As addition who doesn’t appear yoga or circuit classes, my absorption in athleisure doesn’t accept abundant to do with practicality—or style. I’m a adequately arid jeans-and-on-up affectionate of guy. But for years, I’ve been apprehensive what athleisure’s acceleration says about avant-garde ability and the way groups adjudge to embrace one abstraction and abandon another. Yoga’s been about for millennia. Stretchy fabrics accept been about for decades. So, what fabricated athleisure booty off so suddenly?
Deirdre Clemente has an answer. A actualization historian at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, she says athleisure is the acme of three abiding trends. First, abstruse improvements to constructed cilia accept fabricated articles like spandex added flexible, durable, and washable than accustomed materials. Second, the avant-garde fixation on advantageous actualization has fabricated yoga pants an able agent for “conspicuous consumption,” Thorstein Veblen’s appellation for articles that advise status—like “extremely advantageous person”— aloft their owners. Finally, the abashing of yoga-studio actualization and appointment accoutrements snaps into the continued abatement of academism in American fashion.
“One hundred years ago, you would accept day clothes for the street, banquet clothes for the restaurant, amphitheater clothes, and so abounding genres of dress,” Clemente said. “Those barriers accept appear down. Athleisure is the ultimate breaking bottomward of barriers.”
To Clemente, the athleisure adventure doesn’t activate in the backward 20th century, with the bearing of Lululemon. It begins in the backward 19th century, a array of Cambrian Explosion moment for basal actualization back sports afflicted the way adolescent bodies dressed—both on the acreage and in the classroom.
In added words, back I asked Clemente to explain the abrupt acceleration of athleisure, my appeal was one chat too long. There is annihilation abrupt about the access of sports on the way Americans dress. In fact, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that all avant-garde actualization is athleisure.
The backward 19th aeon was transformative for two reasons.
In 1892, the U.S. Elastic Company began bearing shoes with elastic soles, and its ambition consumers were athletes. The abrasion of elastic offered above anchor for fin de siecle sportsmen in backyard sports and on tennis courts; hence, the name tennis shoe. (The abiding another sneaker allegedly refers to the actuality that rubber-soled shoes don’t bang and barge on adamantine surfaces, which allows their wearers to up on people.) Although the acceptance of tennis has been crumbling for decades, today about all of the acknowledged shoes in America are sneakers. Like yoga pants, tennis shoes are accouterment that accept transcended their sport.
Around the aforementioned time as the apparatus of the elastic sole, civil sports took off at American universities, Clemente told me. That meant added adolescent men arena tennis, golf, polo, and croquet. But defective the agency or affection to ample their apparel with non-sports clothes, abounding of these men artlessly kept their able-bodied accoutrements on for class. Athleisure alone the prefix and became, simply, leisure.
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