The OED records an early use of the term in 1952.
In 1964, Adidas began to produce tracksuits as leisure wear. These had the distinctive Adidas three stripes, zipped trouser bottoms and collars, and stirrups, features which remained popular for decades. However, on the whole during this decade, tracksuits were plain dark-coloured garments used exclusively as sportswear.
The emergence of tracksuits as a fashion item began in the 1970s. Suits from firm gloss nylon jersey were produced, jackets and trousers being narrowly cut. During the early 1980s an early type of fleece/ cotton mix was used instead of gloss nylon jersey cloth in some cases. They were generally in dull or muted colours, as well as several shades of grey.
In the 1980s, tracksuits became popular as leisure clothing. A completely new kind of tracksuit appeared, intended for jogging rather than warming up. This consisted of two weights of fabric: a light, silky exterior resembling parachute material consisting of nylon or polyester, and lining made from a lighter, often net-like, textile. These were often available bearing panels and flashes of many different colours, and were commonly known as shell suits.
Although they were at first mostly worn by athletes, in the 1980s tracksuits became increasingly fashionable as leisurewear, though jackets and trousers tended to be worn separately rather than as a suit. Shell suits became particularly popular in the United Kingdom.
In the 1990s trousers were worn in new variations of the '60s versions, namely parachute pants and jogging bottoms. In bodybuilding subculture, new styles of bottoms emerged, which were carrot-shaped with broad elasticated waists. The style of tracksuits seen in 1970s and 1980s styles made a comeback in techno and hip-hop subculture and as club-wear.
Tracksuit tops have now disappeared nearly completely as sportswear. Tracksuit trousers remain popular, although in contrast to the bright colours characteristic of shell suits in the 1980s (which are often cited as a faux pas of 1980s fashion), they are commonly worn in muted colours such as grey, black or navy blue.