Athleisure: How Did We Get Here?

While Athleisure may be pop culture’s hot new buzzword, transitional athletic wear is nothing new.  Before the combining of “athletic” and “leisure”, there were terms like sports luxe, gym to street, sports inspired, transitional, and our personal favorite – we coined it – Anywear. With over a decade of experience, you could say that we’ve been in the game for a while now.  In a lot of ways we were in the athleisure business before it even had a name. After all, stylish transitional yoga attire is what started Vickerey. But it wasn’t always spandex and sports bras.

Modern yoga attire is a fairly new innovation, and in its early days, it was neither flashy nor fashionable. While traditional yoga attire did technically originate in – you guessed it – India, for the sake of avoiding a short history lesson, we’re going to skip ahead. By the seventies, the established “yoga uniform” consisted of lightweight cotton pants that were sometimes referred to as yoga bloomers and a tank top.  The seventies and eighties eventually gave rise to the popularization of synthetic materials such as spandex.  While the trend of leotards and leggings may have faded away, the use of spandex has not.

It was shortly after this that the first stretchy athletic pant was created for yoga. This pant would go on to be known as the yoga pant, even though it looked a little different than the pant we generally associate with that name today. The original yoga pant was a wide legged Capri that had a fold over waistband, two attributes that we are still familiar with today. People liked these pants because they were lightweight, flexible, and made a practical alternative to the cotton pants that most yoga doers were wearing at the time.

That being said, athletic wear was still a long way off from becoming modern athleisure. Years after the creation of the original yoga pant, Ryan Mclatchy designed the modern fitting yoga pant. This pant revolutionized workout fashion, and athleisure arguably wouldn’t exist without it. Modern yoga pants are generally made from a blend of cotton, lycra, spandex, nylon, polyester, and wool. These materials are lightweight and stretchy, making them the perfect workout material for a variety of different activities. It was these characteristics that originally lead to yoga pants being worn outside of the yoga studio.

Another factor that perpetuated the spread of athletic wear was the ways in which fitness itself has changed. Not so long ago, the fitness universe primarily consisted of weight lifting, running, aerobics, and yoga. Because these communities were smaller at the time, and workouts could usually be completed in loose shorts and a T shirt, there was less of market for athletic wear.

In recent years, the fitness industry has exploded. In general people have become far more health conscious, and are seeking out ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This led to the boom of boutique fitness studios that host everything from cycling,  to dance, to kick box inspired workout classes. With so many women taking part in programs like Zumba, Crossfit, and Soul Cycle, an entirely new market has opened up for fitness attire that wasn’t there before. Now, with big name designers jumping on board the athletic wear train, athletic clothing has taken a fashionable, and functional turn.

Many people refer to Athleisure as a trend, but anyone who has been paying attention knows that this “trend” is here to stay. People have been looking for fashionable, transitional attire this entire time.  We would know, because we’ve been part of it from the begging. Even if people weren’t always looking to wear their workout clothes to dinner, there has always been something appealing about comfortable, stretchy, machine washable items. You know, the kind that you can mix and match, and know won’t be wrinkled when you pull them out of your gym bag five hours later. The concept of athleisure isn’t new to us, even if the word is. We were there back in the days of cotton yoga pants and tank tops, and we are here now in the age of strappy sports bras and yoga pants with mesh paneling. The fashion styles may have changed, but the drive to wear fashionable, functional, and versatile clothing hasn’t changed a bit.