The great Karl Lagerfeld once quipped that “sweatpants are a sign of defeat.” But in 2016, even a cursory glance down any of the world’s great fashion avenues weaves a different tale: if you want gold medal style, athleisure is your ticket to victory.
Today, technical fabrics applied to casual clothing are less about standing out and more about blending in. Gone are the hi-viz neon tracksuits of yore; in their place, technical, understated basics ready to change how you move in our ever-faster modern world.
MASTER THE STYLE
Athleisure sits squarely at the intersection of form and function. On one hand, athleisure ensembles should drip technology: waterproof zippers, laser-cut seams, and innovative fabrics all define the style. On the other, these engineered features need aesthetic cues, or they risk compromising the casualness of the look.
The best athleisure outfits emphasize activity through performance fabrics and clever design while staying grounded in everyday wearability.
If you want to master this blend of style and substance, stick to the basics. Thanks to their technical details, simple, unadorned tops from most sportswear brands will make a splash. Versatile garments here include minimalist style tech tees, sweatshirts, and nylon shell jackets.
As for bottoms: it’s all about the joggers. While track pants may offer retro flair, when it comes to form and function combined, tapered technical sweats are impossible to beat. Plus, innovative fabrics like Nike’s Tech Fleece and DYNE’s Mega Spacer extend these stylish garments into all-weather territory, giving you carte blanche for cozy in any condition.
Finally, we come to the shoes. While nearly every sportswear brand offers some version of “high-tech minimal sneakers,” only a select few make the grade thanks to their genuine athletic heritage. Our picks: the adidas Ultra Boost, Nike Flyknit Racer, and adidas NMD.
Fair warning: because of its design-intensive nature, athleisure doesn’t come cheap. Even start-ups like Brandblack rarely start below $30 tees and $100 sweats. If you want your budget to stretch as far as your tech jacket, think of “fashion” and “function” as levers and shop based on which you’d pull more to meet your needs.
However, if you’re looking for lifestyle-enhancing tech fabrics integrated hidden in everyday pieces, aim for more fashion-oriented “activewear” brands like Outdoor Voices and Lululemon. Yes, they make men’s clothes.
While the above brands skillfully trade off performance with aesthetics to keep prices reasonable, if your definition of “trade off” means eating ramen to afford clothing made without compromise, the best athleisure on the market comes by way of sportswear innovators like DYNE, AEANCE, and Arc’teryx 24.
You’ll pay a pretty penny, sure, but their products represent the true cutting edge of both apparel design and fabric research.
5 ESSENTIALS FOR EVERY BUDGET
Want to bulk up your athletic-inspired style? Check out our 5 essential picks, covering both high and low budgets:
- Technical sweatpants. Movement-friendly and built for any condition, from driving snow to that 6am spin class. Don’t skimp on these – the right sleek sweats make or break any athleisure wardrobe.
- Waterproof jacket. Thanks to years of outdoors field testing, your technical jacket may just be the most movable piece you own. Plus, it even looks good. Word of advice: stick to neutral colors to avoid looking like a tourist in a poncho.
- High-tech sneakers. Every movement starts with what’s on your feet. Whether on the street or in the gym, take bold strides in a pair of futuristic, design-focused sneakers.
$$$: Y-3 Qasa High
- Extended-length tee. An essential component to any cozy, layered look. The finer the knit, the more the shirt’s drape will emphasize a relaxed silhouette
$$$: Rick Owens Long Tee
- Updated crewneck. The classic athletic silhouette meets 21st-century design and technology. These modern takes on the age-old crewneck sweat provide lightweight, movement-friendly warmth without compromising style
Here’s a little inspiration