The great Karl Lagerfeld once quipped that “sweatpants are a sign of defeat.” But in 2016, even a cursory glance down any of the world’s great fashion avenues weaves a different tale: if you want gold medal style, athleisure is your ticket to victory.

Today, technical fabrics applied to casual clothing are less about standing out and more about blending in. Gone are the hi-viz neon tracksuits of yore; in their place, technical, understated basics ready to change how you move in our ever-faster modern world.


Athleisure sits squarely at the intersection of form and function. On one hand, athleisure ensembles should drip technology: waterproof zippers, laser-cut seams, and innovative fabrics all define the style. On the other, these engineered features need aesthetic cues, or they risk compromising the casualness of the look.

The best athleisure outfits emphasize activity through performance fabrics and clever design while staying grounded in everyday wearability.

If you want to master this blend of style and substance, stick to the basics. Thanks to their technical details, simple, unadorned tops from most sportswear brands will make a splash. Versatile garments here include minimalist style tech tees, sweatshirts, and nylon shell jackets.

As for bottoms: it’s all about the joggers. While track pants may offer retro flair, when it comes to form and function combined, tapered technical sweats are impossible to beat. Plus, innovative fabrics like Nike’s Tech Fleece and DYNE’s Mega Spacer extend these stylish garments into all-weather territory, giving you carte blanche for cozy in any condition.

Fair warning: because of its design-intensive nature, athleisure doesn’t come cheap. Even start-ups like Brandblack rarely start below $30 tees and $100 sweats. If you want your budget to stretch as far as your tech jacket, think of “fashion” and “function” as levers and shop based on which you’d pull more to meet your needs.

If you’re looking for stylish essentials that could pull double duty in the gym, your best bets are traditional athletic apparel brands like Nike and adidas.

However, if you’re looking for lifestyle-enhancing tech fabrics integrated hidden in everyday pieces, aim for more fashion-oriented “activewear” brands like Outdoor Voices and Lululemon. Yes, they make men’s clothes.

While the above brands skillfully trade off performance with aesthetics to keep prices reasonable, if your definition of “trade off” means eating ramen to afford clothing made without compromise, the best athleisure on the market comes by way of sportswear innovators like DYNE, AEANCE, and Arc’teryx 24.

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