For the past few years, a particularly peculiar fitness fad has been gaining popularity from coast-to-coast: indoor cycling. From Soulcycle to Flywheel Sports to the spin class in Wilson Gym, America is newly infatuated with the stationary bike. As working out becomes more fashionable, so does its clothing. The modern person is so busy that even though they can fit a workout into their day, they might not have the time, nor want to put in the effort to change clothes.
Enter athleisure: the current popularity of sporting athletic clothes outside of athletic environments. On campus, athleisure is represented by the Stan Smiths and black leggings that are ubiquitous on the quad. Though athleisure is has brought a variety of new fabrics, textures, and shapes to contemporary ready-to-wear, it seeks to flatter like the women’s clothes before it. In this way, the new trend walks an interesting line. On one hand, women’s exercise is empowering, but on the other it creates a dominant culture of female fitness.
Since the 1970’s and 80’s, innovative workouts have been a part of a woman’s schedule– adherence to an idea that women should be effortlessly slender. In the 90’s, a Kate Moss inspired gaunt frame dominated women’s mass media presence. However, in recent years, something has changed: visible exercise has again come in to vogue, and fit bodies are back in fashion. A-list celebrities, like the Kardashian-Jenner clan and Gigi Hadid, are often photographed wearing high-end sweatpants and sneakers, and celebrities speak openly about how exercise is central to their routines. Last week, I ran into my friend on her way to an 8:30 class as I was on my way back from the gym. Sweaty and disheveled, I’ve probably never looked worse. Yet, instead of commenting on my appearance, she laughed and said “I wish I had that kind of motivation”.
In a way, women have re-claimed exercise. The signature Soulcycle lights are common sight on social media. It’s respected to shuffle into a meeting slightly glistening because you “just got out of spin”. Through cycling, Pilates, and other new-age forms of fitness, we have embraced the idea of strengthening our bodies and taking care of them. Athlesuire is an direct result of this shifting mindset. As exercising is seen as a positive pastime, there’s no shame in wearing exercise clothes day in and day out. Wearing Adidas to an art museum is encouraged. Though the stationary bike will eventually lose its panache, athletics-influenced ready-to-wear will be an enduring legacy of late 2010s style. The idea of fitness as fashion is comfortable, innovative, and reflective of our time.