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What Does Athleisure Mean and Why is the Trend so Popular?

No matter where you look or listen these days, it seems like athleisure has taken over. From magazine covers to reality TV and across social media, we’re seeing celebs and influencers embrace athleisure in every possible way.

To the uninitiated, athleisure might not seem like a big breakthrough or departure from the norm, and that’s true to a degree. However, 21st century athleisure is something fresh and new, even with inspiration from the past.

In this article, we’re walking you through the real meaning of athleisure, discussing its origins and where things are headed next.

We’ll even talk about the benefits of wearing this clothing style and a few ways you can hop on the bandwagon yourself. Without delay, let’s learn all about athleisure!

Defining Athleisure

You’ll get different definitions of athleisure from all over the map, but people generally agree that it’s a crossover trend incorporating elements of activewear, casual fashion, and street style.

The word itself tells you the basics – athletics and leisure together at last.

Sporty aesthetics, minimalist lines, and bold branded icons and logos – these are just a few key features that athleisure is known for. Function and fashion are at the core of athleisure, and that’s what sets it apart. It’s truly a “look good, feel good” philosophy that everyone can embrace.

Like so many style trends, athleisure is tough to pinpoint with precision, but you know it when you see it! Just look to any media outlet or fashion account on social media to see athleisure in action, because these days, you can’t miss it.

Origins of the Trend

We can take a brief trip back in time to see when athleisure first gained traction, thanks to fitness icons in the 70s and 80s like Golden Era Arnold, Olivia Newton-John, and Jane Fonda.

Fitness went from a fringe activity to the mainstream during this time, and a new wave of clothing came along with it. The tights, the headbands, the neon – just watch a few of the instructional fitness videos from back in the day to get an idea of how it all began.

These styles might seem a little “out-there” to us now, and they were certainly left-field looks back then. But regardless of how you feel about Richard Simmons and “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”, we owe that whole crew some credit with their pioneering fits.

As fitness became more mainstreamed, the clothes matured a bit and we saw more basic colored crewnecks, t-shirts, sneakers, and other classic gym wear.

From there, these sportswear styles were embraced by hip-hop culture and popular athletes with massive sponsorship from major companies. By the late 90s, athleisure was everywhere, even if we didn’t know it yet. It wasn’t just acceptable to be fit and wear activewear – it was cool!

Modern Styles and Features

It wasn’t until recent years that athleisure really came into its own thanks to the exploding popularity of yoga gear, streetwear, and independent fashion brands putting their own twist on the trend.

The market is expected to reach $257 billion in the next five years, up from $155 billion in 2018, and much of this growth is thanks to social media hype and digitally native brands capitalizing on the wave.

There is also a big lifestyle component to the athleisure trend, encouraging people to get out, get fit, and live life to the fullest while looking good.

The styles may not be totally revolutionary, but materials and technology have made these clothes vastly superior to the activewear of the past.

Softer, stretchier, more comfortable and durable – these traits are key to a successful activewear set, and it’s what everyone wants from brands at the moment.

Here are a few favorite garments and accessories common in today’s athleisure looks:

  • Sneakers inspired by basketball, tennis, and hybrid training
  • Yoga pants, leggings, tights, biker shorts, capri-length “travel” pants
  • Tank tops, tee shirts, long sleeves, crop tops, sports bras
  • Active crewneck sweaters, sporty cardigans, slim tunics
  • Streetwear-inspired jewelry (rings, chains, pendants, earrings)
  • Bags, totes, backpacks, fanny packs, shoulder sling bags

Remember, you don’t need to be 100% athleisure all the time to enjoy the trend. You can mix and match activewear components with other, more traditional elements to create something fresh and new. That’s what fashion is all about.

Benefits of Athleisure Clothing

If you’ve been all about athleisure for years, you don’t need much convincing to get on board. However, let’s go over some benefits of athleisure nevertheless.

Comfort and Convenience

It doesn’t take a fashion expert to recognize the main appeal of athleisure. These clothes are super comfortable and far more convenient to wear than even the most simple formalwear.

For starters, you’ve got fabrics that are designed to feel like a second skin. We’re talking about lycra, elastane, spandex, nylon, quality polyester, and lightweight cotton.

Whether you’re in a slim-fitting tank or a looser pair of casual capris, these are clothes that feel fantastic and flatter your physique.

Don’t deny the convenience factor, either. An athleisure outfit only takes a few seconds to put on, requiring no buttons, tucking, ironing, or dry-cleaning. For a generation that loves saving time and making things easy, it’s no wonder why athleisure is such a hit.


Yes, athleisure clothing is flexible in a literal sense, but it’s also versatile from a fashion perspective. You can use the same pair of leggings in several different outfits or the same tank top every day of the week (if you wash it, of course).

With so many ways to layer and style different garments, athleisure allows you to get maximum mileage from every item in your wardrobe.

It’s great for someone leading a minimalist lifestyle or trying out something like a capsule wardrobe. For city folks who don’t have a ton of closet space to work with or big budgets to blow, these space efficient clothes are definitely worth their weight.


We’ve mostly just talked about aesthetics so far, but we can’t ignore the functional benefits of athleisure clothing when we actually set foot in the gym!

The materials and fits are designed for total range of motion, whether you’re doing cardio, yoga, or lifting weights. They are light enough to make you feel like anything is possible and tackle those fitness goals with full confidence.

Furthermore, many athleisure garments have a slight compression effect, especially in yoga pants designed specifically for the studio. That extra bit of pressure on the calves, thighs, and butt make it possible to achieve more on the mat or in the squat rack.

Finally, there’s a motivational element to athleisure that has been shown to help you break through mental barriers and hit those numbers on your fitness wearable app. When you’re dressed for the occasion (in this case, fitness) you’re going to live up to the challenge.

How to Get with the Athleisure Trend

With all this talk about athleisure, you’re probably ready to rush out and fill your shopping carts with every type of stretchy, colorful garment you can find.

We suggest that you take a more measured approach to athleisure and make smart picks so you don’t end up with a closet full of duplicates and items that collect dust.

Remember that the point of athleisure is to make use of these clothes and wear them to maximum potential, from the gym and studio to the beach, park, and café.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the trend and make the best choices.

Search for Inspiration

You only need to launch any social media app to see athleisure on nearly every account, and there’s no shortage of examples.

On your quest for inspiration, bookmark some of your favorite looks, follow accounts that suit your style, and keep a short list of brands that you think are worth your time and money.

It’s never a bad call to sign up for email newsletters from these brands as well, since they often send updates and drop new collections that you’ll want to be first in line for.

Search for similar clothes in stores or stick to the web – whatever works for you.

Subscription Box Services

If traditional shopping isn’t your thing but you still want to experience athleisure for yourself, consider signing up for a subscription box service that ships great outfits directly to your door.

Your only requirement is a short quiz that asks about your shape, size, and style. Just wait for the outfits to arrive and pick your favorites while sending back the unwanted items. It’s that easy!

Athleisure should be fun and stress-free, and a subscription activewear service can help make that happen for you.

In Conclusion

Athleisure isn’t going anywhere, so get used to it and get on board!



What is athleisure? — Style Tips | Thread

Athleisure Definition | Investopedia

How Did Athleisure Take Over American Fashion? | The Atlantic

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