Athleisure Fashion: How It Became a Lifestyle

Fashion brands and trends are constantly emerging and fleeting; however, sometimes, a stylish movement comes around that shapes the fashion industry. Athleisure wear is an activewear fashion trend that emerged in the 70s and has become more trendy as the decades pass on. 

If you are anything like us (or the other millions of people who live by the athleisure fashion movement), your fashion sense has been heavily impacted by the massive impact athleisure trends have had on the fashion industry. 

Though we hardly think twice about adding a cozy pair of sweatpants to our shopping carts, there is an interesting history of athleisure apparel which ultimately led us to make these wardrobe choices. Your obsession with all things sporty chic and loungewear-related did not emerge out of thin air: athleisure evolved over time and became not only a dominant fashion trend but also a lifestyle. 

Read on to get a brief overview of the rise of athleisure and how athleisure outfits became a huge part of fashion culture.

Birth of Athleisure 

Fashion, as we know it today, looks drastically different than it did even 50 years ago. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the term athleisure apparel was born, and our day-to-day style transformed from its business casual roots to the more cozy-chic garments we rock today. 

The term was introduced at the end of the 70s for retailers to describe clothes that look sporty and give the appearance of athleticism, even if you were not particularly athletically inclined. 

Throughout the early 20th century through the 60s, fashion was more rigid and formal. Athletic garb was really only worn strictly for sports and exercise, but only a few decades later, this would all change. 

Slowly, streetwear pioneers, retailers, and celebrities alike began incorporating leggings, tennis skirts, sneakers, tracksuits, and more into their daily wardrobes. 

People started to realize that sportswear was not only comfortable, it was stylish and easy to incorporate into everyday outfits. Even if your style runs more classy, there are fashion-forward ways to incorporate athleisure staples into your wardrobe. 

Trendy Fitness

The athleisure look truly does transcend more than just fashion. By the late 20th century, fitness and exercise were evolving into much more inclusive practices than it previously was. Historically, sports and athleticism perpetuated sexist notions and tended to exclude women.

As second-wave feminism began to emerge, and society generally shifted towards prioritizing health and wellness, athletics became much more inclusive and targeted towards all demographics, especially women. The 70s and 80s saw the rise of more organized fitness classes and groups, which really pivoted our collective outlook on life and fashion. 

Yoga, dance classes, barre classes, and countless other fitness endeavors took over popular culture and it quickly became trendy to participate in various forms of exercise. Even today we have a cult-like following of fitness outlets like SoulCycle, Pure Barre, and Equinox. Wellness and fitness have become so trendy that they have become an obsession and an integral part of our collective personalities — and even more so our fashion. 

With the rise of trendy fitness came a sort of athletic uniform. If you are a spin class goddess, you are well aware of the huge impact Lululemon leggings have had on the community. In the 80s, trends like neon-colored tights and leg warmers were essential to both exercise and fashion.

With the obsession of yoga came the rise of yoga pants. We realized that yoga pants and leggings are comfortable and match just about everything, making them the perfect garment to wear for any occasion. 

As exercise and fitness classes grow in popularity, so too do the garments associated with these wellness trends. 

Celebrity Influence

There is no denying the impact that celebrities have on “regular” society, particularly the fashion choices we make. With tabloids, interviews, and now social media, celebrities and influencers alike are constantly entering our collective consciousness. 

As a result, if a famous person we admire or find particularly stylish says they think a specific garment is cool, we are bound to agree and start incorporating those looks into our own wardrobes. 

This fact is very apparent in our massive shift towards athleisure. Over the past several decades, numerous celebrities and influencers have been at the forefront of various athletic fashion trends and now they are integral parts of general fashion. 

Consider the impact celebrities had over the fashion industry in the early 2000s with the wide popularity of matching tracksuits. One of the most popular paparazzi pictures of that era is of Britney Spears donning a matching blue Juicy Couture tracksuit. As a result of Britney and other famous women, tracksuits became a fashion must, and are currently making their way back into the fashion world. 

These days, influencers take to social media to promote their favorite loungewear and sportswear brands, using Instagram stories to show off their cute, sporty-chic style. 

We like the way these celebrities and influencers dress, so we are swayed by their immaculate athleisure recommendations, which only proves how much the trend transcends just fashion and has become a lifestyle. 

Work From Home Necessities

In 2020, everyone was impacted by the global pandemic. We had to quarantine inside of our homes, adjust to working from home via Zoom, and lounge around while we learn to navigate the new normal. Though athleisure was already well incorporated into the fashion world, we became even more receptive to those trends as a collective during the pandemic. 

With nowhere to go, and only our top halves being shown on the Zoom screen, it only made sense to stock up on the coziest loungewear and sportswear staples. No one wants to hang around the house in jeans, so sweatpants were (and still are) a must-have. 

Dress codes flew out the door. You can be a professional without wearing business attire. We learned to get our work done while rocking sports bras, sweats, and slippers. 

Though some companies have started transitioning back into in-person workdays, many businesses still function just as effectively remotely. 

As a result of this collective shift to remote work, athleisure became the fashion standard. We have realized that comfy, athletic attire can be practical and stylish, so more and more we find ourselves wearing our sweats or leggings out and about on errands. 

Streetwear Trends

Similar to our widespread trust in celebrities and influencers’ fashion takes, we collectively pay close attention to what the models, elite fashion magazines, and designers declare are the latest hot streetwear trends. 

Of course, most of us are not going to go full-blown couture with our streetwear styles as you might see on the runways. We begin incorporating specific styles and garments into our rotation. In the past few decades, streetwear trends have been championing athleisure, so much so that many of these styles have become crucial aspects of our casual fashion. 

Streetwear is the casual clothing that we wear out and about on errands, and on any day-to-day occasion. These trends are heavily influenced by athleisure, hip hop, and Californian surfer culture. 

Common features of athletic streetwear trends include hoodies, baseball caps, joggers and sweatpants, sneakers, and countless other sporty styles. These staples are then paired with other staple fashion pieces to create fashion-forward casual, chic outfits. 

For instance, you might find a cute sports bra paired with a blazer or even see someone rocking sweatpants with a pair of high heels. Whether your sneaker brand loyalty belongs to Nike or Adidas, you can easily rock your kicks with any garment to create a classic streetwear ensemble.

Athleisure has leaked into nearly every aspect of fashion, and we are collectively very inspired by the streetwear trends that emerge. As a result, we find that sportswear and loungewear become central to our identities and individual fashion senses as we learn to incorporate athletic clothing into our own wardrobes. 

More Than Just a Trend

Sports and exercise have been around since the beginning of human civilization. We rely on exercise to feel good and stay fit, and we use sports as a way to connect with one another and engage in group activities. 

Athletic clothes have always been around, but only within the past century have athleisure trends seeped into our culture, becoming so much more than just fashion. 

We take inspiration from streetwear trends, celebrities, and our current fitness pursuits. As a result, we find ourselves accumulating entire wardrobes full of athleticwear and loungewear to express ourselves and show off our styles. 

Unlike other trends, athleisure has had a permanent lasting impact on the fashion industry and has become more than just a trend, but a lifestyle. 

 

Sources:

Fashion History Lesson: The Origins and Explosive Growth of Athleisure | Fashionista

A History of Women in Sport Prior to Title IX | The Sport Journal

Britney Spears and Juicy Couture have finally been reunited | Cosmopolitan

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