Athleisure: Not Just For The Gym Anymore
Hoodies and tees have always been a no-brainer for the collegiate market, but soft, comfy clothing with style has never been more popular for all ages. Office dress codes have trended more toward casual since the pandemic, and people want transitional clothing that can go from the office to the gym to the weekend without missing a beat.
Even fashion maven Tim Gunn, who a decade ago tweeted, “When it comes to dressing, comfort is overrated,” has come to appreciate comfortable clothing, and high-fashion designers like Stella McCartney are jumping on the athleisure train.
“There’s been a shift in wanting to feel comfortable but still feel fashionable and professional,” says Lauren Esser, an account manager with Denver-based distributor Specialty Incentives. “There’s just this desire to feel good in the clothes that you’re wearing and still feel appropriate to meet with customers and be in the office or be remote, and then it also makes it easier to swing over to the gym or maybe go for a walk over your lunch break.”
Wellness and embracing the whole person at work have become bywords over the past few years, and catering to comfort with athleisurewear options is a subtle way to show that a company cares about its employees and customers. Transitional garments that people can feel appropriate wearing in a variety of settings – including on their days off – also contributes to a sense of work-life balance, and more relaxed dress codes have become an important tool for employee retention.
“I’m not saying that you can just come in your pajamas. There’s a huge difference,” says Esser, “but you can still be put together but feel comfortable.”
Athleisure is naturally a huge market for colleges and universities, but companies and brands can tap into team spirit with these styles, too. Companies of all kinds are outfitting their teams in athleisurewear for trade shows and more, especially those looking to project a relatable, fun image.
“Certain clients don’t want to be perceived as being too serious or corporate, so there’s also that dynamic,” says Esser. “The way that they dress and present themselves can say a lot about the company. … It comes back down to branding and how brands want to distinguish themselves and what feel and vibe they want to present.”
At the same time, casual is getting less casual as buyers increasingly focus on value and aligning their brands with the impression of quality. Promo suppliers are offering their own retail-inspired versions of trending athleisurewear, and customers are excited to see these pieces.
“The Morpheus Knit Jacket rocks because it can be dressed up, worn with jeans or paired with athleisure and makes any outfit look polished and put together,” says Esser. Available in heather charcoal or black, women’s sizes XS-3X and men’s S-5X.
Fossa Apparel / PPAI 330885, S1
Kelsey Jones, an account manager with Ohio-based distributor City Apparel, says the Port Authority Ladies Microterry Pullover Hoodie “has been a huge hit because it is soft poly/rayon/spandex material that can either be dressed up with a pair of jeans or dressed down for a more athleisure look.” Made of super-soft, snag-resistant fabric, it features side vents and a drop-tail hem for a relaxed fit. Available in four colors (dusk blue shown); sizes XS-4X.
SanMar / PPAI 110788, S16
Crewneck sweatshirts have been increasing in popularity and are now requested almost as often as hoodies. The unisex Comfort Colors Adult Crewneck Sweatshirt, made with 80% sustainably and fairly grown USA cotton (20% polyester), comes in 35 garment-dyed colors, including trendy pastels and earth tones (light green shown), and sizes S-2X.
alphabroder / PPAI 156993, S16
Joggers continue to gain in both popularity and style. These Unisex Fashion Fleece Jogger Sweatpants are made in the USA of a super-soft poly/cotton blend and feature an easy-fit waistband with elastic and drawcord, side pockets and ribbed ankle cuffs. Available in five colors (asphalt shown) and sizes XS- 3X.
Royal Apparel / PPAI 269959, S1
The retail-inspired LL Crossbody Belt Bag Fanny Pack echoes the shape of what Refinery29 calls “the internet’s favorite crossbody.” Recipients can wear it as a belt bag or across the shoulder, making it the perfect athleisure accessory for a hot girl walk or any adventure. This custom bag has a metal zipper (gold or silver) and is available in 15 standard colors, or choose from 140 stock colors to stand out.
AZX Sport / PPAI 224494, S6
Don’t forget about footwear options, from lace-up sneakers to comfy slides and slip-ons.
“I have done custom Converse for a client, which is a lot of fun,” says Esser. “I was just at Target, and those slip-on comfortable fashion slides are everywhere.”
Try on a pair of custom Hydro Sliders for a comfy retail-inspired accessory. These slip-on sandals feature an eco-friendly EVA sole with full toe lift and arch support, plus recessed heel and slip-resistance bottom. Available in sizes from toddler through adult and five stock colors.
The Kanata Group / PPAI 111063, S7
Esser sees more people wearing fun, trendy sneakers with outfits, too. “It’s not just the clothing – it’s everything from the shoes up, and you can still look put together and professional,” she says. A snazzy pair of branded sneakers like these Scoots can add that finishing touch. The custom-printed shoes are made with recycled materials and available in men’s sizes 4-15, women’s 6-11.5 and kids’ 10-youth 4.
SOCK101 / PPAI 625402, S6