11 June 2021 (updated)

All About Athleisure: A Guide to the Best and the Bargains

Is it worth it to spring for those expensive leggings, or should you buy cheaper ones from Wal-Mart? Nina Simone has your go-to guide for all things athleisure!

Athleisure, a style of fitness clothing intended for life in the gym and beyond, is everywhere. If you aren't currently wearing it, someone walking by you in 5 seconds is. Count, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...there they go, leggings, fitted tank top, not your gym teacher's hoodie.

Women drive this fashion trend in their choice to wear clothing for active lifestyles, but the biggest brands are building names among men's fashion as well.  Here's a brief guide to the best brands and the hottest bargains in this fashion/fitness trend in activewear and a final reveal of my favorite bargain leggings ever.

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Athleisure Brands: A Guide to the Best and the Bargains

The athleisure trend of wearing athletic outfits, all day, any day, grew out of cultural shifts towards health and fitness and different fashion needs for a growing population that works remotely. No, you don't need to wear a suit in your home office. Yes, you can stay in your workout clothes long after yoga class has ended.

During the pandemic, athleisure and loungewear were especially popular since we were all at home together, and why wouldn't you wear joggers for your Zoom call, even if you were wearing a blazer on top? If there were ever a time when we needed clothes that worked well while lounging in the bedroom, gardening in the yard, or doing business calls, this was it!

Athleisure leggingsshirts, and sports bras are marketed for having extra technologies: including anti-odor technologysweat-wicking, and being breathable.

High-End Athleisure Brands

Lululemon leads the athleisure market with a name now synonymous with both leggings and lifestyle. Founded in 1998 in Vancouver by Chip Wilson, Lululemon trademarked its original fabric "Luon," unique in its higher than average amount of nylon microfiber.

Marketing at Lululemon invites consumers to not just buy but join a community committed to a lifestyle of fitness and fashion. Now, this community is not cheap. But wow. The on-trend yoga pants, sweatshirtst-shirts, and jackets are soft, high quality, well-designed, and oh so appealing. I lost 15 minutes just on their website.  Originally focused on women's activewear, Lululemon has been focusing on building their men's brand, in addition to streetwear and sneakers.

Other high-end athleisure stores include Outdoor Voices, Sweaty Betty, and Athleta, the athleisure line belonging to The Gap Corporation. In addition, Gap, whose Athleta stores offer free in-store fitness classes, now has the athleisure line Hill City, focused on men's sportswear, with the tagline, "Built for the extreme. Designed for everyday".

Bargain Athleisure Brands

Big Box stores have eagerly joined the athleisure trend with their own lines of active apparel. Target hosts the C9 Champion and Joy Lab Brands for Women, with stylish athletic wear in the $20-$40 range. Walmart's Athletic Works line sells athleisure for men and women, including sweatpants, sweatshirts, yoga pants, and shorts, in the $10-$20 range.

@tammy_gun wearing JoyLab By Target

Best Bargain Athleisure Brand: The Big Reveal

Confession: I have high-end yoga pants, and I have my share of C9 Champion casual shirts. In addition, I have an Athleta hoodie and leggings from GapFit, the small subset within the Gap store focused on sportswear.  I might actually have too much "clothing" that can also be slept in.

But my most favorite leggings? The ones that fully imitate another much-more expensive line, but I got them for $25 on Amazon? These leggings are from the brand 90 Degree by Reflex. I wear them all the time as they have the same fit and sheen as much more expensive trends in the fashion industry.

Athleisure: The Booming Fashion Industry

So when shopping for your most stylish athleisure wear, keep an open mind. You may be surprised by where you might find your favorite items. While some argue the market is being saturated, those of us so relaxed from not having worn real pants in three years say "keep it coming" and are excited about the range of casual activewear, as well as prices.



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