One wasn't the loneliest number. Alex Beck opened Salvatore Ferragamo's latest show wearing a top emblazoned with the number "1." You almost thought you imagined it until, seven looks later, "4" came to town. It went on from there. Oversize numerals were pieced into tank tops, stitched into sweaters, even dangling from drawstrings.

Ferragamo's creative director, Massimiliano Giornetti, cleared up any confusion backstage after the show. He'd been thinking, he said, of sportsmen—"not any specific idea of sport, but the idea, the vibration of the sportsman." Sportsmen wear their numbers on their jerseys, so his men did, too.

Giornetti is one of many designers this season putting the sport back in sportswear, and marrying it to a tailored sensibility to create a hybrid look. A numeral tank top and Bermuda-length tailored shorts summed it up in a second: It was basically an outfit to play basketball in. Giornetti said he'd been thinking about the thirties, pictures from which decorated his board, but his play with materials (the kind of treated and techno-fied fabrics that are proving to be designer catnip this season) and his color box (moss green, hazard orange, Yves Klein blue) looked light years ahead, not behind. Giornetti's proper constructed jackets had elasticized waists, and their sleeves were often removed—the better to show off those muscular arms.

In some ways, the meet-cute of sport and fashion is inevitable. The world worships the athletic body, and fashion's aim is always, on one level or another, seduction. The models, having made their way around the track, lined up on block plinths, an assembly line of newly minted Olympians. It all began to shade into the surreal, which, given that Giorgio de Chirico was one of Giornetti's stated inspirations, may have been exactly the point. But surrealism was such a step away from the smart updating of established styles that characterizes Giornetti's best work for the house that you had to wonder at the blast into the utopian future. Who's it all 4?