Is athleisure acceptable business attire?


Fact Box

  • Athleisure is a term made popular by the New York-based fashion industry 20 years after lululemon got its start. It describes a category of clothing meant to look athletic, but with no inherent technical function.
  • The athleisure market size was valued at $155.2 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $257.1 billion by 2026.
  • A 2014 study from Harvard Business School indicated that higher status and performance within a given community is correlated with a stronger tendency to deviate from a conforming dress code (e.g., wearing jeans, sneakers, T-shirts rather than professional attire).
  • “The adoption of the athleisure trend is here to stay and is going to accelerate,” according to Adam Goldenberg, CEO of Los Angeles-based TechStyle Fashion Group.
  • The U.S. adult activewear industry generated $50.3 billion in sales for 2019, with men’s accounting for 51% market share and women’s at 49%.
  • Dress to impress” is still a good rule of thumb for all job interviews. Being neat, clean, and well groomed is ideal.

Laurie (Yes)

In our modern-day world, the average person works 8.8 hours a day. That’s over a third of their day. To be able to optimize their time and fit everything into their day — including caring for their families, doing errands, socializing, going to the gym, and enjoying mental rest — individuals should be able to wear athleisure to work. This would allow them to easily go from the gym, to work, to the grocery store, and then home as athleisure is comfortable and versatile, whereas traditional work clothes are not. The job environment has been evolving for years. It’s only natural that the attire deemed “acceptable” should follow. Nowadays, there are women leaders, new technology, modern workstations, and remote collaboration, as well as an additional focus on mental health. With all of these new factors in the workplace, it is impossible to ignore the outdated attire. Modern offices with swings, pool tables, and draft bars don’t mix well with heels and suits. It’s clear the modern office scene is moving toward something more comfortable and convenient for individuals. Therefore, office attire should be updated. Many offices have already changed their dress codes, but for those who haven’t, many fashion designers have created athleisure lines that mirror traditional office wear but feel like athletic clothes. In light of the current day-to-day of the office worker, clothes should make life easier, not harder. 

Michelle (No)

The word “athleisure” is defined as 'casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use.” Unless it is the company brand, it is unacceptable to wear athleisure in a business setting.

The business world has seen more casual clothing trends as millennials opt for comfort at work. Even executives like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are known to select jeans over the classic suit and tie. It is easy to forget the importance of professional business attire as people gravitate toward hoodies in place of blouses or collared shirts. 

Firstly, mutual respect is vital in a successful workplace. If one’s boss walked into an important meeting in jogging pants, one might feel unimportant or taken less seriously. Inversely, if one walks into a performance review in leggings, a supervisor may see them as less serious or unconfident. Although casual Fridays have seemingly extended beyond Fridays, wearing athleisure around the office is more akin to wearing one’s pajamas to work rather than jeans and a tee-shirt. According to one blog: “A good rule of thumb to follow is if they’re made for sweating in or sleeping in, you shouldn’t be working in them too.”

Lastly, an essential part of business development happens externally. Aside from how athleisure is perceived within the workplace, outside the workplace the employee represents the company. When meeting with clients, vendors, or even peers, one’s visual image dictates their level of professionalism as well as that of the company.

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