My fashion new year resolution is to cut myself some slack. To quit trying to be someone I’m not. So I am going to stop wearing things that make me feel bad about myself. As of today, it’s goodbye to clothes bought on their promise that they would transform me into a shinier, sleeker, optimised version of myself. It’s time to breathe a sigh of relief and get back to wearing what I feel comfortable in.
So I am breaking up with athleisure. I am throwing off the shackles of compression leggings. Burning the racer-back long-line sports bra with its modish charcoal-and-terracotta colour palette. Breaking free of the breathable mesh tanks with empowering slogans in Yale University-adjacent font across the front. Unzipping the cropped hoodie and unlacing my trainers.
Athleisure is supposed to be comfortable, but as a fancy urban uniform it has begun to feel a lot like peer pressure. High heels rightly get a bad press for showcasing physical sexuality, exaggerating the sway of hips, emphasising breasts and bottoms. But athleisure also puts your body front and centre of who you are – and not just because leggings and crop tops put your musculature and body fat percentage on display. Athleisure doesn’t have to be skin-tight to put the spotlight on your appearance. Even if it is a tracksuit, modern coordinated workout gear tells the world that exercise and fitness are of paramount importance to you, that the physical shape of your body is a core value. Athleisure is power dressing for narcissists.
Lycra gives plenty of stretch, but the mindset of wearing athleisure doesn’t cut you a lot of slack
This is absolutely not about giving up exercise, by the way. That’s not the point, and anyway for me it’s not an option, because like a lot of people I start to lose the plot if I go more than a couple of days without a run or a class. But that doesn’t mean I have to parade around in the kit all day.
Exercise is great, but we don’t need to shove our workout schedules down each other’s throats, right? I mean, I cook dinner most nights but I don’t go to work in my apron. So I plan to embrace old-school gym clothes. The stuff we used to wear to work out before the advent of public-facing yoga gear and running tops that come with matching scrunchies. To be clear, I’m not intending to burn sports bras, or anything else. But I still have a drawer full of promotional T-shirts whose provenance has been lost in the mists of time, and tracksuit bottoms whose best days date to a world pre-selfies, and I’m going back to wearing those.