To say that athleisure is a trend wouldn't necessarily be wrong, but it wouldn't be doing it justice either.
Since the beginning of the 2010s, athleisure, a style of clothing worn as athletic apparel but also suitable for casual, everyday wear (per dictionary.com), has not only become a trend but created an entirely new category of fashion that's changing the rules of how people wear clothes.
A quick look at Google Trends shows the rapid pace that Athleisure has taken off at.
This chart shows the search popularity of the term "athleisure" over the past decade. You can see, it had virtually no traction until around 2015, but has increased steadily since then.
In an interview with Business Insider, Todd Snyder, the former head of menswear at J.Crew said that he thinks athleisure is an "evolution," as opposed to a trend or fad.
According to Deirdre Clemente, a fashion historian at UNLV, we can attribute the rise of athleisure to three things:
- Technical improvements to fabrics
- A modern fixation of healthy appearance as a form of status
- A long decline of formality in American fashion
“One hundred years ago, you would have day clothes for the street, dinner clothes for the restaurant, theater clothes, and so many genres of dress,” Clemente said in an interview with the Atlantic. “Those barriers have come down. Athleisure is the ultimate breaking down of barriers.”
That sentiment is at the heart of athleisure. Rather than an outfit for every single occasion, what people value in clothes now is versatility –– clothes that are appropriate for multiple situations.
Athleisure is the answer to the versatility problem. Arriving at the perfect moment in history, signs only point to athleisure wear as the leader of fashion moving forward.
What Counts (and Doesn't Count) as Athleisure?
Like we clarified above, athleisure clothing is clothing with the traditional trappings of athletic wear, but are fit for everyday use. Once considered appropriate for either the gym or home, athleisure has become high fashion, as the fashion industry has blurred the line between streetwear and sportswear.
An important thing to clarify here: this does not mean that any pair of sweatpants or any zip-up hoodie qualifies as athleisure.
Yes, athleisure is casual, but it's not sloppy. This is still fashion, after all, meaning the baggy heather grey sweats you wore in middle school aren't going to cut it.
Unflattering sweatpants and cheap ill-fitting sweatshirts of old are not what this movement is about. Athleisure is defined by ultra-soft, slim-fitting, casual athletic wear that's made for performance, but still looks at home outside of the gym.
This means, rather than traditional sweatpants, athleisure looks more like tapered joggers. And rather than heavy, boxy shirts, think shirts with a slimmer profile, made out of softer, more performance-ready materials like polyester-cotton blends or tri-blends.
Tips for Starting an Athleisure Brand
If you're looking to start your athleisure brand while the trend is still relatively new, we have some tips for you to consider while you're planning.
Keep the message simple and inspirational
The heart of athleisure is comfort, simplicity, and inspiration, and your designs should reflect that. This means a lot of simple 1-2 color prints that should transitional well between the gym and other everyday activities.
Offer multiple styles of the same design
When it comes to your line, it helps to have different styles of garments available. If you have a design you know you'll love, be sure to order it on an array of garments, like t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, sweaters, etc. Giving your customers options will make it easier for them to say yes to purchasing.
Plus, there's no additional cost to switch garments if your design is the same.* If you were to order 50 t-shirts, 30 tank tops, and 20 sweaters of the same design, as long as the design is the same, you'll receive the price break for 100 pieces, rather than have them all priced individually.
*With garment switches, if you order less than 20 of a particular style, an "under minimum" charge of $25 applies. For example, if you print 10 white shirts and 10 black shirts, you'd be charged $25, but if you were ordering 20 white shirts and 20 black shirts, you wouldn't.
Light and soft is the key
When it comes to the particular pieces of apparel, lightweight and soft garments are where you'll want to look. Lightweight is easier to wear in a light workout without getting overheated, and soft fabrics are much more comfortable to move around in.
T-shirts that are tri-blends and sweaters/hoodies that are a polyester/cotton blend will be the items to look out for.
Here's a list of our favorite apparel pieces that perfectly blend active and stylish, making them the ideal pieces for athleisure.
Best men's athleisure tops
- Bella+Canvas 3749 | Unisex Crossover Hoodie
- American Apparel TR401 | Tri-Blend Track T-Shirt
- Alternative Apparel 12365 | Marathon Eco-Jersey Pullover Hoodie
- Bella+Canvas 3413 | Unisex Triblend S/S Tee
Best women's athleisure tops
- Alternative Apparel 03095B2 | Slinky Jersey Muscle Tanktop
- Bella+Canvas 7503 | Wolmen's Cropped Crew Fleece
- Independent Trading Co. AFX64CRP | Women's Lightweight Crop Hooded Pullover
- Bella+Canvas 8882 | Women's Flowy Cropped Tee
Athleisure has certainly taken the fashion industry by storm in the past few years, and it has no signs of slowing down. More than a trend, this looks like a complete shift in how people approach fashion, so if you're looking to get in on the trend, now's the time.