Athleisure vs. Athleticwear: How Do They Differ?

Athleisure vs. Athleticwear How Do They Differ, December 2021

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In our current day and age, you don’t have to look very far to see that fashion trends are shifting towards a more inclusive space for workout clothes and athletic wear.

Instead of having a strict divide (tee shirts are specifically for home, yoga pants are only for yoga classes, muscle shirts are only acceptable in the gym, etc.) we are witnessing more people comfortably changing the narrative when it comes to athleisure and wearing it pretty much anywhere.

The big reasons for this increase in workout clothes being worn in non-workout settings are many and are pretty varied. More and more people are comfortably incorporating fitness into their daily lives.

In terms of conversations and discourse, body positivity is widely encouraged and people are much more open and comfortable talking about their fitness goals.

 Regarding foods and diet, healthier food and drink alternatives are being promoted pretty much everywhere you look.

When it comes to gyms and fitness locations, you don’t have to look very far to find your local gym, its competitors or any specialist classes for any specific fitness goals.

The biggest reason for this upsurge in athleticwear in public is what we do in our downtime: social media and entertainment.

When it comes to social media, we are seeing many influencers promoting healthier lifestyles and how to develop more self love.

If it’s not the influencers, we are seeing our favorite actors, musicians, friends and family members looking and feeling great and sharing their approaches and mentality.

We all want to live the best lives for ourselves and be the best versions of ourselves -- that’s why you’re even reading this article--and with the current trends in fashion and friendly attitudes toward active lifestyles, we can definitely achieve that.

Having said all of this, the topic of athleisure vs athleticwear is interesting. It’s true that both are seeing a huge increase in popularity and sales in the general public, but there are key differences that are worth mentioning.

 Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, some are more comfortable and some less so, some serve a slightly different purpose than others.

The list goes on and on, and I hope that my discussion of the two will help your understanding and fashion decision making during your journey of working out to reach your fitness goals.


A woman wearing a light gray top and dark gray bottom sportswear

Starting with athleisure, fashionable clothes of this type are typically versatile in their uses.

While they can be worn while working out, you would more than often see them while walking in public, being at work or school, and sometimes even at formal events.

Typical athleisure clothes are leggings, yoga pants and shirts and tank tops for women, or basketball shorts, workout shirts and muscle shirts for men.

 In terms of brands, you would see Champion, Lululemon, Joylab, Alo Yoga, Adidas, Nike and Puma as trademarks for these, although they are also heavily involved in the athleticwear market.

Athleisure grew in popularity only about 10 or so years ago due to the reasons listed above, but most important to note is that it was primarily born out of compromise.

The idea of going to work and then going to the gym, changing into your workout clothes, working out, changing again, and then going home became such a bother and such a time-wasting set of activities that we can’t afford to lose in our busy lifestyles and schedules. 

Instead, we just go into work in our leggings--after all, they are comfortable, conservative (you might have to adjust your tops/shirts) and they look great.

From that idea came the culture and rising popularity of athleisure, with big name brands making fashion pieces to accompany this sleek and minimalistic look, such as matching sets, handbags for the gym or captivating designs that represent a wide variety of interests and concepts that fans of a sport, show or movie would like. 

Purchasing Athleisure

A man wearing a semi-casual semi-sports wear outfit while sitting down

The athleisure vs athleticwear debate have few differences, but quite significant ones.

When purchasing athleisure items, there are lots of considerations in terms of practicality, durability, notable features and of course, price.

While they appear to be minimalistic and simple, there is a lot of innovation and complex thinking behind each product, which can make or break your happiness with the clothes at the forefront of athleisure trends and fashions.

Some notable qualities to consider in a good athleisure purchase are: material, durability, design, versatility, price, and the ethics/environmental effects that have gone into making the article of clothing.

Here are some notable brands that are at the forefront of athleisure trends and fashions.

While giving a short distinction between brands and products, you will notice many similarities between them, as athleisure is defined by its comfort and practicality, more than anything.

Companies such as Athleta and Girlfriend Collective are great purchases for ethics and environmentally conscious buyers, as Athleta is a B Corporation, meaning that it balances its company purpose and profit, and some of its key initiatives are reusing materials for creating the clothes.

Athleta’s clothes are known to be made up of 60% sustainable fibers and that 70% of waste from their packaging materials has been diverted from landfills.

Products from Girlfriend Collective on the other hand are made entirely from recycled materials and ethical production procedures (factory workers having fair wages, good working hours and safe working conditions), products from this company are always supporting the right thing.

Noteworthy brands such as Lululemon and Alo Yoga are also staples of athleisure as well. Trusty Lulu will appear everywhere on both athleisure and athleticwear categories, as it has such a loyal and devoted fanbase, despite its price.

Its high quality and familiarity makes it such an attractive purchase for buyers--everyone owns at least one Lululemon product! As another familiar and trustworthy brand, Alo Yoga provides athleisure products that are strikingly comfortable and versatile.

In terms of price and comfort, companies like FP Movement, Champion, Sweaty Betty and Beyond Yoga are trademarks in this fashion style.

Best known for its earthly, bohemian and free spirited vibes, Free People’s fitness fashion line is called FP Movement. 

Its most notable features are its unique designs and functional, non-constricting and comfortable fit.

With its consumer-friendly price and trendy appearance, Joy Lab is ideal for purchasing in bulk: buying many colors and matching sets to fit your lifestyle, be it working from home, working out, or exploring the city.

Best known for its outgoing designs, Sweaty Betty and Beyond Yoga are fashion pieces that are designed to attract attention while being so comfortable.


A woman stretching while wearing a old rose yoga outfit

Slightly different from athleisure, Athleticwear focuses predominantly on fitness performance, while looking good wearing the products.

Although you would typically see athleticwear in more formal settings of fitness such as gyms, yoga studios, organized fitness activities and sporting events, it is not uncommon to see people wearing these clothes in public.

Common athleticwear includes high quality leggings, yoga apparel, and running apparel. 

For men, you would normally see Under Armor, Adidas, Reebok, Nike and Puma here.

As an older fashion than athleisure, athleticwear has remained more confined within organized fitness settings, instead of being worn out in public, but that is not to say that it is less fashionable or outdated in any sense.

Simply put, athleticwear is typically worn while doing workouts, fitness activities or sporting events. 

Because of athleticwear being worn during potentially high intensity workouts, they are typically composed from higher quality materials and innovations, and are generally more expensive.

While athleisure is more practical, comfortable and trendy first, athleticwear instead places durability, comfort while working out and sweat absorption/cleanup first.

 Instead of focusing on design and comfortability, athleticwear products will have more focus and innovation for things like preventing sweat stains, absorbing sweat and drying off faster for an easier cleanup.

Purchasing Athleticwear

A black woman running while wearing a aqua blue sports wear

The athleisure vs athleticwear debate have few differences, but quite significant ones.

When purchasing athleticwear items, instead of design and comfort, these products would address workout performance-related questions like durability, non-restricting movement, sweat handling ability, practical cleanup and will generally cost more in price.

Brands like Lululemon and Alo Yoga, although they have a wide array of athleisure, they were actually first known for producing high quality workout clothes.

They are known to be trusty fashion choices when it comes to working out as they dry off quickly, absorb sweat and keep up fashionable trends and designs.

Products like Zella and Outdoor Voices promote ideas to enforce staying active and working out as fun activities, and their products really show off those qualities, as they are high-grade materials and completely functional and non-restricting in terms of ease of movement and comfort.

Popular athleticwear like Varley and Beyond Yoga are know to support high-octane, intensive workouts while providing a feelgood and professional appearance.

They are inclusive in terms of a wide range of sizes, and their pieces are known to remain durable and high quality even after many uses of high performance activity and fitness. In these ways, athleticwear and athleisure differ.


Although it is not incorrect to wear one in place of the other, there are notable differences that can make it more correct to wear one over the other, depending on the activity you are doing. 

Denver Matheson

I spend a lot of time at the gym and even more time in the kitchen giving my body what it needs to repair itself and grow stronger. The third most important place for any athlete is their research zone. That's exactly why this site exists, to help me share all of the information I've learned throughout the years just like people did for me in the first place!

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