A couple of years ago, while at the airport, I spotted a girl wearing workout leggings, a denim crop shirt, and a pair of Adidas Ultraboost sneakers. I immediately recognized it as the effect of what was being called the “athleisure trend” the world over, and as instantly as I spotted it, I waved it away as a passing fad that wouldn’t last past the season. Boy, was I wrong!
First spotted sometime in the early 2010s, athleisure or the act of wearing this weird hybrid of casual and athletic wear has found fashion devotees the world over and the trend seems to be on its way to becoming a fashion staple.
A quick search on Instagram gave me a result of 3,59,167 public posts, all of sartorially enviable Instagrammers in hoodies, yoga wear, galaxy-inspired leggings, crop tops, sneakers and other athleisure favourites. What surprised me when I was reading up on the trend was that the phrase was actually used in 1976, in an advertisement for sneakers, and today it is officially in the dictionary defined as “casual clothing to be worn for exercising and for general use”. It is, as a friend described it, clothes you can wear to the gym but also wear to your favourite pub, almost giving me major throwback vibes to the sitcom, Cheers.
In India, the trend has not yet infiltrated the boardrooms. It’s still limited to airports, mall, lounges, and party hotspots.
But we aren’t far from the day where it would be seen at corporate ideation sessions. And we have our movies, celebrities, and designers to thank for it. Donning fashionable sportswear is something we have actually seen on the silver screen before. Think Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hain, Karishma Kapoor in Dil Toh Pagal Hain, or Hrithik Roshan in the second half of Kaho Na Pyaar Hain. But that fashion was too massy, too down market, and too imitable to capture the minds of the ultra-trendy.
Today’s athleisure is not just about wearing sportswear in their original avatars but also about using the fabrics to create something that’s casual and covetable.
It’s about neoprene lehengas and scuba fabric jackets (look at the collections of Shivan & Narresh and Anand Bhushan). It’s about designer collaborations with high street brands and e-commerce giants (Masaba x Koovs). It’s about creating India’s equivalent of Alexander Wang’s collab with Adidas or doing what Chanel, Dior and other fashion monoliths are doing by imbuing their collections with sportswear elements.
The reason why the trend has stayed beyond the normal fashion cycle is also because of how international its appeal is and how utilitarian yet stylish the effect is. What is worn at La Guardia or Heathrow can be easily worn at Mumbai’s T2 terminal or even Pune’s Lohegaon airport with equal panache. It promotes the idea of living languidly. It’s not about actually working out (thank god for couch potatoes like me) but it’s a shift towards wearing fashion that is comfortable. It is the new normal and if that means quality clothes I can live in then I, for one, am not complaining.