded tote bag & shoes
Also see: Vintage jelly shoes were THE footwear for summer in the ’80s & ’90s
Esprit vintage sportswear
In the the 2000s, the brand started to fall out of favor with the American market — and in 2012 they closed all their retail stores in North America.
Esprit continues to have a retail presence in Europe and Asia, and there does seem to be some promise of a U.S. e-commerce relaunch.
If so, we’re ready for it: Bring back old-school Esprit with all its verve and youthful aesthetic. We need that bright, colorful and creative casual style back in our lives!
Vintage Esprit catalog order form (1982)
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