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Fitness or Fashion Fad? What’s Behind The Growth of Athleisure?

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Shhh…Don’t blink too quickly, or today’s hottest fashion trend will likely sprint right past you.

It’s not a trend one would think would be so broad—yet acceptable. Stylish, yet casual, active, but perfect for home—or even in some cases for a night out on the town or work.

Whether it is seeing a young, toned and athletic attractive woman jogging in a pair of yoga pants and sports bra, or walking around causally in a pair of workout shorts, the fashion trend involving athletic gear called ‘athleisure’—short for athletic leisure—is one that is here to stay.

With summer now in full swing and many women—as well as men—looking too get into shape during the hot months surely ahead, this popular trend is not only all around us, but shows no signs of being just a mere fad.

If anything, it has proverbially exploded by leaps and bounds.

Thanks to a growing awareness of female body-consciousness, the explosion of Instagram-based personal trainers, fitness models, athletes and popular fitness magazines such as SELF, SHAPE, Women’s Health, Oxygen, and Men’s Health, athleisure has been all around us all this time right under our proverbial noses—when they are not dripping with sweat of course!

In an image body-driven society that seemingly revolves around body-shaming, weight loss and looking a certain way, this new trend has quietly been the biggest beneficiary to those who wish to look and feel their best. There are flip sides to every proverbial coin when it comes to fads and fashion, and the rise in the popularity of active wear has benefitted the most of any fashion trend in recent history.

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And many celebrities and major brands have noticed as well.

Big-name Hollywood names such as Kate Hudson has gotten into the active lifestyle game with her brand, Fabletics, Carrie Underwood’s Calia, Heidi Klum for New Balance and Jillian Michaels’ Impact and the burgeoning activeware industry is a potential goldmine for many. Just recently, former NFL Super Bowl champion and current morning talk show host, Michael Strahan launched his own active lifestyle brand, MSX Activewear and Loungewear with J.C. Penney, mega pop-star Rihanna was named the new creative director of PUMA and Rita Ora has teamed up with German-based Adidas for an upcoming “sexy-meets-sporty” line.

Victoria’s Secret has it’s own line, Victoria’s Secret Sport or (VSX) GAP has Old Navy Active and Athleta to compete with the likes of Nike, Reebok and Vancouver-based active lifestyle brand Lululemon.

With all of these big-named brands and celebrities cashing in on this growing industry, naturally it is all about the bottom line.

According to an article on Morgan Stanley titled, “Athletic Lifestyles Keep Apparel Sales Healthy”, the growing active lifestyle and sports trend, once the go-to for yoga-pants wearing soccer moms is about to go global as sports apparel and footwear sales have jumped 42% to $270 billion over the past seven years.

The article would go on to state that the United States accounts for $97 billion, or 36 percent of all sportswear sales with a potential 5% average annual sales growth in Europe over the next five years, driven by growth in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa with China a key market to watch, as the Communist government has emphasized the need to support youth athletic participation, develop sports infrastructure and business overall, with plans to build 60% more sports facilities by 2025 and get 500 million of its citizens to exercise and play sports regularly, says Edward Lui, who covers China’s consumer industry for Morgan Stanley.

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In a section of the article titled, “Rise of the Ath-Leisure Consumer”, it states that current consumer market trends—as well as that of society have changed since the 1970’s

“Today’s “ath-leisure” wear is a long ways from the notorious track suits of the 1970s. The sportswear industry designs clothes, shoes and gear that are high performance, comfortable and fashionable. You don’t have to be a track star to prefer the comfort of running shoes; if you’re into yoga, chances are you already appreciate the look and feel of form-fitting stretch-wear. The upgrade cycle of new designs and improved materials—a page torn from tech—also keeps consumers engaged and coming back for more.

The generational and societal shift toward less formal fashion styles over the past few decades hasn’t hurt. Wearing sneakers and jeans to work was once frowned upon, but many professionals now arrive at the office in flashy, multihued trainers and exercise gear—perhaps along with a wearable device that counts everything from steps and stairs to heartrates and calories, all of which reaffirm their dedication to an active lifestyle.”

Based on the research and quotes above, it sounds like athleisure is more than just a trend, but is quickly becoming a part of everyday life and fashion. Thanks to a number of external factors along with present-day society focusing more on image, health and looks, athleisure is here to stay, as it is not going anywhere anytime soon.

So the next time you see an attractive man or woman out and about jogging, working out or just wearing what you feel are just “workout clothes”, they are not only aiming to get in shape, but also the living and breathing—and running—mannequins of the coolest fashion trend today.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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