Athleisure is a huge buzzword, but what does it actually mean? Here’s what you need to know about this fashion trend.
We’ve heard of athleisure. You’ve heard of athleisure. In fact, it seems like everyone has heard the term, but what does it really mean? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Athleisure?
Even if you haven’t been paying that much attention to fashion recently, you’ve probably heard of athleisure, and you’ve almost certainly seen it (whether online or in real life).
First, let’s break down what it is.
The word “athleisure” is a portmanteau of “athletic” and “leisure” that describes relaxed, comfortable athletic clothing like performance t-shirts, hoodies, and joggers.
Basically, wearing athleisure makes it look like you’re perpetually on your way to the gym.
However, athleisure is usually much more fashion-forward than strictly athletic apparel. Regular athletic clothing tends to be pretty plain because it’s focused on being functional, but athleisure clothing often features bright colors and noticeable designs.
By many accounts, athleisure was originally a way to kill two birds with one stone. The official Merriam-Webster definition of the term is “casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use.”
Today, many people wear athleisure simply for the looks. Lululemon was the first company to really capitalize on this style and design athletic wear with fashion in mind. Even today, “athleisure” and “Lululemon” are practically synonymous.
However, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson wrote in 2018 that athleisure has nothing to do with the technical wear he set out to create with his company.
According to Wilson, “Athleisure is faux athletic gear sold largely to non-athletes who care about fashion, not necessarily function. Technical wear is for active individuals who value performance first, plus the flexibility of clothing stylish enough to wear on the street.”
Still, athleisure has become an enormous industry, and it’s become cemented as one of the most popular styles today. Most athleisure garments are indeed focused more on fashion than function, so you can’t necessarily expect to use athleisure clothing for actual exercise.
Where Did the Term Originate?
Merriam-Webster found that “athleisure” dates back to at least 1979, though the term only gained widespread use in the 2010s.
In Wilson’s article, he attributed the rise of the term to the New York fashion industry.
Who Is It For?
One of the reasons athleisure has blown up in recent years is that it appeals to different types of people. Even though it’s based on athletic clothing, you don’t have to be a highly active athlete to wear athleisure.
Generally, people like athleisure for its aesthetic, its practicality, or both.
Athletic-style clothing has been in fashion for quite some time, and athleisure is a natural extension of that vibe.
But athleisure clothing is also practical. This is one reason why athleisure grew during the lockdowns when people were working from home and needed comfortable yet presentable clothes.
And, of course, many active people do wear athleisure when they’re not in action. For these people, athleisure is a continuation of their lifestyle.
Where Is Athleisure Appropriate
Seeing as athleisure is a mix of many different styles, it can be hard to know when it’s appropriate to wear.
In addition, athleisure clothing can range from loose and casual to structured and polished. This means that the question of whether athleisure is appropriate depends not only on the context but also on the specific garments you want to wear.
Let’s first address the obvious question: Is it appropriate to wear athleisure at work?
While athleisure does take some design cues from business casual wear, the two styles don’t have as much overlap as you might think. Unless your workplace has an extremely relaxed dress code, you probably won’t get away with a full athleisure outfit.
The main problem is that athleisure simply doesn’t look professional enough. Even though most workplaces no longer require you to show up in a suit, you’re still mostly expected to adhere to business casual dress.
That said, there are certain athleisure garments that may be acceptable in some work environments. For example, a pair of joggers that could be mistaken for relaxed chinos could be fine for the office.
Likewise, we recommend avoiding athleisure for more formal situations. The one possible exception here is a date — if you’re going for a casual look (and if your date also tends to wear athleisure), then you should be fine.
For the most part, athleisure is a casual style that can’t be dressed up too much. It’s fine for social situations and going out to run errands, but you’ll likely want to avoid it for work and other more formal scenarios.
What Are Key Athleisure Clothing Items?
When it comes to athleisure for men, there are certain garments that have proven to be more popular than others.
Here’s a quick look at five of the most popular athleisure items for men:
The athleisure tee is a foundational garment for the style. These tees are based on performance t-shirts worn by athletes but have a more stylish look to them.
Usually, athleisure tees are fitted and made of lightweight, often stretchy materials like polyester, nylon, and Lycra.
Many athleisure fits rely on the extra layer of a hoodie or jacket, making these two items absolutely essential.
Typically, athleisure hoodies and jackets have more variation than t-shirts. Hoodies can be thin and stretchy or thick and soft, while many athleisure-style jackets take inspiration from classics like bombers and windbreakers.
While athleisure sweatpants do exist, joggers have become the bottoms of choice for this style. Joggers are often more tapered than sweatpants, making them ideal for athleisure.
Joggers are typically characterized by cuffed ankles and an elastic waistband. The fit varies, but they tend to be cut on the slimmer side. Depending on the style, joggers can resemble more casual chinos or more structured sweatpants.
As you’d expect, shorts form another integral part of the athleisure look. We’re not talking about baggy gym shorts here — athleisure shorts are usually slim and minimal.
Inseam lengths of 7” and 5” are most common, which is great news for shorter guys. For most athleisure fits, there’s no need to go longer than 7”.
You can’t finish off any respectable athleisure outfit without a pair of
Here I’ve answered a few more of the most commonly asked questions about athleisure.
What Does Athleisure Mean?
The word “athleisure” is a combination of “athletic” and “leisure” and generally refers to athletic-inspired clothing that’s especially comfortable to wear.
What Is Considered Athleisure Wear?
For the most part, athleisure wear is defined by clothes that look athletic but feel like loungewear. Lululemon’s clothes are what most people think of when they think of athleisure. That said, a lot of athletic wear can be considered athleisure.
What Is the Difference Between Activewear and Athleisure?
Activewear is performance gear that’s built to be durable for athletes and other high-activity users, while athleisure is non-technical clothing that’s meant to be worn casually.
Why Is Athleisure So Popular?
Athleisure has become popular for many reasons. Two big causes of the athleisure boom are the desire to maintain a healthier lifestyle (or at least look like you do) and the desire for more convenient clothing that can be worn in multiple situations.
Wrapping Up: Is Athleisure For You?
Athleisure has become one of the most popular clothing styles today, and there’s little doubt it will be one of the defining looks of the 2010s and 2020s.
Its mass appeal can mostly be attributed to its active-looking aesthetic and extreme practicality. Because of that, athleisure is probably not going away anytime soon.
And while athleisure isn’t the right look for every guy, it’s a convenient and fitting option for men who already take fashion inspiration from athletic clothing.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!