Millennials live happier in tapered joggers and blankets for shirts. You might have heard of it, it is called Athleisure. This was 2014’s attempt to create a hybrid between athletic wear and leisurewear. The argument was: “We’re so busy, we don’t have time to change from daywear to gymwear, so let’s make clothes that straddle the two.” And just like that, Athleisure was born.
While previous generations dressed up for work and parties, millennials have a tendency to wear sportswear everywhere. “There is an underlying sense of rebellion that comes through in today’s fashion. This is no longer a trend – it is now a lifestyle that is too comfortable, for consumers of all ages, for it to go away anytime soon”, says Retail Analyst Marshal Cohen.
The North Amercian apparel industry is seeing one category thrive: Athleisure. An increasing number of women are sporting yoga pants and dressy sweat pants rather than jeans or slacks. And for many men, sneakers and hoodies have become workwear. The clothing, which combines athletic and leisure wear, has led to a shift away from traditional leisure clothes such as denim and brown shoes and toward gear traditionally worn for a jog. While this has been happening for a few years, especially in footwear, people’s taste have recently accelerated toward comfort and no-frills looks. “You see a lot more women who are wearing tights and exercise pants and exercise tops around,” says Ken Hicks, CEO of Foot Locker. Women are wearing it outside of the gym because it’s “convenient, and it’s got a better look and is fashionable.”
First it was socks, white crew socks; warm, well-made and cushioned, they evolved from cycling to everyday. Then came the meatier pieces: puffa jackets, sweaters, zip tops and T-shirts. All together, or paired with jeans. This hybrid genre mixes Lycra, spandex and neoprene distilled into something less functional and prettier by the likes of Alexander Wang or Lululemon, brands that have managed to convince millions of women to buy leggings instead of jeans. And as if there was any remaining question about the buzziest topic in the apparel industry right now, Nike CEO Mark Parker made a big proclamation at the Women’s Innovation summit in NYC: “Leggings are the new denim.” It’s never been cooler to be seen looking like you’ve been working out. Over the course of this extremely well-documented cultural shift toward casual dressing, gym-to-street clothes evolved as an official clothing category.
Its root words, athletic and leisure, are actually polar opposites. It’s a blanket term for activewear that’s not really meant to be sweat in at all. People buying “activewear” these days are buying it for “non active use, as casual and everyday-wear”. Beyoncé’s new coming Topshop line, however, is supposedly meant for moving like Queen Bey: booty-shaking, hip-thrusting, and hair-flipping included.
Why is it suddenly socially acceptable to wear gym clothes 24/7? Because not so long ago, it was considered quite a fashion faux pas to be seen running around town in your workout pants and sneakers -unless, of course, you lived somewhere like Los Angeles or Miami, where it’s always been perfectly acceptable to flaunt that permanent beach-ready body all the time. The thought process being that you wear workout clothes, therefore you must be an exercise fiend and you must be fit. In cities like Paris and London, however, sporting workout gear on the city streets was like being caught in your pajamas at the grocery store. It just wasn’t chic.
But today you can go just about anywhere in your leggings. Forget about dressing up and sartorial codes!
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