Lululemon’s Genius Bid to Make Men's Leisure Wear Stylish

Credit: Courtesy Lululemon

Workout clothes for men are usually all about function. A distressed t-shirt and faded gym shorts absolutely gets the job done, but getting a drink afterwards is out of the question.

Of course, the irony of wearing baggy, shapeless clothes to get in shape isn't totally lost on us. For years, there's been an arm's race in stylish and comfortable gym wear for women, and you can see the fallout with yoga pants fit for clubs and coffee shops. Lululemon, one of the clear victors in that battle, is looking to bring this more stylish gym wear to men — and at the same time designing leisure wear that is sweat pants comfortable, happy hour ready.

"Men are increasingly looking for product that retains strong technical features and functionality that retains strong technical features and functionality," says Lululemon senior VP Felix del Toro. In many ways he's right. While women have long enjoyed a mashup of functional — and, yes, supremely comfortable — clothing that is acceptable and stylish enough to wear outside among other humans on the weekend, men are left with Jersey track suits and have only seen a slight creep in technical fabric for work clothes.

Still, if you wear something to the gym as a man, you should be able to wear it out. Lululemon gets this — you can see it in their three-phase collection (with categories called Sweat, Post-Sweat, and No Sweat). As you might imagine, each of the three pillars is slightly different. 

"Sweat" focuses on mobility and function for active men, with fitted hoodies, half-zips, henleys, and technical shorts, "Post Sweat" sticks to cotton shirts, pullovers, sweatpants that can thrown on after a workout be worn right up until your evening out, and "No Sweat" includes blazers, button-downs, polos, and chinos that actually comply with company dress code. Most importantly, all three line come in strong neutral colors (rather than Jazzercise neons) that are acceptable in any setting. Oh, and they’re still built with wicking tech too, just in case your afternoon includes a bit of unexpected sprinting.


And while Lululemon is taking the lead, they aren't the only ones fighting for the new space. Consider groups like Nike, Rapha, and a growing number of outdoor apparel companies who've been "fashioning up" their offerings. On the opposite side of the boat is Tracksmith and the new H&M collection in partnership with Alexander Wang designed to make the gym shorts and t-shirts you’d be hitting the gym in just a bit more street-ready.

Much the same way baggy suits, jeans, and sloppy tailoring have gone by the wayside, the next logical upgrade was going to come to the active casual wear of men who care how they look no matter where they are or what they're doing. That 2XL shirt you kept even though it wasn’t your size — the one you painted the house in last summer? Throw that away, or cut it up and use it to clean grease off your hands. It's time.