Today's Athletic Wear Runs The Gamut

By Anica Wong

September 25, 2014 4 min read

It seems that athletic apparel is being worn outside of the gym now more than ever. Walk into a grocery. Pick up your kids. Grab some dinner at a local restaurant. You're likely to see people sporting yoga pants, trendy running tops and athletic "accessories" everywhere you go.

"Time is of the essence," says Elizabeth Comeau. "You can squeeze in a run before picking up your kids at school and still wear what you're wearing and not look like a walking spandex uniform."

Comeau, the digital editor at Runner's World, points to a few athletic wear companies who are pushing this trend. Lululemon's Runsie (a romper for runners) was very popular when it came out in July of 2014. While some were skeptical of the untraditional running outfit (Were high school class T-shirts and old gym shorts not enough?), the Runsie also garnered praise for its ability to be worn in almost any situation, athletic or not.

Oiselle, a Seattle-based running apparel company, had a runway show at the 2014 New York Fashion Week. After a breakout year in 2013, when Oiselle was the first athletic apparel brand to have a show at the week-long fashion extravaganza, the company returned to showcase their newest lines, some of which were modeled by professional runners, such as Kara Goucher.

"We were at the Oiselle show, and they had Chevron and stripes, and while it's still bursts of bright colors, they were also paired with neutral tones," says Comeau, pointing out that last year's athletic trend seemed to be about bold neon colors. Comeau thinks that the shift away from the bright colors comes from people trying to make their athletic apparel more transitional: run, then office; gym, then lunch date.

People are also looking for comfort in the clothes they wear the most. While jeans have long been a staple in American closets, sales of jeans in the U.S. fell 6 percent during the past year, according to market-research firm NPD Group. On the other hand, sales of yoga pants and other active wear climbed 7 percent. Lax office dress codes, working from home and wanting to look like we're all going to the gym combine to shift our standards for attire.

But being comfortable isn't coming at the price of being trendy. "I think everybody is stepping up their game and realizing that it's a lot more than pretty colored sports bras, and it is about functionality of the piece, as well as the form and the fashion," says Comeau.

Athleta, owned by Gap, is billed as "the ultimate performance apparel for women," and some say they are making a run at giant Lululemon. Athleta was also at the 2014 New York Fashion Week and focused on the "all-day dressing" products, a concept that women can wear versatile pieces that aren't overtly workout apparel or overtly fashion-forward.

And let's not forget the men. While their athletic apparel style has been pretty steady over the years, there's always room for improvement. Tracksmith, a New England company, recently popped onto the running stage. Think New England classic preppy 1970s Harvard crew kind of style, Comeau says. With a lineup of only classic running singlets and shorts with the company's rabbit logo where the Nike swoosh would go, it's hard to tell whether this is more than a phase.

Bottom line: You're not alone when you want to wear your yoga pants and Chevron-patterned sweat-wicking top out and about. The trends don't lie.

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