Do You Have to Be Active to Wear “Active-wear”?

I can’t even believe I’m asking this question. The answer is obviously “no.” We can wear what we want. But this NY Times article, “When Active Wear Has No Activity” and a popular YouTube video that makes fun of women wearing “active wear” while going about their daily business, appear to take a different attitude.

The video is admittedly a very funny parody.  But I have to take issue with the article’s author, Guy Trebay, when he says the trend is “lamentable.” What’s so lamentable about it?  I mean, says who that there is something wrong with being comfortable? And a lot of the clothing isn’t just comfy, it’s actually attractive–great colours, soft fabrics, flattering design and style.

Above all else, “athleisure” clothing feels good. Why should something that comfy be reserved only for working out or going to yoga class? Isn’t it really just another style of casual clothing?

Now, lest you think I’m trying to defend a style of dress because it’s mine, that’s not quite right. I’m much more of a jeans person. But as someone who is partial to jeans in my down-time, I’m really happy about the melding of casual clothing and “active wear” because it’s produced jeans that feel as comfortable as leggings or tights.

For years it’s been okay to wear running shoes when you’re not running. I’m sure almost everyone has worn an athletic shoe of some kind without working out.  And why not? They’re comfortable and they give you good foot support.

Same with active/leisure wear.  Is it the body-hugging element that is objectionable? My only question to that point would be: why? And notice how the focus is entirely on women. Rather than get down on us for wearing athletic clothing when, as the video says, “there is no finish line,” I think we should all be rejoicing at the increasing social acceptability of comfortable clothing and shoes, for things like grocery shopping or doing laundry. I fail to grasp the problem.

Or do people think of today’s styles the way we used to think of baggy sweat pants? Is there some suggestion that if you’re dressing like that, you’re not making an effort to be presentable, you’ve given up? That this stuff is only appropriate for working out?

I don’t think it’s a fair comparison. Those thick grey sweat suits like the one Rocky wore were never what you would call stylish. They served a utilitarian function and yes, though comfortable, maybe they are just one step away from going out in your flannel pajamas. But the athletic wear of today is nothing like that.

The NY Times article outlines one problem with the active wear trend like this:

A gulf is ever widening between the days when proper grown-ups dressed in clothes requiring the dexterity to zip a zipper and an increasingly unsightly present, when an awful lot of adult garments are designed along the same overall principle as Pull-Ups.

Here I think the suggestion is that they’re too easy to put on. Like real grown-ups do up their shoelaces, not their velcro. Similarly, real grown-ups wear pants with zips and buttons, not elastic waists.  It’s not clear to me why clothing that doesn’t require a lot of dexterity to put on is for that reason childish or offensive.

Nope. I’m not on board with the criticism. We don’t have to be active to have a right to wear “active wear.” And even if we are active, we can wear it at other times.

I must be missing something.

What about you? Do you find yoga pants or running jackets to be objectionable choices for leisure wear? If so, what’s the problem?

If you haven’t seen the video, here it is:

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