The surprisingly stylish transformation of athleisure
Among the many pressing issues of the day, there exists the question of leggings, namely, to wear [outside of the gym] or not to wear.
I would have counted myself as a legging naysayer, definitively contra the idea of wearing them whilst performing the day’s business — even if the item of business was getting myself to and from the gym. I would change in the locker room upon arrival.
Though in certain neighborhoods and cities across America, leggings have become standard garb, surpassing that which is acceptable and tolerable towards the upper echelons of styles that are enviably on trend, provocative, fresh and new.
Of course, it is not difficult to pinpoint how leggings caught on. Our health-focused culture places a premium on wellness in all of its forms. Strapping yoga mats to our backs and heading to the gym has become a favorite pastime and nearly everyone seems to be able to fluently profess his or her favorite health hacks, brand of nut milk, non-bread and wellness aspirations generally. Wearing leggings is only apropos to such a mindset.
Still, it might be difficult to wash the mass-market stigma from athleisure’s appeal — especially for those situated in social milieus committed to the idea of specialness when it comes to clothing. Yet in spite of the commercialism and ubiquity which initially spurred its viral status, brands like Nike and Athleta really are flexing their creative muscles and refurbishing the way Americans are dressing.
These new creatures of dress are transcending the bounds of gym attire by straddling the line between work and play, weekend and weekday, business and leisure. Chino-like pants fabricated in techy fabrics breathe new life into a familiar silhouette and challenge the properties and function of twill as we’ve always known it. Pants with slits at the ankle and built up funnel necklines are surprisingly fresh details which in another time might have read as too casual or sporty for day wear but have found a home in our era of athleisure.
These are the kinds of details which have yet to really make a strong presence in American dress and its made possible by athleisure’s subversion of the rules surrounding dressing for a particular occasion. So, perhaps the debate at hand shouldn’t be to wear leggings or not, but rather more of a reflection: are we dressing at our creative best? Creating styles that support the activities in which we partake everyday doesn’t have to wreak of mass market ubiquity and routine. As designers, we can innovate looks that are not only functional but a product of thoughtful creativity.