Lawrence University’s George Whiting Field, guarded by a century-old stone gate and situated on a bluff over the Fox River, is exactly the kind of place the folks from Tracksmith would appreciate. It’s where history is mated to technology in the pursuit of fast, hard running. Tracksmith, founded in 2014, is based in Massachusetts and it’s no accident that their office overlooks the halfway marker of the historic Boston Marathon. Co-founded by a former Yale track runner, and one of the former founders of Rapha, Tracksmith’s gear is grounded in the imagery and narrative of Ivy League, New England running. There’s a genuine love of the sport evident here, from the summer cross-country camps they host, to Meter, the biannual magazine they write, photograph, and print. The folks at Tracksmith sent me three pieces of gear to put through the paces – a Van Cortlandt singlet, a pair of Van Cortlandt shorts, and a pair of dual-use Falmouth shorts.
The Van Cortlandt Singlet is produced, like all of Tracksmith’s gear, in New England. The fabric is Swiss-made and they’ve coined it “2:09 Mesh”. I’ve run in open-weave mesh before, so I expected it to be rough and without enough stretch to wipe my face. Happily, I was wrong; the material is soft, light, stretchy, and very quick-drying. This is a shirt that disappears when you’re wearing it, which is especially a blessing for hard workouts in warm weather. It wicked sweat quickly and the open-weave mesh didn’t get weighed down or heavy. I loved running in this shirt, although for better or worse, the diagonal stripe (inspired by a varsity “sashing” ceremony started at Cornell in the 1880s) was an attention-getter. Tracksmith’s gear isn’t inexpensive, but I don’t find $65 unreasonable for a US-made high-performance singlet (and in inflation-adjusted dollars, the midcentury inspiration was the equivalent of $127!).
For sizing, I went up to a large in the Van Cortlandt singlet, and going by the measurement chart, an XL would have probably fit fine as well. Like most of Tracksmith’s gear, it’s cut for a lean runner’s body. After multiple trips through the laundry (cold water, hung to dry), my large singlet measured 19.5” across the chest and 27” in body length. I would have preferred a bit more length, especially since the 1.5” side vents opened all the way to my waistband and made it feel a bit shorter than it actually was.
The Van Cortlandt Shorts were hands-down my favorite piece of Tracksmith gear. In fact, midway through the five weeks of wear-testing, I bought myself a second pair because I kept wanting to pull them out of the hamper. These are stripped-down, fast shorts. Other than a small key pocket inside the rear waistband and the hare logo, there’s nothing here but 2:09 Mesh (same material as the singlet). The lack of on-board storage might be a problem for folks who carry gels or phones, but for race shorts, I think less is clearly more. I even used these on quite a few longer runs without trouble, since I carry what I need in a race vest or a Flipbelt waist-pack. Like the singlet, the Van Cortlandt shorts disappeared when I ran, which is the best compliment a runner can give. Shorts with a shorter inseam can sometimes ride or bunch, but I never had that trouble with the Van Cortlandts, even when sweaty or rain-soaked.
As far as sizing, my medium pair had a 4” inseam, 11” front rise, and 14.5” waistband (unstretched – 16.5” when moderately stretched out but not pulled taut). Again, like the singlet, these are aimed at lean runners. Since run-specific shorts is a category where Tracksmith only has one product and there’s room for expansion, I’d be interested in seeing how a pair of these might perform with a more casual, longer 8” inseam.
The third product, the Falmouth Shorts, fall into a category where Tracksmith has no shortage of products. The Falmouths, Longfellows, and Run Swim Runs all qualify as dual-use shorts. They’re made from similar waterproof, stretch fabric, and differ mainly in number of pockets, presence of liner, and inseam length. The Falmouths I wear-tested have an inner brief liner, which must have taken some innovative pattern-making to add to shorts with a zipper and button fly. I didn’t find it constrictive or chafing, although there was a noticeable extra amount of fabric under the fly. My medium pair had a 6” inseam, 11.25” leg opening, 11.25” front rise, and 14.25” waistband (unstretched – 16” when moderately stretched but not pulled taut).
While the Falmouths had a few too many extraneous features to be my go-to running shorts, I put quite a few miles in and they certainly perform adequately. The fabric dried quickly, the thighs didn’t bind or chafe, the pockets were deep enough to keep keys and gel secure, and the hidden zippered hip pocket was a nice spot to stash a debit card for emergencies. For wearing them casually, I would have preferred a slightly longer inseam – something like the 8.5” inseam of the Longfellow shorts. However, the Longfellows have a casual-length inseam, but no pockets. It seems like these two models could swap some features and make more sense in their respective categories.
Overall, Tracksmith has a vision that carries through an impressively consistent aesthetic. Their clothes, marketing, website photography, sponsored events – even product names – elicit some pretty powerful nostalgia. I don’t say this about a lot of companies, but looking through their site genuinely makes me want to go out and run (preferably along a misty river at sunrise with my very fit, very fast Ivy League cross-country team). That vibe might come across as vapid or phony if it wasn’t backed up by pretty serious products, but Tracksmith’s absolutely hold up to hard wear.
Jason Brozek is an ultramarathon runner, lapsed Ironman triathlete, and professor at a small liberal arts college, where he teaches courses on sustainability and international politics.