Remember when leggings weren’t considered pants? It seems like that was lifetime ago; before statement leggings were a thing, investing in your comfort became fashion forward and you’re more than encouraged to show off your bra. Thanks to millennials, the evidential lifestyle shift has not only become common place, but is earning the industry some decent coin. It offset sales in jeans via a market size in 2014 as $35 billion and was worth $270 billion by 2016. While experts say its growth in the fashion industry will be modest, it is estimated to expand by 30% by the year 2020. With all that in mind, it wasn’t a complete bombshell that the term, athleisure, was added into the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2016.
We all know what athleisure looks like, thanks to editorials and the IT supermodels of the moment, but just what is its demarcation in the clothing industry? Merriam-Webster defines it as, “casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use.” Somewhat vague, but that’s because it’s supposed to be a broad category of apparel. As Nedra Rhone of The Atlanta Journal put it, “Think yoga pants and hoodies with a bit of elevated design that looks good in or outside the gym.”
You might be thinking, isn’t that just sportswear… or activewear? Perhaps active wear blending into sportwear? Wait, aren’t they all jut the same thing and we’re splitting hairs over terminology. All this so we can wear yoga pants constantly, devoid of judgement? We did a little digging and here’s what we’ve come up with.
As the name suggests, sportswear is the accessories, shoes and clothes that are specifically for sports. You wouldn’t normally be seen shopping at your nearest mall with these, since the fabrics, comfort level, style and thermal properties were used to suit certain function of a sport. Making it particularly limited.
Activewear, on the other hand, play with function, style and comfort to make movement easier. They serve the purpose of helping the wearer mingle effortlessly in a casual society. So, you could work out and contentedly run an errand in the same attire. The choice of light-weight, form fitting styles and fabrics come in more than just pink and black hues. For people who like being outdoors, living a rather active life, it’s the function and stylish edge that allows them to be comfortable and presentable.
Then there’s athleisure, which could be activewear on steroids. it takes the current ‘dress-down’ culture and mixes it in with High fashion brands and the demand for performance apparel. It gives the wearer the chance to look a part of the ‘health-conscious wave’ without essentially owning a gym membership or salad bar card. While it maintains the comfort aspect, it also gets the haute couture treatment. Design is a particularly important aspect, not just for function but for aesthetics as well. Subsequently, you will still see sweatshirts and hoodies, but you’ll also find trench coats and high heels in the mix. What sets it apart is that it’s open to interpretation and so you can adapt it to your own style.
What’s interesting about the athleisure industry is that it developed a market that is weirdly inclusive. Whether you’re cash point is Balmain’s sweatpants or something a little more pocket friendly, shoppers can always find something on trend. It also has the versatility that most trends lack and thus die out for a season (or for good). So now that you know what exactly athleisure is, is it time to think about how it pertains to your customer base?