Sportswear, the culture of productivity and the death of personal style

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to remember the 2016 ‘VSCO girl’ aesthetic: she wore Lululemon, Birkenstocks and puka necklaces. This type of “girl” was likely to be all the rage on Instagram’s crawl page and defined an era of femininity that, while now mocked, encapsulated an entire identity of teenage girls. Like all trends and fashions, they fade over time and evolve into something new (eg more recently the “e-girl”), but they all stick to having a common theme of packaging. expression and identity in a box of what we should all strive to be.

Cut to the last few years, more specifically, in an era of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, where fashion and expression in the public eye has been (rightly) stifled by widespread anxieties about the to come up. There was no need to dress up when working from home, especially when a Zoom call saw only glitchy, pixelated images and overall morale for even dressing was low. Convenience and comfort was one of the few positive qualities the general public could enjoy during the chaos around them – home and home workouts, Instacart, and delivered races were increasingly popular forms of comfort. reliable you could count on.

Slowly but surely, comfort and optimization to get the most out of the situation have slipped into fashion. Brands like Aviator Nation, the “1970s-inspired California lifestyle brand” that defines itself as Malibu’s housewife mom who was happy to wear the stylish $ 156 sweatpants at the time. of his morning walk. Lululemon, the former monolith of leggings and yoga-chic, has found its main audience divided into newer, trendier, more ‘millennial pink’ sportswear brands such as Los Angeles’ Outdoor Voices or the more inclusive Girlfriend Collective. and more durable. These brands were able to seamlessly capitalize on those looking for comfortable yet sufficiently assembled clothing that could still deliver a reliability one depended on when nothing else.

But as the pandemic begins to turn into a distant nightmare and stabilization of vaccination rates and reopenings returns us to normal, these marks remain and are even stronger than before. When returning to the supermarket, schoolyards and life in general, who wouldn’t choose the trendy sweatpants over the tight, unfavorable skinny jeans?

This question serves to highlight a bigger and more worrying issue, which relies on optimizing the ever-growing checkboxes of our to-do lists and making each day more productive than the next. Author Jia Tolentino puts the finger on the head in his essay, “Athleisure, barre and kale: the tyranny of the ideal woman” writes, “This is how athleisure has widened the gap between sportswear and fashion: the first category optimizes your performance, the second optimizes your appearance and athleisure does both simultaneously.

So when the VSCO and the e-girl fall, “That Girl” triumphs. She wakes up at 6 a.m. and heads to her spinning class before her nine to five, touting a matching SetActive workout set and would rather cook meals than eat out. And while there is nothing wrong with this way of life, it is slowly dissipating an effort towards individualism in our wardrobe in a deafening boom in productivity and capitalist culture that has slyly crept into it. ‘expression.

In short, productivity has stolen the choice of comfort and a healthy, balanced lifestyle behind the mask of a trend. The choice of optimization decreases when there is no other that can offer the most complete life experience possible around long weeks of work. To explain: It’s easier to conform to the identity of sportswear when there is barely enough room to create a personalized style.

Even so, there remains the ever so exhausting and time consuming challenge of creating a wardrobe that is sustainable, self-representative and inexpensive. In a way, personal style and identity has become a counterculture to a new monopoly of trends that portray the “ideal woman”. When there is less time in the week to explore your personal eccentricity and the pressure to rely on social media for the current lifestyle, the backbone of what makes fashion enjoyable disappears.

Decentralizing productivity and the culture of “work”, or at least finding a balance between self-identity and the need to be productive are essential to rediscover the eccentricity and individualism in the way we express ourselves in the workplace. ‘clothing. Fashion and wardrobe tailoring has been hidden away like a chore under easy, prefabricated and easily optimizable sports and comfort clothing. Yet fashion has always been the easiest and fastest way to identify yourself.

First impressions are realistically consumed in the way one presents oneself; reveling in this reality rather than fearful of it makes the option of the whole and the training style entirely dependent on productivity and the capitalist work culture less than ideal.

Kaitlin Clapinski covers fashion. Contact her [email protected].


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