Saturday, November 21, 2015

I'm With Tim

Coming from me, there are many things that are going to rankle some about what follows. For one it involves fashion, and Lord knows I'm hardly a style-maven, either in practice or as a knowledgeable observer. Also, while men are involved, the issue at hand predominantly focuses on women. And if my decades on this earth as a male has taught me anything, it's that men judging women's clothing takes you to a place where good rarely comes. As if those two strikes aren't enough – well – actually, those two strikes are more than enough to get me into trouble. But I've got space to vent and something on my mind, and as one of the characters in the new show "Billions" asks, "What's the point of having f-you money if you never get to say F-You?"

So here goes: I hate the athleisure trend.

In case you missed it, that's the official term for the look that says "I'm on my way to spin class" or "I just came from Pilates" even though you're at the grocery store, going to a movie or having lunch. It's spandex and neoprene and leggings and crop tops. It's new offshoot brands such as Tory Burch's Tory Sport and Derek Lam's 10C Athleta, and new outlets like Dick's Sporting Goods Chelsea Collective and Net-A-Porter's Net-A-Sporter. And it's so on-the-radar that Merriam-Webster has announced it will be included in the dictionary come 2016, with the official definition being "casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use." Who knew that Al Sharpton was so ahead of his time in those track suits?

In fact, it's more than just a trend: all those lululemon yoga pants and Nike sports bras add up to big numbers. Just as the business casual trend helped supercharge khakis and button downs, so too does the athleisure movement mean that print leggings and wicking tops are going from being found only in niche catalogs and websites to being front and center at flagships like Macy's and Nordstorm. According to the Morgan Stanley report "Global Athletic Wear: Very Bullish Five-Year Outlook," estimates are that by 2020 the segment could add $83 billion in sales.

But just because it's happening doesn't mean I have to like it. To be clear, and at the risk of sounding, well, male, I'm not talking about how women "look" in the stuff. (And yes, it's mostly women pushing the trend. Sure, there are guys who wear leggings and shrink-to-fit Under Armour tops when they're out walking the dog or going to the Post Office, but that's another story.) As with any fashion, there are some people who look good in it, and some people who should consider a different style, be they tall, short, thin, chunky or any combination of the above. (I feel I am digging myself in deeper here, but in for a penny, in for a pound.)

No, what I'm talking about is what it "says." I try and exercise, and while my preferred attire is gym shorts and tee shirts, there's no way I would subject the rest of the world to my outfit unless the treadmill were on fire. Sure, some dress this way heading to the gym or back, and yes, occasionally you have to stop along the way for a quart of milk. But growth in the segment is all about wearing these togs every day for anything but exercising. Sorry, but the world is not a Zumba class. Tim Gunn, the fashion consultant and TV personality put it this way: "It's vulgar, unless you're Robin Hood." Clothes may make the man (or woman), but wearing yoga pants when your downward dog is the kind that's on a leash is - what? Disingenuous? Dishonest? Arrogant? Smug? Gunn again: "The thing about overly casual dressing is it says 'I don't give a rat's ass about anything.'"

I'm not saying you shouldn't be comfortable. And I'm not saying we should go back to suits all the time. But everyday clothing seems to be on a scale sliding downward. You wouldn't wear a bathing suit to the mall; how is this any different even if your Sweaty Betty Zubhra Layered Yoga Capris cost $230? The only upside I see, as one wag of like mind noted, is now we can refer to a rip in someone's leggings as an "athhole."


Marc Wollin of Bedford exercises in things that aren't stretchy. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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