Too Sexy for My Sneakers: A critical analysis of the ‘athleisure’ phenomenon

“Luxury activewear gives those who can afford to wear it a sense of moral superiority.”

Fitness. It’s the hottest cultural phenomenon since Jane Fonda made aerobics a thing. So it should come as no surprise that we’ve started sweating to be seen, or rather, being seen to have been sweating.

But in an age where we can now Stairmaster in Stella McCartney, has chic activewear gone too far? As if bringing yourself to go for a run wasn’t hard enough, you now have to make sure you look good doing it, too.

But such is life in an age where anybody who’s anybody is “working out”. Because not only does it make you healthy, it now also makes you hip.

So naturally, an impressive crowd of fashion designers has jumped on the athleisure bandwagon, and yes, as if only to add to the madness, athleisure is now a word. 

Encompassing any garment that can be worn to the gym or out to coffee, athleisure prioritises equal measures of fashion and functionality, fusing performance-enhancing technologies with high-end runway trends.

For the fashionably-conscious gym junkie, it’s a dream come true.

Thanks to athleisure, panting on the treadmill never looked so fine. But athleisure at the gym is one thing, athleisure on the street is quite another. 

Think: Kanye walking the streets in a black tee, black trackies and Raf Simons high top sneakers. So why did wearing yoga pants to lunch suddenly become okay? 

Fashion’s shift towards athleisure isn’t about comfort; it’s not even about Kanye. It’s about culture.

For most people, spending $500 on sneakers would be a ludicrous indulgence, but for those who can afford it, athleisure is now a huge part of the luxury lifestyle. 

After all, those performance enhancing digitally modified technologically groundbreaking fuchsia yoga pants not only improve your downward dog, they also show the person behind you that you’re kind of a big deal. Because fitness, and most importantly fitness gear, has become yet another sphere in which to compare your lifestyle with others.

Keeping up with the Joneses just got harder, because now the Joneses are on a treadmill, and they’re wearing high-tech designer shoes. 

More than just a striking aesthetic appeal, luxury activewear gives those who can afford to wear it a sense of moral superiority, a certain air that says, I lead a life of leisure, I workout in style, and I drink green pressed juice. Sound a little cocky? Perhaps it is.

But it’s the implicit lush existence of the athleisure wearer that has become so rampantly desired. It’s no wonder brands want in on fitness chic.

Even so, it’s safe to say that this newfound social acceptance of wearing leggings out to lunch will soon begin to fade.

Because no matter what the designer, or the colour, or the price tag, leggings are not pants, and they never will be.

Someway, somehow, something’s got to give. After all, there’s a fine line between athleisure and lazy.

And it’s really not that hard to button up a shirt, and put on a pair of pants.  

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