As someone who considers activewear to be like an unofficial "uniform," nobody can convince me that it's only meant for the gym.
After attending a Catholic school for 10 years, the infamous matronly plaid skirt and stiff button-down oxford had become an everyday staple. Uniforms were a force to be despised and cherished all at once. They provided familiarity and routine. The only real con is that they weren't all that aesthetically pleasing. Despite my mixed feelings towards uniforms, I dreaded the idea of having to pick out a new outfit every day once I got to college. A whole outfit seemed like an insurmountable feat after wearing my uniform like a second skin.
Needless to say, I made my way to college with my dilemma in tow. With essentially no dress code or guidelines, I had all the freedom in the world. All this freedom, however, didn't seem liberating. It seemed like dressing myself would become a chore every morning. Despite this initial dread, I quickly found comfort and convenience in what I established to be my college "uniform."
As any student attending college in the south can attest to, showing up for classes is certainly no fashionable outing. No one, and I mean NO ONE, dresses to impress. Big T-shirts, Nike shorts (Norts), and Chacos are the essentials for the hot months, and leggings, worn-in sneakers, and a Sherpa/fleece pullover for the colder months. While I didn't really adopt this trend in full, the ideas of comfort and ease were alleviating.
As it goes, I set out for my first day of classes in a pair of athletic shorts matched to a Nike tank top with a coordinating baseball cap and converse. I wanted to appear effortless, but somehow still look put together. Athletic shorts or mid-calf leggings with a coordinating tank or tee, plus the lucky tennis shoes of the day, became my go-to outfit. While the effort I put into my daily outfits was minimal, it wasn't completely devoid of care and attention.
That's what I think some people get wrong about the "athleisure" craze. It's not about laziness or complete inattention to personal appearance. It's about functionality and quickness.
Activewear is low maintenance. From putting it on to laundering, most activewear pieces have simple designs and laundering instructions. As a college student, saving time in any area is a Godsend. I never have to worry about sorting my pieces into different loads, or dry cleaning, or even ironing. I can fold the clothes, put them away, and pull them out of the drawer wrinkle-free the next day.
Plus, as a part of my routine, I make my way to the gym after class every day. Why would I wear a nice outfit to return straight home and change into gym clothes? The idea is nonsensical. I feel that by dressing in activewear every morning, I'll be set for all of the day's activities. Nothing about hiking two miles around campus over the course of seven hours invokes a longing to wear restricting dress pants and flimsy D'Orsay flats.
Don't get me wrong; I understand that activewear isn't presentation attire. I can manage "business casual" when the occasion calls for it. My closet hasn't become devoid of appropriate career attire. It just isn't central to my life at this point in time.
Although I'm a college student who is afforded this luxury of dress-code free living, I still believe that athleisure is for everyone. Running weekend errands to the Farmer's Market or Target? Activewear. Cleaning house or working in the yard? Activewear. Traveling via road trip or flight? Activewear. Hustling the kids between soccer games and piano lessons? Activewear. Many of our mundane, routine activities are perfectly suited to the need for casual, functional clothing. In fact, the buzz term "athleisure" may initially conjure up the idea of a Lazy Sunday, but this category of clothing really caters to our often overly busy lifestyles.
Maybe, I'm slightly biased because both of my parents have a strong affinity for leisure-suited activewear, too. Really, most everyone in my family has followed this trending upswing of wearing activewear at all times. Maybe, I'm just a product of my environment.
Regardless of the backlash that has targeted the popularity activewear, I choose to remain a staunch supporter. As it seems to become more and more prevalent, athletic brands have become conscious of incorporating versatility and broader aesthetic appeal into their designs. Most of these brands, like Adidas or Under Armour, are well aware that their clothing goes beyond the gym. They've approached activewear not only with cycling instructors or CrossFitters in mind but also the mom on the go and the newly retired.
Whether I'm making my way to my 8 a.m. or heading to Planet Fitness, activewear has become a staple part of my day. It's become a central component of my daily routine, making it more manageable and time efficient. I know that my personal experience may not convert the athleisure critics, but maybe it'll offer a new perspective. Long live activewear.