Once upon not such a long time ago, the word ‘comfort’ and ‘fashion’ couldn’t be found in the same universe, let alone the same sentence. Exuding power, confidence, capability and being alluring to the opposite (or same sex) came with a price, and that price included wearing uncomfortable clothing we were all dreaming about taking off the minute we get back home. Then, when we were safely hidden away from the rest of the world – dating, corporate and all other worlds – we were able to wear our worn-out track pants, tees and hoodies.
All kidding aside, wearing a hoodie outside your home or the gym environment was considered the equivalent of giving up on life – for further proof check out any rom-com scene in which the main guy or girl are going through a breakup or an existential crisis. If you can’t remember any, here are two examples – Tom in 500 Days of Summer and Bridget Jones in, well, all three movies. So, what happened that resulted in comfort clothing not only becoming acceptable but one of the most dominant types of clothing that is having brunch next to you at a cool restaurant, strutting down the runway or performing at Coachella? That is what we aim to find out today.
First came millennials
It is no secret that the power of the millennial consumer is a mysteriously large one. They have officially this year become one of the most powerful consumer groups in the US alone. Also, as you may or may not know, this is a generation that doesn’t care for discomfort and when it comes to dressing, they’re all about breaking rules. You might think, okay – millennials refuse to be pigeon-holed and are becoming more androgynous, but what does that have to do with comfort? Well, first of all, yes, they are a generation that places authenticity high on the style priority shelf – it’s all about looking unique. However, this is a generation that has been a huge factor in the overall lifestyle changes and the need for attire that would match that lifestyle arose. What does the lifestyle entail exactly? Tons of errands, a rich social life, career-hunting and pursuing wellness and fitness goals. We only have 24 hours to do all that so what do we do – we turn to comfort, and older and newer generations follow. We start getting out of suits and putting on comfortable pants and simple tees matched with comfy oversized blazers or even hoodie-like cardigans; we replace the high-heels with stylish Nike shoes, put on a pair of quality leggings and even the notorious hoodie and realize we look darn good, and more importantly, we can do almost everything there is to do in a day without having to change. There are even studies that show that people now put comfort (movement, fabric and fit) first and that the purchasing decisions are heavily dependent on whether garments fit the comfort bill.
Then came the A-listers
Whether or not non-celebrity millennials would have eventually pushed the industry towards what is known and beloved as the athleisure trend had there not been a flood of rule-breaking and dressing-for-comfort celebrities, remains unknown. However, once we were able to see stars such as Bella and Gigi Hadid as well as Kendall, Karlie Kloss and numerous other celebrities including Beyoncé and Rihanna stepping out of their homes, walking around airports and generally just popping up everywhere in sportswear as well as slouchy and comfy jeans and regular tees, we felt courageous to do the same. And of course, as it always happens in fashion, the power of celebrity prevailed and the luxury brands caved.
This marked the official birth of athleisure – a trend that is a mixture of athletic and leisure wear, and one that is changing and evolving every day.
Then came the millennials again
Millennials are often mentioned as one of the driving forces behind the major shifts that are happening in the corporate world. Not only are they changing the career game in terms of wanting to work for a company with a purpose and one that shares their values, but they also want to work in an environment that has ‘loosened the strings’ in terms of dress code, and many companies have actually listened. It’s not like we can go into most offices in yoga pants just yet, but things have certainly changed. Even people such as Debra Bar, the head of marketing at Bank Leumi in New York, has ‘purged her closet of business suits, replacing them with colorful dresses that she enjoys wearing more. Her heels are gathering dust in a desk drawer while she dons flat shoes, and even sneakers, since injuring her knee, and no one seems to care. In fact, she simply gets complimented on the way she looks. If the Wall Street is open to change, everyone is.
The industry completes the circle
If you look at the recent collections by famous designers, you will notice that comfortable is the perfect way to describe even some of the haute couture lines. There is less constriction; hoodies, crocs, sneakers, they’re all present on the runways, and even the glamorous dresses have taken on a new shape, allow for more movement and provide that general ‘feel good’ vibe. So yes, there is now an inextricable link between comfort and fashion. Don’t expect the runways to be overflowing with tracksuits just yet, but at least comfort is a part of the industry, a part of the conversation, and that is a pretty good start.