Sportswear is on-trend – and you don’t have to be sporty to wear it. Stephanie Smith and Harkiran Bharj talk athleisure.
You know that a fashion trend has gone mainstream when presenters of grown-up BBC news programmes start wearing it on TV (we’re talking about you, Kirsty Wark, in your trackie-inspired trousers).
Athleisure – a hybrid of athletic wear and leisure wear – is all about taking pieces of clothing, footwear and accessories more usually associated with physical activity and fitness, and mixing them into your everyday (and night) wardrobe (so, a sports vest and pinstripe trouser suit, perhaps). But it can also mean keying into the growing number of sports-inspired fashion items, from bomber jackets, jumpsuits and loose jersey tops to silky drawstring trousers with a go-faster stripe down the outer leg. These are pieces not designed for the gym or track at all, often in quite unsuitable fabrics, but rather they reflect fitness as a style statement in itself.
This year’s most stylish festival look was definitely athleisure rather than boho, with Glastonbury filled with Adidas Gazelle trainers, logo hoodies, printed leggings and sports bras worn as tops. Outdoor brands such as North Face and Patagonia are joining sportswear labels Reebok, Adidas and Nike as go-to retailers.
The current athleisure trend began a couple of years ago because gym bunnies were fed up of carrying around sports holdalls full of gear, and far too busy to change after a workout into their normal daywear, so they decided to keep on their Lycra and leggings. Leaving aside the issue of post-gym aroma, what is clear is that we love the freedom, the feel and the comfort of sports wear, and see no reason why we shouldn’t include its practical elements as part of our daily wardrobe.
Fashion loves to adopt a theme and move it forward, so athletic wear and leisure wear began to combine to create a hybrid genre, championed on the catwalk by the likes of Chloe and Alexander Wang, with stretch and mesh fabrics providing tighter bodycon looks, and jersey and cashmere heading up the loose, luxe and languid side of athleisure.
Celebrities championing athleisure style include Gigi Hadid, spotted wearing yoga pants, a crop top and jacket; Kendall and Khloe Jenner in leggings, sports tops, backpack and caps (not necessarily off to the gym), and Beyoncé, who likes athleisure so much, she launched her own range, Ivy Parks, earlier this year to Topshop, Selfridges, JD Sports and Net a Porter. Rita Ora, meanwhile, has her own collection with Adidas, mixing floral prints and oriental influences with classic sportswear shapes. Both she and Suki Waterhouse have been mixing athleisure into their red carpet looks too.
Perfect athleisure separates include leggings (Lycra, jersey or cashmere), yoga or hareem pants, a sports crop top or sturdy bra, a long loose tee with a wide neck and maybe an asymmetric hem, a bomber jacket, and drawstring trousers, which can be wide, cropped or loose trackie style. The athleisure look updates itself, so it seems to be becoming a permanent trend, much like boho and nautical/cruise wear. This year sees a retro mood, with ‘90s’ sports and indie references.
To get the look right, take care with accessorising. Just a backpack added to smart tailored workwear can be enough of a nod to the athleisure trend. Don’t go crazy on the bright colours and especially, sports bras should be treated with extreme caution, even if you do wear a bomber or tuxedo jacket over.
Footwear is key so team with trainers, plimsolls, pumps or block-heel sandals, in neutrals. Avoid court shoes and boots. With bags, go for a luxe backpack style or large tote or cross-body bag. Streetwise, practical, and not a gym in sight.