Cultural shifts & yoga pants

Okay, I have to say that as a full-time student and a part-time employee, I’ve found activewear to be the most convenient style to dress in during the past couple of years.

I used to religiously work out in the gym each weekday morning at 6.03 am but since going through a few life changes, I’ve not found the right rhythm to get back into it yet. Yoga at home seems to suit my current circumstances. It means I don’t really have to get rid of any of my activewear, instead I just call them my ‘yoga pants’. 

What is activewear anyway? How did we come to this - wearing gym clothes all day, in class, in the shops, while grabbing coffee with friends? Is it a status symbol? With brands like Supreme, Nike, Lululemon, and even Fendi now showcasing a line of yoga pants, activewear is not necessarily the cheapest nowadays. As a status symbol, what does it symbolise?

In my case, and in pandemic times, it might symbolise my need for functionality and practicality. I use one pair of leggings for uni, work (you can’t really see what pants I’m wearing at a Zoom meeting, right?), grocery shopping, housework and brunches. Maybe my yoga pants symbolise being a modern woman, having to wear different hats through one pair of pants. Historically though, not everyone had the privilege of sport and leisure. It was reserved for the ruling class. Still, as the industrial revolution took place, which aided work and shortened working hours, the middle class found time to participate more in sport, and sport influenced fashion. Sports clothes merged into everyday wear. For example, a sweater which you used to sweat in could also be worn with a business jacket to make it look more casual. Dressing casually seemed to indicate that one has time for sport and leisure. Street wear has since included sneakers which were used in croquet, or henley shirts from rowing, or the polo neck also known as a turtleneck shirt.

Although celebrities and billionaires are able to dress casually (think Mark Zuckerberg), allowing for an association of wealth with streetwear (i.e. hoodies and the like), some groups are excluded from this. Other people without the privilege of gender, or those who come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, aren’t able to walk around in hoodies and baseball caps. For hundreds of years, women have fought for the right to wear the clothes they want (and to feel safe while doing so). 

Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere, is paying. Lucy Siegle

Activewear, sportswear, and streetwear have seen plenty of cultural shifts. Even today, it continues to transform. Given the times we live in, I’ve learned to be more conscious and mindful of clothing material. Innovation and technology have created brilliant synthetic materials like spandex and nylon, but we are seeing that these conveniences come with a cost. Good thing I’m spoiled for choice as there is an increasing number of Australian brands creating environmentally-friendly yoga wear. 

Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Vivienne Westwood


Tagged in What messes with your head, Student life, Student health, yoga, fashion