It is nearly impossible to ignore this trend. It includes wearing pieces that used to be only acceptable at the gym. However, this trend is now going global. In fact it is so prevalent that it has earned itself a Wikipedia article and even its own term: ‘athleisure’. It’s the trend where gymwear – yoga pants, sneakers, exercise tops, you name it, is worn as streetwear. Indeed, sportswear has become truly fashionable.
To some extent, sportswear as street clothing represents the high-pace lifestyle that the modern society fosters. We’re so busy that we can’t keep up unless we’re wearing trainers, and who wouldn’t mind running around in trainers compared to heels or uncomfortable flats? The first time I witnessed this trend was when I was in New York a few years ago. Seeing women dressed in formal office wear, moving about in sneakers on the street at first seemed absurd. Yet quite quickly, it all became logical: after a long day at work in heels, changing to comfortable shoes to get home is probably a wise idea. The trend has only grown and developed during the past few years.
Furthermore, the recent popularity of fitness and yoga, or of any sports relating to mindfulness, could be the reason for the success of athletic wear. In a world where there are colouring books for adults, commuting in trainers seems perfectly acceptable. Perhaps wearing sportswear in an everyday context reminds us of the importance of our health and wellbeing. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that people who exercise are happier. Incorporating sports into our everyday clothing could most definitely improve our well-being. At the very least, wearing sneakers could prevent the development of back pain.
One must not forgetting the intelligent marketing that brands themselves use. There is clear evidence of the popularity of ‘athleisure’; according to Morgan Stanley, the sales for athletic wear have increased 42 per cent over the past seven years.
Indeed, many sportswear brands have collaborated with big names so as to boost their sales. When people are willing to camp outside of a store in the middle of winter in ice cold Helsinki to get a pair of coveted Yeezy Boost sneakers (the product of Kanye West’s collaboration with Adidas), brands must be doing something right. On top of that, brands ranging from high street stores to high end boutiques have launched their own lines of sportswear. H&M was the true hybrid, bringing in Alexander Wang and his athletic aesthetic. Not to mention that Topshop is launching an athleisure range by Beyoncé for April 2016. Brands have truly made sportswear appealing to the masses.
In addition, certain celebrities have been extremely influential in putting sportswear into the public eye. For example, MØ, the Danish singer, incorporates sportswear in her eccentric everyday attire. As we witness people around us fuelling the trend, it becomes increasingly acceptable to appear as though you have just come from the gym.
On the other hand, athleisure is often not intended to be worn at the gym at all. Or even if intended, seems extremely inconvenient for that particular purpose. Looking at Alexander Wang’s H&M collection, the shirts and trousers for both men and women are fashionable and have a sporty flair, but are mostly not intended for physical exertion. Maybe a reason athletic wear is now socially acceptable is that the new outfits that are based on sports wear aren’t necessarily meant to be worn as sportswear at all. Wearing sportswear no longer implies sweating.
Sportswear will continue to drive growth in the fashion across 2016. It appears to have captured the attention of major designers and the trend continues to grow. Morgan Stanley predicts that the sales of such wear will boom, adding $83 billion to sales by 2020. The real question is whether athleisure is just a fleeting phenomenon or here to stay.