It’s the worst of both worlds and you don’t need it
By Sophie Isbister, Columnist
The first two decades of the 21st century will be remembered not for flying cars and robot butlers, but for being the era when humans finally gave up on fashion. It started innocently enough the first time someone wore yoga pants to the office on casual Friday, and then before we knew it, every second person on the street was clad head to toe in Lycra. It may have come on quick, but the trend we now know as “athleisure” is no flash in the pan.
Athleisure is a style of clothing. The word is a portmanteau of “athletic” and “leisure,” and I am here to tell you that it is bullshit. Now, I don’t hate athleisure because I am a champion of sartorial excellence. I don’t hate athleisure because its ubiquity approaches a Huxleyan vision of a future where everyone wears matching jumpsuits, and I am certainly no elitist; I don’t hate athleisure simply because it’s basic.
No, my reasons for thinking that this (unfortunately) enduring trend needs to die are a lot simpler than that: I think it’s a marketing trend that got lucky and took off; I think instead of doing one thing well, it does two things poorly; and I think we just don’t need it!
Unfortunately, too many members of the public seem to think we do. Athleisure wear has been steadily growing in Canada, showing gains every year and in 2016 reaching $4 billion in sales, according to an article by The Financial Post. The origin of this demon hybrid fashion rests close to home: Lululemon, the pioneer of wearing your workout clothes everywhere, was founded in Vancouver in 1998.
Lululemon’s popularity steadily rose for over a decade before it was featured on Future President Oprah Winfrey’s Favourite Things list in 2010—at which point, this category of clothing exploded into the public consciousness. Everyone needed their own pair of lulus, whether they did yoga or just ate yogurt.
And if you have Club Monaco taste on a Joe Fresh budget, well, good news for you: The market demanded that athleisure be available at all price points, for all people. You can now get mediocre stretchy fabric garments almost anywhere. Marketing told us that we, busy millennials, need this type of fashion. We need the freedom to drag our bodies from school, to work, to barre class, and, finally, to our second job—while our high-tech pants soak up all the sweat.
Athleisure’s hybridization of function is something we’ve been told we need, but do we really? How hard is it to toss a spare set of clothes into your backpack? Athleisure has taken athletic clothing, which is great, and leisure clothing, which is fantastic, and turned them into a barely palatable mess of straps that I don’t know where to put. The last time I went to buy workout clothes, it was a disaster. Everything had non-functioning zippers, unnecessary slits up the side, and armholes that were way too big. Maybe some of you would look at that disaster and see an opportunity for an Instagram-worthy mirror selfie at the gym, but I just saw a waste of perfectly good technical fabric.
Look, friends. I know it might be tempting to kill two birds with one stone and purchase a garment that you can wear whether you’re flailing around on a yoga mat or flopping down in front of your Netflix machine, but I urge you: Just say no to athleisure! Try purchasing some classic leisure clothes like pajamas; you’ll be a lot more comfortable lounging around in those. Save the Spandex for the gym.