My gym is located in a mall. If I want to exercise before the mall’s opening times, I need to show my gym access pass and usually when the guards see me in my gym gear, they just let me through. Last week, I was approaching the main door and just wanted to walk through in my gym gear. But the guard stopped me and asked why I needed to enter the building. I was a bit surprised, pointed at my gym outfit and showed him the pass and was then let through.
I did not pay too much attention to it until I met a friend for lunch the same day at the same mall. This place is very popular for expats and upper class locals and the restaurant was packed with women in high-end gym gear. And then it dawned on me: athleisure. If women wear these outfits for lunch and coffee meet-ups, no wonder the guard was confused.
Athleisure, according to the Cambridge Dictionary is: “a style of clothing that is comfortable and suitable for doing sports, but also fashionable and attractive enough to wear for other activities”. According to the Urban Dictionary it is “athletic wear that can be worn away from the gym”. And the restaurant felt like an athleisure runway: Lululemon tops, Nike pants. I always thought that people wearing athleisure just came from the gym or headed to the gym afterwards.
A week later a friend told me about mothers who spend the day at a café near the school where she works – all in athleisure. “Maybe they come from a run and then pick up the kids?”, I asked. According to my friend, these outfits have no athletic function. This is what a lot of women wear today.
I would have never thought about wearing athletic apparel if I am not exercising. First of all, I would not want to spend a whole day in polyester. (On a side note: I am excitedly following all the start-ups in the field working on alternative materials for active wear.) Secondly, I do not think it is particularly flattering. Let’s be honest: leggings can be very revealing. And thirdly, I just do not think it is appropriate to wear it all the time.
Call me conservative but when you see me in athleisure, active wear or gym wear – however you may call it – I am on the way to the gym, my run or just coming back from doing sports. In my opinion, certain occasions which require certain apparel: at the office, leisure, sports, travel.
In preparation of this Monday Postcard, I read a lot about athleisure as a fashion phenomenon. And almost all the articles refer to athleisure as a “breakdown of traditional barriers”. Deirdre Clemente, an American fashion historian, describes it as follows:
“One hundred years ago, you would have day clothes for the street, dinner clothes for the restaurant, theater clothes, and so many genres of dress. Those barriers have come down. Athleisure is the ultimate breaking down of barriers.”
Please do not tell me that soon athleisure will be our “uniform” when we go to work, catch up with friends or travel! I am all about comfort. However, this does not mean that style and comfort cannot go hand in hand. I like to feel good about myself and I do if I wear a great outfit and I put effort into the way I look. I do not do this for anyone else but me.
Despite the current athleisure trend, I totally agree with Karl Lagerfeld: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” (I am turning a blind eye on his collection of sweatpants for Chanel. But I have never seen him wear sweatpants ever.) I do not remember when I last wore sweatpants. I had tracksuits when I played tennis and occasionally wore them as a teenager at home. But I never went to school with them. I once made the mistake of boarding a long-distance flight in leggings and a long top. My luggage did not make it and I had to rush to a mall to buy an entire wardrobe my business meetings of that week. Never again! If I want the comfort of leggings on the plane, I change into jeans before we land.
You may now think: “I thought she’s a feminist? How come that she’s so old-fashioned when it comes to fashion?” Well, if style means old-fashioned now, you can call me that. I love fashion, I also sometimes incorporate trends – even though I prefer a timeless and classic wardrobe. And feminism is about choices – if you feel amazing in athleisure, please go for it. For me personally, no matter if it is en vogue or not, it will never be more than the outfit I wear for exercising. Then I am happy to change into something else.
What are your thoughts about athleisure – is it more than gymwear for you?
Source of Deirdre Clemente’s quote: The Atlantic, “Everything You Wear Is Athleisure”, October 28, 2018