When I first heard the word “athleisure” I thought it was a joke. Athletic clothes that you really just hang out in but make you look like a productive, active member of society? That’s funny, right?
It might be funny, but the trend sure is catching on.
Athleisure wear is actually the furthest thing from a joke. In fact, it’s now the fastest and only growing section of the apparel industry. Brands are hopping on the athletic clothes bandwagon left and right, hoping to keep their retail businesses alive and thriving.
But athletic clothes have always been around — why are they so recently becoming the new mainstream style?
It comes back to millennials
Oh, millennials. The generation everyone loves to hate. As the largest age demographic in the United States (making up 28% of the population), they are seriously affecting cultural trends.
A Forbes.com article cites a few common millennial lifestyle qualities that are likely to have contributed to the athleisure apparel boom.
- Increased health consciousness: Millennials are exercising more, eating a healthier diet and smoking less than the previous generations. A Goldman Sachs report on millennials shows that they are more likely to define being “healthy” as a daily commitment to diet and exercise, as opposed to just not feeling sick. With this increased health consciousness, it makes sense that millennials would want to wear clothes that allow them to mix hitting the gym with running errands.
- The experience economy: “More than 3 in 4 millennials (78%) would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable,” said a study by Eventbrite conducted by Harris. This shows that the trend in millennials’ shopping habits is shifting towards things like outdoor sporting gear, vacations, and concerts. Since athleisure wear is more likely to be worn for an experience such as hiking trips or sporting events, it makes sense that it’s flying off of the shelves.
- Workplaces becoming casual: As I touched on in my post about hoodies at work, workplaces are loosening their dress code standards in effort to attract millennial workers. In what U.S. News calls the “Mark Zuckerberg effect”, dress codes have relaxed to the point where CEO’s of multi-billion dollar companies are seen sporting hoodies. Athleisure wear is comfortable, convenient, and acceptable in a variety of environments. What’s not to love?
But it’s not just millennials
Millennials appear to share these values more than previous generations, but previous generations still share these values. The rise in experience spending has been increasing since 1987–a year before most millennials were even born, said an Eventbrite study.
While millennials seem to be the propellers of this trend, it definitely doesn’t seem to be resisted by the rest of the generation board. After all, millennials are the most debt-strapped generation. You know they couldn’t support the $44 billion dollar athleisure market size alone.