How today’s activewear adds comfort and brandability to our everyday lives.

When Jane Fonda unveiled her famous “feel the burn” exercise video in 1982, she redefined the gym look for the rest of the decade. Remember that red and black striped leotard, and those tights and leg warmers?

Today’s version of Fonda’s tights, leggings have launched more than one popular retail clothing company, including Lululemon and, more recently, Fabletics, the company co-founded by actress Kate Hudson. Men have embraced the legging trend as well, although for men the term is “compression pants,” not leggings—an important distinction. As you probably already know, products that trend at retail quickly make their way to the promotional world, which is good news for distributors, since activewear lends itself so well to company branding.

America’s focus on fitness and healthy living and the 25-percent increase in sports participation among high-school students over the past 35 years have contributed to the $97 billion U.S. activewear market, according to Morgan Stanley’s October 2015 report, “Global Athletic Wear: Very Bullish Five-Year Outlook.” It’s a great time to incorporate activewear into promotional campaigns. For style tips and an insider’s view on what’s going on in the activewear market today and what’s coming in 2017, read PPB’s interview with Expert Brand (UPIC: Exper698) Designer Leah Hulon below.



Made from microfiber poly/spandex power stretch jersey knit, the Women’s All Purpose Full-Length Pant is both functional and stylish. A smooth, wide waistband with drawcord offers a personalized fit, while inherent moisture wicking and BodyFreshé antimicrobials leave you feeling dry and comfortable. It’s available in sizes XS-2XL and comes in three different colors: graphite, black and charcoal heather.

Expert Brand UPIC: Exper698



The performance-inspired Lotus ¼ Zip made from H2X-DRY® moisture-wicking spandex fleece offers incredible freedom of movement and breathability when worn as a layering piece. This pullover features contrast flatlock stitching, thumb holes and convertible hand warmer cuffs. It’s available in men’s and women’s styles. For women, combine with the new Lotus Yoga Pant to complete your outfit.

Stormtech USA, Inc. UPIC: slabster


Couleurs Performance Headbands are made from 95-percent polyester/five-percent spandex lightweight performance material. One size fits most and a full-color imprint process is used on both sides. The design can be different on each side.

Suntex Industries UPIC: SUNTEX



Available in both a pullover and full zip style for men and women, the 100-percent polyester Clique Vaasa Hoodie offers a different look and feel on the outside with smooth faced fabric, and all the soft comfort you expect on the inside. Trim details add dimension while the luminous fabric brings subtle style to a comfortable look. The self-fabric hood, underarm gusset with air holes, kangaroo-style pocket, and ribbed sleeves, cuffs, and hem finish the piece.

Cutter & Buck UPIC: CUTT0001



The new ODYSSEY Striped Poly Fleece Pullover Hood is constructed of 7.5-ounce, 100-percent striped polyester fleece fabric and is available in five trending colors (granite, quarry, sapphire, dynasty green and passion pink) in a modern athleisure cut. Featuring high scuba neck lines, lapover hood construction and thumbhole cuffs (ladies) this pullover also has dyed-to-match drawcords and a front pouch pocket. Choose from sizes: S-3XL.

America (Wholesale Blanks Division) UPIC: Blanks



The Team Sportsman Performance Ripstop Runner cap is 100-percent polyester with moisture-wicking micro ripstop fabric, contrasting air vents and an unstructured, low-profile, six-panel construction. The pre-curved visor has contrasting trim, a white undervisor and a moisture-wicking sweatband. A D-ring with Velcro™ brand hook-and-loop fastener closure completes the look. There is no top button and the cap is available in six colors.

Kati Sportcap & Bag UPIC: KATI



The 60/40 ring-spun cotton/polyester blend premium sueded jersey V-neck t-shirt is fabric laundered for reduced shrinkage and includes a satin label.

Next Level Apparel UPIC: NextL178



The KOOLGATOR is two inches high by 26 inches long and snaps comfortably around the neck, secured by a plastic safety snap. For a unique, purposeful and reusable promotional item that keeps people cool all day long through the process of evaporation--no ice or refrigeration required--simply soak in cool water for 15 minutes and snap it on.




The Sport-Tek® long-sleeve, heather Contender Tee offers moisture-wicking, snag resistance and breathability at a value price. Made of 3.8-ounce, 100-percent polyester jersey, the shirt features set-in sleeves and a removable tag for comfort and relabeling. It can be machine washed (no bleach or fabric softener), tumble dried low and printed using the usual special care required by 100-percent polyester performance fabrics. Colors include graphite, true navy, royal blue and vintage heather and it comes in adult sizes XS-4XL.

Transfer Express



This durable, premium tee is now even more colorful with four new camo colors, all with an upmarket, contemporary camo pattern. The 4.1-ounce, 100-percent polyester jersey is moisture wicking, features rapid-dry interlock fabric and provides excellent UV protection–ideal for race shirts, team shirts or corporate events. Stone gray camo, safety green camo, safety orange camo and wow pink camo are available in both men’s and women’s styles.

Hanes/Champion UPIC: HBIINC



This medium profile six panel structured cap is made from 100-percent polyester fabric and offers UV protection and moisture wicking, a woven loop label and stretchable Velcro® brand hook and loop fastener closure. Available colors include black and white.


All About Activewear

PPB Talks With Expert Brand Designer Leah Hulon

leah-hulon-headshotWhat’s trending in the world of activewear today, and what do you see being popular in 2017? Color-wise, there are a lot of royal blue, hot pink, and primary color shades such as yellow and red trending in activewear. In 2017, I see olive green being a more predominant color in the market, especially when paired with berry shades in women’s wear. Also, there will be a big push for indigo, and an offshoot of this will be different variations of teal and jade.

As far as fit, the trend is moving towards new fabrications and technologies being implemented. Women especially are appreciating styles with easier/looser silhouettes (i.e. more draping and away from the body) for layering, which can then transition into pieces worn outside the gym.

What technological innovations have been particularly impactful this year or do you foresee being impactful in the upcoming year?  A technological innovation such as Nobitech™, which protects the wearer from insect bites (including the Zika virus) has been particularly impactful this year. Other technological advances in fabrications include improved hand-feel and drape, as well as true performance qualities such as antimicrobial, moisture-wicking properties, etc.

What’s important for distributors to keep in mind when choosing activewear to recommend to their clients? Keeping in mind who the initial target customer is and what their inherent needs are with relation to price point is definitely important. The longevity of the performance apparel piece in the market is also critical to understand: Will this piece be something that will go out of style soon? Or will it be a volume-drive piece that will carry on and continue to be reordered? There is usually a fine balance between newness and a comfort level of familiarity.

Is there anything else that would be important for distributors to know about activewear?  I think in a saturated market like activewear, where everyone is trying to zone in on the next trend, it is more impactful to think about the overall versatility of the piece and its multiple end uses by the consumer. Not only are individuals wearing performance gear to the gym, but the piece now needs to be suitable for after the workout as well, as everyone wants to look their best while going shopping, meeting up with a friend for coffee, etc.


Case Study

A Whale Of An Idea

A biomedical research foundation kicked off its 60th anniversary with a whale-watching outing for its board members. Gephart Marketing Solutions (UPIC: dgep) provided warm full-zip hoodies for the boat trip, among many other items such as waterproof binoculars, a journal, a cooler bag and a lunch-to-go kit in a special package for each participant. The promotion resulted in 100-percent attendance and came in under budget. It also won a silver 2016 PPAI Pyramid Award.

Top Three Uses For Activewear

  1. Casual/everyday use
  2. Athletics/sports/exercise
  3. School

Source: NPD Group

Beanie Buzz

beanie-webPerformance beanie caps like this one from Suntex are a great workout accessory when training outside on chilly days. But have you ever wondered why people wear beanie caps while exercising indoors?

Here are the (unofficial) top five reasons people wear beanies in the gym:

  1. To cover messy hair
  2. To keep earbuds from falling out
  3. Style—to look cool
  4. To feel more private and focused
  5. To increase the intensity of a workout and lose weight faster


Julie Richie is associate editor for PPB.