Activewear used to be reserved for sprints on your local trail or those 6-AM gym trips. However, athleisure has transformed into a wardrobe essential that can be worn regardless of your current activity. After all, nothing compares to the ease of pulling on a quarter zip and pair of flared leggings when your alarm chimes before the sun has risen. Instead of suggesting items you may already own, this list recommends athleisure products from unfamiliar or undervalued brands (sorry Lululemon). Here are some of the best activewear products we think you should try.
A note on sustainability
The fashion industry contributes to 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, according to World Economic Forum. The site also reports that 85% of textiles go into landfills every year–a percentage correlated with fast-fashion’s insistence on pumping out collections twice a month.
While the brands on this list still have work to do, each company has taken meaningful action in addressing its environmental impact. For more information on these companies (or any brand that you buy from), we recommend using the Good On You website’s brand rating tool. With a five-point scale that goes from “we avoid” to “great,” the website rates how brands address environmental issues, fair wages and animal product use.
Patagonia’s Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T Pullover
There’s a reason many associate hiking up paths on crisp mornings with Patagonia’s puff jackets. Even other brands such as Reformation and REI have hopped onto the Patagonia bandwagon, selling its fleece vests and coats amid their own products. For a jacket that strays from the classic Patagonia zip-up, try the Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T Pullover, which retails for $119 USD. Available in seven prints (I personally gravitate to the oatmeal shade with a pink collar), the pullover is made with 100% recycled Synchilla polyester fleece. Patagonia even provides the option for buying the pullover pre-used, an option that lowers the item’s price.
To elevate this athleisure item, pair the pullover with a black turtleneck, dark khaki pants and platform boots–an outfit that appears deliberate and stylish yet maintains comfort. Find what Patagonia labels the Men’s Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T Pullover here and the women’s version here.
Wolven’s Juniper Crisscross Bra
Kiran Jade founded Wolven with the goal of “[providing] a home for everyone to feel confident and empowered, while respecting the planet.” The Juniper Crisscross Bra aligns with Jade’s hope for an intersection of sustainability and style.
With reversible fabric (a solid lavender on one side and white with lavender details on the other side), Wolven “pinky [swears] that nobody will know you wore it twice.” The fabric also may be one of the softest materials you’ll ever own and is made from rPET (Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate) and spandex.
Wear the Juniper Crisscross Bra under your favorite exercise t-shirt or pair it with leggings. As of July 2022, the bra is on sale for $34.50 USD, and you can find it here.
Nube’s Black 7″ Bike Shorts
Before the 80s aerobics buzz popularized bike shorts, wearing this form-fitted garment outside of cycling settings was laughable. Now, bike shorts’ popularity has resurfaced, and Pinterest boards overflow with bike shorts outfits (often a black pair worn with a white button-down).
For a pair of black bike shorts with a little more character, try Nube’s Black 7″ Bike Shorts. The purple stitching along the seams of the shorts adds dimension and contrasts with traditional styles. Plus, the Nube website explains that each pair of shorts “uses at least 15 plastic bottles and is made in the Nube sewing studio in East Los Angeles.” You can find the bike shorts here for $69 USD.
Girlfriend Collective’s FLOAT Ultralight Skort
It’s difficult to choose just one piece from Girlfriend Collective’s athleisure collection. One standout, however, is the FLOAT Ultralight Skort, which comes in four shades (berry, flame, black and zest) and sizes XXS through 6XL. A break from the standard shorts and t-shirt combination, skorts can provide a more comfortable and flattering fit. Plus, Girlfriend Collective’s have two side pockets on the inner shorts.
You don’t have to be a tennis player to wear the FLOAT Ultralight Skort. Try pairing it with a sports bra or t-shirt on your next run in the park. You can find the skort here for $62 USD.
Patagonia’s Kamala Cropped Pants
Surprise, surprise, another Patagonia athleisure item. We couldn’t resist including these flowy, wide-legged pants on the list, though. When you plan to lounge around for most of the day, but want to change out of your pajamas, throw on the Kamala Cropped Pants.
As with all of the brand’s clothes, the Kamala Cropped Pants are made from organic cotton (a considerable feat given that less than one percent of cotton grown worldwide is organic, according to Patagonia). The pants retail for $69 USD and come in the colors rosehip, tidepool blue, black and basin green.
Tentree’s InMotion Hoodie
After discovering that the apparel industry creates 10.5 metric tons of trash per year, Tentree decided to plant ten trees for every item purchased. So far, the brand has planted over 82 million trees and wants to reach one billion by 2030.
The Tentree InMotion Hoodie is the sleeker version of that moth-worn sweatshirt sitting in the bottom of your dresser. Wear it when running weekly errands or laps around the park. You can purchase the sweatshirt here for $68 USD.
Pact’s Pureactive Cropped Pocket Legging
If you’re searching for a new pair of leggings, try a style from Pact–a brand that uses organic cotton “because it sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people by using natural farming processes.” Pact also puts the rights of its workers at the forefront, striving to “ensure safe working conditions” and “empower employees.”
The Pureactive Cropped Pocket Leggings come in five colors/patterns (including leopard print) and are cropped to just below the knees. You can purchase a pair here for $45 USD.