Athleisure is a hugely popular fashion category that blends common features of sportswear, streetwear, and leisurewear. It incorporates high-tech materials and fabrics to create a look that is at once functional, comfortable, and stylish. Athleisure garments can be worn in almost any casual scenario, whether you’re lounging at home, running some errands, or hitting the gym. Let’s take a closer look at the trend and narrow down some key pieces you should try to emulate the look.
Where Did Athleisure Come From?
American sportswear, a term that typically refers to relaxed—though not always casual—separates, has been around since the beginning of the 20th century. However, athleisure has its roots in the late 1970s when fitness regimens and, consequently, comfortable workout clothes became popular.
In the 1990s, athleisure was defined as clothes that borrowed aesthetic elements from workout apparel but weren’t designed for doing exercise. Over the last 20 years, with the development of modern fabrics and celebrity influence, athleisure has transformed into a $300 billion global industry that produces multi-purpose clothing that functions as both workout gear and everyday garments.
Advancements in technology have given athleisure designers a wide range of performance fabrics such as polyester, spandex, and nylon that are moisture-wicking, stretchy, supportive, and don’t wrinkle. The athleisure industry continues to grow as designers experiment with modern fabrics such as X-static, a fabric woven with silver. Silver’s antimicrobial properties prevent the growth of bacteria and stop workout clothes from developing odors.
Gore-tex® is a popular textile for athleisure outerwear because it is waterproof and breathable, making it perfect for outdoor activities. As the fashion industry has become more environmentally conscious, some athleisure brands have begun to embrace high-performance natural fabrics such as bamboo, loved for its softness, breathability, and suitability for those with sensitive skin. Consistent textile experimentation, such as the recently developed fabric that regulates the wearer’s temperature, keeps athleisure garments fresh, ensuring they stay popular.
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Key Athleisure Pieces
1. Keep It Simple with Athleisure Tops
T-shirts, sweaters, and hoodies should be sleek and simple for an athleisure look. Opt for crew-neck tops or a polo if you want to add a preppy spin to your aesthetic. Technical fabrics are popular in athleisure-style shirts, helping them remain wrinkle-free as well as keeping you cool when exercising. Opt for slim-cut designs for a more tailored look.
For a clean, modern aesthetic, stick to monochrome or have a little fun with bright solid colors. If you’re more into prints, try a subtle mottled fabric or even a cool marble-effect design—both are popular athleisure looks. You can give your sporty tops a personal touch by adding your favorite accessories, such as a gold chain for men or a contemporary hip bag.
2. Invest in Statement Sneakers
Sneakers are the cornerstone of the athleisure aesthetic; adding a pair of kicks to any outfit gives it a sporty twist that immediately ups the cool factor. Any sneakerhead knows that the world of athletic footwear is diverse. There’s a sneaker style to suit all tastes and occasions, but if you want to give the athleisure look a try, you should invest in a minimum of two pairs: a bold showstopper and an understated staple.
For your stand out pair, play around with bright colors and unusual shapes such as exaggerated chunky tread soles. An outstanding example of this kind of shoe is Nike’s Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% Flyknit. Basketball sneakers also often come in dynamic designs. If you’re looking for a more muted style, go for a classic white running shoe.
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3. Edgy-Yet-Comfortable Pants
Sweatpants are probably the most emblematic piece of athleisure apparel. While you might think of sweats as something you exclusively wear in the gym or on the couch, these pants have become a popular choice to wear out and about, thanks to subtle designer tweaks. Slim-fit designs, geometric panels, and modern performance fabrics elevate sweats, so you’ll feel confident wearing them anywhere.
Men’s running leggings have become more popular in recent years and have even been seen on high-fashion catwalks. These supportive yet stretchy pants are super comfortable and breathable, so they are the perfect match for sports. However, many men are incorporating them into their casual wardrobe. The trick is to add a pair of loose shorts over the top and pair them with a cool sporty jacket.
If you want to give this look a try but are worried about pulling it off, choose a simple black pair and black shorts. Once you get more confident with the style, you can play with different colors and patterns. Mix this ultra-athletic look with your favorite blinged-out pieces for an eye-catching signature style.
4. Experiment with Your Outerwear
Outerwear offers the opportunity to have some fun with your athleisure fashion. A great place to start is with a classic bomber jacket that can add an athletic twist to more formal looks but can also be paired with your other sporty pieces. Bomber jacket styles range from conservative neutrals to full-on bling sequins and silk, so you’re bound to find something that suits your personality.
Windbreakers are another staple of the athleisure world, and you’d be surprised just how cool they can look. Design features like exaggerated funnel necks, uneven hemlines, and quirky zippers take these jackets from functional to fashionable. Other popular outerwear pieces for you to experiment with are preppy track jackets, bold puffer jackets, and zip-up hoodies.
5. Accessorize with a Bag
A simple way to add a bit of athleisure style to your outfit is by adding an athletic bag. Adding a sporty duffle to a formal look immediately ups the cool factor, while a brightly colored backpack always makes you stand out. Men’s hip and waist bags have also become increasingly popular in recent years.
These small bags are super practical for doing sports. Once you’ve gotten used to wearing one on runs, you’ll find you never want to go out without it because it’s just so useful. Slipper styles can be worn around the waist, but larger designer hip bags tend to look better worn across your chest.
Athleisure has developed to suit our busy modern lifestyle and offers the perfect way for you to be comfortable while still looking slick. Head to toe athleisure outfits look fantastic, but there’s no need to dive in headfirst; simply introducing a few activewear pieces into your existing wardrobe, such as a cool bomber jacket or pair of classic sneakers, can make your look groundbreaking.
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