What is Athleisure, and Why is it Being Called the Biggest Trend of the 21st Century?

What is Athleisure, and Why is it Being Called the Biggest Trend of the 21st Century?

If you love fashion, then you probably already know that not many fashion movements persist for longer than a year or two. However, sometimes there is

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If you love fashion, then you probably already know that not many fashion movements persist for longer than a year or two. However, sometimes there is something more significant that changes in the way we think about how we dress, and it influences the more minor trends that come and go for decades to follow. Major changes in fashion in the 20th century could include denim becoming a staple in everyday fashion, and pants becoming standard things that women wear.

Now that we are almost two decades into the 21st century, it is possible to look at changes that have happened in the time that has passed which have truly affected fashion for the long term, rather than being fun fleeting trends. The biggest fashion shift of this kind is the arrival of athleisure fashion as something that can be worn for all kinds of occasions, rather than just for the gym or when doing sports.

What Really is Athleisure?

Athleisure is the term that has been adopted in the mainstream fashion media to describe the marriage of performance sports clothing with streetwear, and in some cases, even less casual forms of dress. Athleisure still has a focus on clothing that is designed to look good, and so this does not mean a movement towards a lazier, scruffier style where everybody is in sweats all the time; rather it is the adaptation of comfortable, practical things in breathable, hi-tech fabrics to uses outside of the realm of sports and fitness. Brands producing clothing that fit with this new way of looking at casual fashion include both high-end designer labels and the biggest names in sports clothing.

This means that luxury brands are applying their design expertise and brand desirability to things like sneakers and yoga pants, where sports and activewear brands are bringing out lines with a lot more of a fashion focus, designed to be worn for the overlap between training and normal day wear. If you check out a high end fashion retailer like SSENSE, you can find some examples in the form of the latest Gucci sneakers, and other athleisure-inspired shoes. SSENSE stocks the latest collections from all of the most coveted designer names, and it is easy to see when browsing their footwear and other lines that a sporty element is prevalent across many collections.

How Did Athleisure Come in to Fashion in the First Place?

Athleisure may have come into fashion in its current incarnation in the early 2000s, however, there has been some element of sports clothing making its way into mainstream fashion ever since the home fitness trends of the seventies and eighties. When we picture eighties fashion, it is difficult not to imagine brightly coloured sportswear, for example, leg warmers, leggings and shell suits, and in the nineties, while this fad, in particular, had died out, fashion inspired by sports still had a place, including skater fashion and basketball-inspired sneaker trends.

Where this differed from athleisure as it has become now is in where people were wearing these outfits, and how these pieces were mixed in with other clothes. People were still wearing what were effectively full sports outfits; they were just wearing them in casual settings that weren’t the sports pitch or the gym. Now, both designers and consumers are going further to blend the performance elements of sports clothing like yoga pants, bike shorts, running jackets, sports bras and sneakers with high fashion or fast fashion themes, with the intent being for these clothes to replace or blend in with other clothing to create looks appropriate for all kinds of settings, including casual workplaces and clubs as well as for general streetwear.

How Do We Know Athleisure isn’t Just Another Passing Fad?

One of the easiest ways to tell that athleisure is being widely adopted and is starting to become the norm in casual dress is in the way it is affecting sales of denim. When it comes to streetwear, there aren’t really many things you can compare to jeans in terms of ubiquity across generations, but athleisure is starting to be seen as a reasonable alternative, with more and more people choosing athletic wear over denim in the form of shorts, yoga pants and jackets. Another thing to consider is that athleisure is a category of clothing in its own right, and so is also susceptible to smaller seasonal trends, in terms of colours, cuts and fabrics, and this is something that doesn’t tend to apply to short term fashion shifts.

What do you think? Do you love athleisure with its fun, easy to wear looks and high-performance comfort, or will you be sticking to denim for your casual wardrobe?