Why Some Retailers Hate the Word ‘Athleisure’

Hayley FitzPatrick
Outdoor Voices
Photo: Outdoor Voices

One of the most popular trends championed by top designers, models, and celebrities alike is athleisure. The word, recently added to the 2016 unabridged version of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, is defined as “casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use.”

However, while many industry figures (and basically anyone else who wears clothing) are quick to support the trend, some are not so crazy about the word itself. “I hate that term. It’s the worst thing in the world. I can’t wait for it to die,” Tyler Haney, founder of lifestyle brand Outdoor Voices, told Man Repeller. No, she doesn’t think it’s the new “moist.” Haney feels there’s a disconnect between the meaning of the word and the activity associated with it. Haney produces apparel for those who make physical activity fun, and believes that often people sporting athleisure aren’t attempting any sort of physical activity.

Haney is passionate about combining her design background with her athletic upbringing, and has attempted to market her company in a unique way by shifting the focus away from results and performance to simply being active. The term doesn’t align with her company’s mantra, as activity is essential to her vision — something that cannot be said for all athleisure fans. 

Haney isn’t the only one taking issue with the popular term. Another activewear retailer, Bandier, wants to do away with with its clothing being referred to as athleisure. The alternative? Active fashion. Founder Jennifer Bandier believes athleisure “doesn’t connote any sort of actual activity,” according to Refinery29

Many users have weighed in on Twitter, voicing their distaste for the word.







One mother said that the term can also be demeaning, as it implies that those who adorn themselves in workout garb are doing so in a leisurely way. “Athleisure connotes ‘ladies who lunch,’ and mothers are so much more than that. More like ‘ath-we’re busting our ass, didn’t have time to shower or blow dry our hair because we went from the gym to making lunches to driving kids to school to get to work’ wear,” Elisette Carlson, founder of SMACK! Media marketing and PR firm, told Mom.me.

Project Runway host Tim Gunn is perhaps the trend’s most vehement adversary. “It’s vulgar,” he told Bloomberg. “Unless you’re Robin Hood.”

Yet despite the hate from industry folk, there’s still mostly love from shoppers. Research firm NPD Group reported the market to be valued at $44 billion in 2015, a 16 percent year-over-year increase. Simultaneously, denim sales are down about 5 percent. Long live leggings!

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