It should be easy to figure out. “Athletic” + “Leisure” = Athleisure. So as the name suggests, athleisure is clothing that combines the best of two types of clothing, athletic gear and leisure apparel. Activewear for leisure has been with us for as long as people have been appropriating sporty clothing for casual use. Rubber-soled tennis and deck shoes, blazers, polo shirts, sweatshirts, and crew necks — they’re all examples of sportswear that has made the jump from the court, gym, or playing field to the closets of regular folks who have never swung a tennis racket or picked up a polo mallet.
While it’s hard to pin down exactly when the athleisure vibe became a trend, we can all probably agree that it started to emerge during those weird days that we call the 1970s. Old norms were breaking down and entrenched ideas about formality started to go out the window. Experimentation in the fashion industry was rampant if not always coherent (anybody remember the “leisure suit? Seriously, look it up.) Over the 50 years since then, casual has conquered the battlefield. And an increased desire for clothing that supports both an active and social lifestyle has combined with new innovations in fabrics to shape modern athleisure — clothing that combines style and function like no other.
To really understand what athleisure is about, you need to appreciate the three key elements that combine to make a piece of clothing truly athleisure.
Athleisure is the clothing of our moment. It reflects our evolving interest and appreciation with an active and healthy lifestyle. You don’t need quality athleisure wear to be healthy, of course. But clothing that’s cut to flatter and fit well will demonstrate a commitment to your health and fitness better than anything else. An athleisure wardrobe reveals the real you better than pointless bling.
You’ve probably seen clothing that masquerades as athleisure. Velvet tracksuits and velour yoga pants anyone? Real athleisure clothing isn’t just for show — it needs to work. The true test of quality athleisure gear is measured in function. Like the Willy California Workout Shorts, they are at home both as workout clothes and as streetwear.
FabricsYou can’t have good athleisure wear without good fabrics. The right fabrics handle your sweat, move with you, help regulate your temperature, and are comfortable to wear.
Here are some of the key types of fabrics to look for when you’re shopping for athleisure gear:
Evaluate clothing by using these three elements — style, function, fabric, and you’ll understand better what clothing is athleisure (and what isn’t).
Fashion trends don’t usually stick unless they offer a benefit to the wearer. Athleisure shines in the benefits it offers, and that’s one of the reasons for its growing success and adoption across society. Consider these advantages of well-crafted athleisure clothing.
One of the strengths of athleisure outfits is in the number of options you have available to diversify and expand your wardrobe. Athleisure isn’t about one type of clothing — it’s a dynamic range of mix and match options that work well together and with more conventional everyday wear.
Let’s start with pants and shorts. You’ve got lots of great options for athleisure wear here:
Tops are one of the building blocks of an athleisure ensemble. Versatile and comfortable, they work well with other athleisure items and mix and match with regular ready-to-wear clothing.
Athleisure outerwear offers cutting edge style and outstanding protection from the elements.
Athleisure isn’t a trend that’s going away. Sales have been on the rise in the United States and worldwide over the last decade, and the rise isn’t showing any signs of abating. The desire for comfortable and functional clothing that suits our busy lifestyles will only increase as more people experience the benefits that it provides. Like any trend, there will be outliers and excesses. With athleisure, you see that in the number of shoddy products that try to look like athleisure but don’t have what it takes in design and build to truly hold up, and in the absurd articles that try to pass themselves off as athleisure but can’t pass the function test. Quality athleisure that’s designed to be used and enjoyed will always be in demand.
Athleisure can be a big subject when you start to consider questions about what it is, where it came from, how to wear it and more. But in the end, the only important thing to know is that athleisure is clothing that’s comfortable, casual, and ready to perform, whether it’s at the gym or out on the town.
Consider the basics of style, function and fabric and you’ll quickly learn how to identify high-quality athleisure made by companies that care about producing a quality product. Invest wisely to build a wardrobe of athleisure products and you’ll soon be stepping out of your home ready to tackle the day or night in true style and comfort.