Athletic wear to day wear: The clothes that are no longer restricted to the gym

By Victoria Norwine

Savannah Jackson, SMU sophomore, wakes up and puts on her patterned Lululemon leggings, her solid pink nike T-shirt and sneakers as she pulls her curly hair back in a tight bun. It looks like she is on her way to the gym, but really she is just going to class with no intention of actually working out that day. She wanted to wear something comfortable that she could walk around campus in from class to class.

“Athletic wear is definitely my favorite thing to wear because I feel the most comfortable in it,” Jackson said. “I know it looks good on me, regardless if I’m at the gym or just in class.”

Jackson’s routine is just one example of a growing trend among women in America who are starting to wear athletic-based clothing as casual day-wear. This newly adopted style now has a name of “athleisure chic” or “athleisure wear” and is quickly spreading throughout the U.S.

This growing shift toward “athlesiure wear” is beginning to blur the lines of athletic wear and casual-day wear. Brands like Lululemon, Splits59 and Nike are seen more on the streets and at grocery stores on women who have no motive of working out.

The primary reason that 38 percent of consumers said they purchased athletic clothing is actually not to exercise in it, but rather to wear it casually, according to a study done by Mintel, an independent market analysis company with a focus on consumers.

Although tight spandex may have died in the 80s, this new push for comfortable clothes appears to be making its comeback; this time without all the bright neon, leotards, leg warmers and the sideways ponytails (hopefully that is something that will stay dead).

“I think a lot of it is being lazy and not having to pick out an outfit. Workout clothes are a lot easier to throw on, especially now that they’re cuter and more flattering, it’s more acceptable to wear workout clothes when you aren’t working out,” Shannon Lindee, co-editor for SMUstyle, said. “I think this trend has been taking off because in fashion, trends usually contrast the trends before them.”

These overarching trends, minimalism in fashion and casualization in society has drastically increased the acceptance of “athleisure wear.” Consumers are craving leggings, because jeans are so passé. Bring on the comfy T-shirts because who wants take time to iron those blouses?

Many fitness clothing brands have not shied away from the opportunity to capitalize on the “athleisure wear” trend. Lululemon saw a rise in their revenue as it rose 33 percent from 2013 to 2014. Nike’s revenue hit record highs in America for the 2014 fiscal year, reaching $12.3 billion, which was up 10 percent versus a year ago. The Nike company set a revenue target for this year at $28-$30 billion.

“Some athletic brands, like Lululemon, are more about status. And people are wanting cuter options… Now you can look put together while almost wearing pajamas. Its become a preferred mode of comfort. ” said Chelsea Bell, fashion media director at SMU.

Increased importance in society about personal wellness, physical fitness and gym memberships has also helped shape the acceptance of “athleisure wear.” According to a Mintel report, 75 percent of Americans are working out at rates that were equal to or more than they did a year ago.

Some of these physical activities require certain types of athletic clothing. For example, there are now different styles of leggings for running, cycling, tennis and yoga. After these women finish their workout, they still want to look trendy and comfortable so they can walk around in public feeling confident in what they are wearing.

“I just got done working out at Deadman, and I don’t feel weird about going to class a bit sweaty because my leggings are cute, and I’m comfortable,” sophomore Natalie Charles said.

The choices consumers make about clothing and even the paths they are taking to purchase clothing is transforming the fitness wear industry. Consumers are beginning to purchase more clothing items from online only retailers such as, Fabletics, which was co-founded by actress Kate Hutson.

Athletics.jpg
Courtesy of Fabletics

“The fitness clothing industry is at a three-way intersection of fitness, leisure, and fashion,” said Diana Smith, Senior Research Analyst on Retail Apparel. “Consumers are demanding clothing options that are as versatile as they are themselves, and reflective of their busy lifestyles…The industry is literally being transformed by consumers’ changing lifestyles, shopping habits, wallet thresholds, and technological prowess.”

This fashion movement, known as “athleisure wear,” is inspiring a flurry of new products and innovations from retailers, which is helping to fuel its continued advancement in the market place. A plethora of colors and patterns can now be seen in new, versatile styles.

“I like how it adds color to my day and keeps my day interesting,” Jackson said.

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