Athleisure. The name itself sounds new and trendy. Picture guys and gals at the local pub in sportswear: sporty pullovers, joggers and zip-up hoodies. Or, picture a Saturday morning parade of leggings, sports bras, windbreakers and crop tops at the farmer’s market. It’s new, it’s fresh — except that it isn’t all that new.
Every generation thinks that they’ve invented the wheel. But let’s face it — while new ideas and technology are creating new paradigms for us, we flatter ourselves if we think we’re more clever or innovative than grandpa and grandma were. Yoga pants didn’t appear out of anywhere — they’re part of a larger trend that goes back a lot further than you may think.
Let’s look into the history of athleisure outfits and see how the athleisure trend came about.
The world used to be a much more formal place. The well-dressed man of the 1890s would never step out without dressing for the occasion. A day-time blazer for the office, clothes for dining out, an outfit for the theater, the list goes on. So, what started the transition to the informal world we know today? In a word, sports.
In the late 19th century, organized sports, especially intramural sports on college campuses, exploded in popularity. Sports require clothing that’s specific to the task, and it just so happened that these clothes were comfortable. As an added bonus, wearing sports clothing outside the confines of the tennis court, golf course, or polo grounds gave the wearer a bit of cachet. In other words, an athletic and healthy look was hot.
Need some examples? Consider these.
Rubber-soled shoes first showed up in the 1890s. They provided better grip on grass and other surfaces, so they were a natural for tennis. Ergo, “tennis shoes.” Now think about how many pairs of rubber-soled shoes we’ll find when we open up our closets.
Thank Frenchman Rene Lacoste for this one. The tennis champ wanted a better shirt to wear for his matches in the 1920s, so he designed a short-sleeved, collared shirt that was perfect for the courts. Polo players liked it and Rene’s innovation acquired the name we all know. Now they’re a staple of our closets, from cheap corporate giveaways to a high-quality Willy California short or long sleeve athletic polo.
How often do we actually sweat in our sweatshirts and sweatpants? It’s easy to forget that once this fieldhouse staple was the go-to workout clothes for athletes looking to sweat off a few pounds during their workout or stay warm between sets in the weight room. But it didn’t take long for college students to realize that the sweatshirt, whether a crew neck or a zip-up hoodie, was the perfect layer to wear for a day of classes and studying or a night of pub crawling.
We can see that the athleisure vibe is much more than just a recent fashion trend. But we’ve got to admit that this historical trend has been really growing in recent years. Why is that? Probably one of the key elements in making athleisure wear more practical and prevalent has been the development of new fabrics.
Since the development of nylon in the 1930s, there’s been an explosion of synthetic fabrics that have worked their way into clothing and pushed the sportswear market forward. These fabrics offer four advantages when used in well-crafted athleisure products.
It’s hard to say which came first, athleisure clothing or the informal lifestyle that makes it possible. Whatever the case, our modern lifestyles demand it. After all, we may be presenting a PowerPoint at 3 PM, and then coaching the kid’s soccer team at 5. Who has time to change? And that’s just one example. Here is some advice on how quality athleisure clothing can fit into our days.
The trend towards athleisure clothing isn’t new, but rather part of a long evolution of style and societal norms. While we can trace athleisure back more than a hundred years, the development of new fabrics and our desire to project an image that reflects our healthy lifestyles has only accelerated the process.
And that’s a good thing. Our modern lifestyles keep us on the go and it only makes sense to wear clothing that lets us move seamlessly from one activity to another while staying comfortable and looking good at the same time.