The designer Karl Lagerfeld is quoted as saying “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”
But the fashion trends show a very different story. Streetwear and sportswear have been making up much of the runway highlights. These aren’t your intervillage coño B-ball shorts and NBA jerseys. Today, technical fabrics applied to casual clothing are less about standing out and more about blending in. Gone are the neon tracksuits sported by rappers of yore; in their place, understated basics ready to change how you move in our ever-faster world. For us guys, it’s an excuse to stay in joggers and sneakers all day. Welcome to “athleisure,” a not-so-passing trend that is the new normal—the league pass to constant comfort.
Athleisure is a fashion segment that sits squarely at the intersection of form and function. Despite style purists rolling their eyes when seeing monogramania all over joggers and platform trainers, the market can’t seem to have enough of them. This trend is influenced by pop culture. But true athleisure ensembles are all about technology: waterproof zippers, laser-cut seams, and innovative fabrics all define the style. I remember Uniqlo founder Tadashi Yanai saying, “Americans believe cotton is best, but we've invented new fabrics that will change your lifestyle.” Uniqlo, like other clothiers see the need to introduce these engineered features with aesthetic cues so they do not risk compromising the casualness of the look. Comfort dressing is here to stay.
Let me be clear, I am no fan of this style, but I will say when put together, you can actually get away with wearing this and looking “smart and spiffy”—sans blazers, crisp shirts and bespoke loafers. Blazers, made with new fabrics, are all the craze now. Mind you, the look isn’t for everyone, especially if you work in a more corporate setting. Where I work, the look is commonplace—from our writers to our stars, the look is sleek and golden. One caveat though: you need to know how to wear it.
Can you get away with it?
Absolutely. Most of those people who sit on the front of the plane wear Lululemon tracksuits. Mixed with stylish trainers and paired with the right jacket it can assure you a full bottle of champagne. When sitting in coach, this look may even snag you an upgrade. Remember that if you are to master this blend of style and substance, stick to the basics. Thanks to their technical details, simple, unadorned tops from most sportswear brands will make a splash.
What are the key items to consider for smart athleisure dressing?
The Tailored Jogger
I can’t begin to emphasize how to manage this style without it being so snug that it emphasizes the crown jewels. Tapered in style, the fit of the jogger comes off on the slim side, a stop above performance tights. These bottoms are at the crux of the athleisure men’s wardrobe. It is meant for those that have complete control of their junk, and manage to be discreet about it. Worn with a slim dress shirt, the look is the essence of street style gone upmarket.
The Slim Fit Sweatshirt/Pullover
These aren’t those sweats that you buy from an outlet store, with huge graphic college insignias. These are pullovers of lightweight fabric, made of breathable material. With moisture wicking abilities, these slim cut sweats are perfect over a tee and layered with a jacket of choice.
The Sleek Sneak
If there is a shoe that becomes athleisure, it’s the white sneaker. No need to go designer here: classic Adidas, Puma, Nike, or Superga make this happen. Who would have thought that you could pull off woolen trousers with sneaks?
The Track Jacket
Dad may have been ahead of his time. When he retired from San Miguel, he was always in (now-vintage) Adidas track suits and collared shirts and Roma kicks. Track jackets in fashion haven’t really gone away, they just morph into more styles, cuts, fabrics and colors. This is a great go-to jacket to layer, or just wear with joggers or even jeans and a shirt and trainers.
The “Hypebeast” Hoodie
Star to almost all collections and a streetwear staple, the hoodie in its iteration with new modern fabrics keeps you looking streamlined and cool at the same time. No feeling Pacquiao here though—with its slimming silhouette, the hoodie is up there in the athleisure firmament.
Over the last decade, the athleisure look has become a movement of sorts, spurned by a younger generation of millennials, and forward-looking, yoga-going soccer moms. Guys of all ages have the option to pick out clothing that fits what works for them. I will admit I use Lululemon for my golf pants and Crossfit—with a quick change of shirt, and a spritz of Para Mi Bebe when I am off to the grocery or to do quick errands. Done right, Mr. Lagerfeld may be completely off the mark. The wearers of athleisure make for a wide economic demographic. Haven’t you seen photos of those on board their private jets? Athleisure is the great equalizer.