Fashion has always been an arena of self-expression, from waves of social upheaval and cultural mania to the personal muses who make heads turn. But another, more underrated source of creative inspiration is now at play: computer and console screens. These textured spectacles, once the secluded domain of geeks, are now birthing new digital aesthetics that are bleeding back into the real world, transforming the clothes we wear.

This plays out far beyond custom clothing, though. Online gameplay is changing the art of fashion by creating new trends, reinterpreting existing ones, and transforming how we think of clothes. Let’s take a closer look at the trends you see online in games today and why they matter on the streets.

Athleisure Levels Up

As enthusiasts grow enveloped in the whole athleisure lifestyle, they’re increasingly likely to find virtual equivalents. Newly popular titles like the battle royale games in Fortnite, PUBG and Apex Legends, or the more glamorous world of online casinos where people love to spin the slots and place bets at the poker table, there’s a big movement towards a new type of athleisure that fits just right for the digital age.

Athleisure doesn’t have to be something that you wear when working out, thanks to some hardcore virtual games and tournaments that take place online. For casino enthusiasts, the glitz and glamour of Vegas are having a huge impact on the overall style of tournaments at Ignition Online Poker, which has become a new playground for poker champions who like to show off their strategic skills and betting strategies (and get some cool fashion sponsorships for brands who want to be known within these circles). Fashion is a huge part of eSports games and players across various casino games, and their impact is making a big splash beyond just the screens.

So, just because you’re sitting playing poker at home, it doesn’t mean you should clothe your character in baggy sweatpants and ill-fitting tees, today’s games with a social or competitive focus put fingertip control of your avatar’s every movement front and center. 

Sure enough, the in-game assets for avatars – sleek, clean cuts, form-fitting designs infused with moody or sporty energies – are influencing the functionality of sportswear in the real world. Leading activewear companies are now merging sport-oriented fabrics with fashion-forward design aesthetics in garments built for the gym, as well as off-duty wear on the street. It’s principles that are seen in real-world sports too, like hockey, football, and baseball.

Beyond Practicality: Futuristic Fashion Takes Flight

Fantasy and space games are where some of the most radical ideas about clothing are taking shape, both playfully and seriously. These virtual worlds often feature clothing that privileges form over function, sidestepping references to previous centuries and shying away from durable natural textiles. Instead, bold and unlikely silhouettes feature metallic finishes that offer interesting interactions with light and take on holographic accents.

While a full-on chrome bodysuit might be a bit far-fetched for this side of the metaverse, gamers’ conceptions of fashion might nevertheless be subtly (or not so subtly) influencing both designers and consumers, serving as a real-world reminder of the possibilities provided by throwing tradition out of the window and seeing what happens.

Customization is King

Another hallmark of online games is the avatar’s level of customization: players can choose from unparalleled numbers of items of clothing, hairstyles, and accessories, thus tailoring their virtual identity to their tastes. 

The acceptance of more customised dressing is spilling over into the real world: not only are fast-fashion houses offering more mix-and-match options and high-end labels focusing on creating capsule collections where much of the interest lies in layering up with accessories of their own, but consumers increasingly demand clothing that allows them to embody and communicate their personal vision. Online games are preparing the stage for a brave new future of fashion as wearing what you want.

Beyond Gender: Breaking Fashion Barriers

In this virtual world, traditional boundaries are being broken down, and fashion is among the adapting behaviors. Many multiplayer games have in-built wardrobes for the online characters, with options available to male and female players alike. 

This permeation of the fluid arrangement of gender identities has started to surface in the real world. Designers are experimenting with more unisex styles, while consumers are moving away from identifying themselves through their clothes – instead, brands are using clothing to identify them instead. 

Online games are normalising a phenomenon where fashion is used as a vehicle to express one’s identity beyond what is demanded or accepted by mainstream society.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Fashion in the Digital Age

Although you may not think that online gaming, fashion, and design are super similar, they influence each other a lot more than most people realize.

Over the next few years, technology like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), will further exacerbate the trend of fashion being increasingly less tangible than ever before. What if you could test-drive clothing virtually, before buying them, or change the appearance of your fitted garments in VR and AR?

The opportunities are pretty much endless and we for one might hope to see what comes next with the latest trends.

Published by HOLR Magazine.