What is behind the growth of Athleisure in 2021?

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Pre 2020, the majority of people who worked for companies that had permanent offices in their local cities or towns would have to travel each day, in what was deemed ‘work-appropriate attire.’

This would usually consist of a shirt and trousers (if not a full suit) for men, whilst women could choose between a blouse, dress, skirt or trousers. Whilst in some more creative industries the dress code was a little more informal, this was generally seen as the norm, and was accepted by most people.

This whole perception of what constitutes working clothes was changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020. People were then instructed to work from home, not having to make the effort of waking up early, to dress nicely, just to get into the office. Now, they could wake up later and get on with their work, in whatever clothes they wished. This meant that instead of putting on constricting clothes that looked far better than they felt, people could instead opt for more comfortable items that were actually pleasant to wear for upwards of 10 hours a day.

One particular style of clothing that has become increasingly popular since the pandemic struck is athleisure. If you haven’t heard of this term before, or have but have never been entirely clear as to what it means, it is basically a type of hybrid clothing, that can be worn for both athletic activities, and more casual settings too. It is the sort of clothing you can picture sports stars wearing on their days off, when their stats aren’t being looked at on the best online sportsbooks, as instead they are relaxing at home after a training session.

To understand a bit further why the athleisure industry has grown so much recently, especially in 2021, we’re going to look into the rise of athleisure, and try to establish if this trend is set to continue in the next 5 to 10 years.


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When was the term popularised?

The word athleisure has actually been around for much longer than we’d initially thought as it was first used way back in March 1979, in an issue of the Nation’s Business. There, it was used to describe the types of clothing and footwear that were designed for people who wanted to look sporty, but could still wear these items for every day. It was always seen as separate to sportswear, which was clothing designed for a specific sport, as opposed to more general clothing.

However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that it really began to kick-off, with more and more clothing companies offering athleisure ranges, as well as dedicated athleisure clothing outlets. It has proved to be popular with the younger generations, as a survey carried out in 2018 showed that teens with disposable incomes were 6 times more likely to state that an athleisure brand was their favourite clothing range, compared to 2008.


Rise of Yoga and indoor exercise in the past 12 months

For the majority of 2020, and the early months of 2021, millions of people worldwide were confined to their own four walls. Many of these people didn’t have any outdoor space to exercise, so would have looked for alternatives that they could do in their own homes. One such activity was yoga, which only really required a yoga mat and a few metres of space, so people could stretch without knocking anything over. Yoga can be incredibly relaxing and helps to release tension (something that many people would have been struggling with during the pandemic!). The best types of clothing to wear during this activity were yoga pants, which are one of the main components of athleisure clothing. The material they are made of allows for a great deal of flexibility, meaning those practising downward facing dog or warrior one poses could do so comfortably.

It wasn’t just yoga’s popularity that skyrocketed during 2021, as YouTube fitness classes also became essential for those wanting to keep their energy levels up. They ranged from classes for beginners, to intense hour-long workouts, which would leave people very sweaty and struggling for breath at the end of them. Athleisure is the perfect attire for these workout classes, as they have been designed with these types of activity specifically in mind.


Will the athleisure trend continue beyond 2021?

There is no evidence to suggest that athleisure’s popularity will diminish anytime soon. People have returned to gyms, but have continued to wear their athleisure to, during, and after their workouts. In addition, people will now often turn to athleisure if they are going for a walk to grab a coffee, instead of putting on jeans or trousers. 2021 was certainly the year of athleisure, but 2022 and beyond could see it becoming the most popular type of clothing out there.

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