Subclass spotlight: Athleisure

As promised, we wanted to take a deeper look at the categories or subclasses that exist under the technical clothing umbrella. The top of the list in our Techwear 101 article is none other than athleisure. Athleisure is said to have started as far back as 2010, though the roots of the style began in the late 90s with the emergence of everyday worn yoga pants. One of the most known athleisure brands is Lululemon. On the higher end of the spectrum is the famed Y-3 brand from Adidas and designer Yohji Yamamoto. 

Image credit : Nike

The entire athleisure category started with the excessive use of yoga pants but was born from the want to look good while relaxing, hence the leisure part of the athleisure word. It is often said that athleisure kept sportswear in the fashion sector, considering the massive growth it saw in the early 2010s and beyond. Athleisure was mostly comprised of women who wore yoga pants for comfort. They had no idea they began a trend that would spawn a massive fashion takeover.

Though Lululemon came out in 1998 with yoga pants, they hadn’t begun to morph into one of the premiere athleisure brands until the 2010s, and that had a lot to do with the fact that the athleisure style hadn’t come into prominence until then.

What separates athleisure from majority of the other subclasses in techwear is that the style and look of this fashion comes first. There is a greater emphasis on style and color as opposed to the water repellency features, although that function still exists. The high function in athleisure brands is mostly comprised of comfort and flexibility. People want to wear these items in public without necessarily having to be in a workout type setting. That’s not to say that people aren’t being active in Athleisure brands.

Image Credit : MilesClarkPhoto

Form fitting and nice feeling athleisure clothing is what most people want, and that is further proven by the fact that the premiere athleisure brand, Lululemon, might turn into a $258 billion dollar company by 2026. More independent brands like Alo Yoga, Vuori Clothing, and Epoque Evolution have also begun to follow suit in terms of success.

The idea behind most athleisure is to give off the aesthetic of being able to wear gym clothes outside of the gym. It’s the deeper idea that workout clothes can look stylish and can be made to wear in places that don’t require activity. Fashion forward leisure clothing is the idea.

One “next-gen athleisure” category that had been created in 2020, wanted to introduce “yoga pants that will, whenever we return to the office, double as totally acceptable office pants.” That’s an interesting way to look at what athleisure is and what it might become in the future. Futurism is what most technical clothing concerns itself with and why it is called technical clothing to begin with.

People want to relax and be comfortable in public, but they but they also want to look good while doing so. This is how athleisure has taken over in terms of fashion forward comfort. Textiles and technology have been implemented into improving athleisure. Take the Sunday Performance Joggers from Vuori, for instance. These look to be like the type of sweatpants one might wear at home, only they bring a more stylish flare to them. These joggers are meant for training and running, as they come standard with tapered legs for comfort. The tapered legs keep the pants from potentially riding up, and they also come with moisture wicking technology.

Nike Tech Running

Image Credit : Nike

Moisture wicking is a form of water repellency that helps to protect the material and wearer from potential wet situations. Although these are sweatpants, they look to be tons more stylish than the sweatpants or joggers that you would find at Walmart. That is where athleisure shines. Taking the everyday workout clothes and turning placing them into a more fashionable realm.

Where the athleisure brand took off as a higher-end fashion staple is when the Y-3 brand was released. Majority of the items in that spectrum are far pricier, but it is one of the most recognizable in the athleisure spectrum. Take the Y-3 Elegant Shorts as an example. These look to be every part of the running shorts or basketball shorts that are part of an everyday working out outfit. They offer a much more stylistic longer drape design. It’s taking the normal style but adding a stylistic flare. The price is also $275 based on the quality of material used. This is part of the style that has been heavily incorporated into athleisure brands. 

Additional functionality on the shorts is an adjustable waist via a drawcord and button closure. There is also a back pocket that contains snap button closures, front pockets, and belt loops. Think of basketball shorts that have been elevated. This is athleisure.

Image credit : Kith

So, since athleisure comprises itself of how the style looks versus how it operates, how does it fall under the techwear umbrella? Simply put, athleisure still contains functionality that exists in majority of all techwear. The above mentioned Vouri Joggers contain a moisture wicking element that exists in a great deal of techwear. Most times that function is in the form of DWR treatment or Gore-Tex, but the same principle is there. The tapered legs that conform to the body are also an element of techwear. They allow for a slimmer feel and look. Same as tapered legs in techwear pants.

All this technology is incorporated to make the athleisure style, along with the others in the technical clothing umbrella, highly functional. The difference is that athleisure fans want to look good. Again, the idea is that those functions exist within the clothing, making them techwear, but the functions aren’t at the forefront of everyone’s minds who buy athleisure style items. 

Athleisure was created from sportswear, but with a much deeper need to be versatile, comfortable, and fashionable. There is no telling where this fashion trend will go in the future, but athleisure is certainly here to stay and has become one of the premiere fashion trends for technical clothing.