In the last ten years, the term “athleisure” went from a made-up, nonsense word to the center of a multi-billion dollar fashion industry. The half-workout, half-lounge style of clothing known as athleisure wear has replaced high-waisted jeans and khakis as the new go-to uniform for busy mothers. Venture into any preschool drop-off, playground, or Starbucks and you are almost guaranteed to find multiple women dressed in some combination of leggings, yoga pants, and shirts made out of various fabrics marketed for “wicking.”
Athleisure wear has reached a point of total cultural saturation, with retailers like Lululemon and Athleta devoted entirely to this style, as well as larger brands like Gap or J. Crew creating entire departments just to showcase it. However, the thing about ubiquity is that it tends to breed contempt, and lately there have been some high profile pieces attacking the trend, to the point of literally calling it a “nihilistic threat” on life itself. Seriously.
This is why I, a woman who owns both “casual” and “fancy” leggings, feel compelled to proudly stand up (in my yoga pants), and make a public declaration in support of athleisure wear for mothers, and tell the haters of this trend to back off. To do that, I’ll need to deconstruct some of the criticism.
Athleisure is messy. You should look put together when you leave the house.
This belief is particularly prevalent in the South where older generations of women would be horrified to leave the house with wet hair or without pearls, let alone in (voice drops to a horrified whisper) performance-fabric leggings.
Here’s the thing. There is a time and a place for athleisure wear. Common sense and decorum keep most women from wearing skin-tight capri pants to jury duty or a nice restaurant or a business meeting. But moms often spend the majority of their days in the car or at playgrounds or on the floor. Who are we trying to impress? The three-year-old in our kids’ gymnastics classes?
And more importantly, why are we trying to impress anyone? Shouldn’t we wear clothing that is comfortable, easy to clean after peanut butter fingers have had their way, and most importantly, functional for our lifestyles?
Athleisure is too tight, form-fitting, and sexy. You’re going to attract the lecherous male gaze.
There are so many things wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to start. First, if my spit-up covered yoga pants are too sensual for random Joe at the grocery store, to the point where I am causing a legitimate problem for this man, he clearly isn’t fit to be out in public and should probably get some intensive therapy. Second, stop staring at my behind you weirdos. Third, a lot of women actually do work out in these clothes, and loose, baggy sweatpants and t-shirts are not the safest or most sensible things to wear to a spin or yoga class.
Athleisure is lazy and a sign of a lack of effort in life.
The “lazy” argument is particularly fun to hear when you have been up since three in the morning; fed two children, a dog, and your husband; spent an hour changing diapers and clothes and packing up various school bags; made lunches and snacks; threw a dinner in the Crockpot; walked the dog; gotten the kids in the car and to various schools and classes on time; spent your precious kid-free time at the grocery store and Costco stocking up on the hundreds of supplies your family goes through every week; and literally have not had a free second to eat so much as a granola bar. Call us lazy again. I dare you.
Gym clothes belong at the gym.
This one most often comes from people who have never been around small children. Because if you have spent any time around small children, you quickly realize the amount of running, jumping, tackling, and lifting involved with children far exceeds the calories burned during your standard Zumba class. Why on earth should mothers put on restrictive, “proper” clothing like dresses or slacks when we are literally going to end up, at some point in the day, chasing a naked two-year-old down the street? Life is our gym.
Unless you look like Giselle, you have no business wearing leggings or yoga pants out in public.
To the people who lob this argument against athleisure wear, let me sincerely apologize. I’m sorry for the disgust we have caused. I apologize that we have wobbly parts and aren’t all size negative zeros. I know how hard it is for you to look at our grotesque forms, how scarring it is for you to witness real, live female human bodies not hidden by Mumus or parkas or better yet, just full body snowsuits year-round. I know it is horrifying to have to go the grocery store or park or (God forbid) the mall and see us just standing there, all innocent, when we have the nerve, nay, the audacity, to wear clothing that actually exposes the fact that we are human women with stomachs and thighs and chests.
The truth is some people will never accept athleisure wear. And there certainly are places where it would be inappropriate to rock your Lululemon. Maybe don’t wear it to your child’s baptism. Or lunch with grandma.
But most mothers would likely agree that the prevalence and acceptance of this type of clothing has made our lives comfier, more functional, and easier all around. And for a busy mom, that’s easily worth its weight in gold. Or at least the cost of some overpriced leggings.