As you may or may not have known, the media website Gawker recently shut down. This is unfortunate. Not for the world, because Gawker was garbage and deserved everything that came it’s way. But unfortunate for Jezebel, who then got to take the lead as the leading website in shit. Jezebel describes itself as an “online magazine focused on celebrities, sex, feminism, and issues relating to women’s empowerment.” And I’m all about that. Feminism is something that I can support. But what I can’t support is the various ways in which they try to do it, but that’s another column for another writer. I’m not here to criticize Jezebel as a whole more than I already have. I’m here to criticize their column from August 31st, 2016 – “Athleisure Is Not For You.”
Athleisure, if you’ve been living under a rock and/or don’t concern yourself with the high-end fashion world, is a fairly simple concept. Athleisure is clothing that appears to be intended for exercise but is actually worn for pleasure, work, or simply relaxing. It’s the reason guys drool on the street when a pair of yoga pants walks by, and the reason it’s somehow acceptable for said guys to wear joggers (which are essentially just modern, expensive sweatpants with cinches in the ankle to show off their designer sneakers that have never seen the fluorescent light of a gym). Athleisure is prevalent in the workplace, on the street, at brunch, and most notably, on every single celebrity in the paparazzi.
Which is where Jezebel comes in.
In the column written by their “Culture Editor” (whatever that is), she takes athleisure and poses it as a trend that should only be accepted in celebrity circles. Because after all, who besides celebrities have time to work on their physique for more than a few hours a day? That’s right, no one (per her). Apparently she hasn’t met the project managers who live for SoulCycle or the finance guys who hit the gym before work so they can get electric before the day even begins. By the author’s standards, unless you have nothing better to do than workout all day (so if you have a job, pretty much), you’re simply not allowed to indulge in the athleisure trend.
The bulk of her argument is below, without editing.
While the widespread popularity of “athleisure” in American culture is a hellish development in the waning realm of individual personal style, it also coincides with a moment in which excessive exercise is seen as aspirational, adjacent to those $11 green juices. While people wandering the city in yoga pants with no discernible athletic destination may seem schlubby, there’s a proximity to the relaxed lifestyle that it hopes to project. It’s the Kardashians, walking to and from their gym in Los Angeles, leggings and a tank top and sneakers between business meetings, working on the physiques that help prop up an empire that wouldn’t exist in its current form without their physiques. It’s part and parcel of this moment, in which dogged physicality is associated with goodness, particularly in women, chalices that we are of the basest of cultural expectations.
To quote the forward-thinker of my high school class’ bumper sticker on her Chevy Cavalier, “Keep your laws off my body.” Or, in this case, your fashion rules. Insinuating that one is limiting their style by cycling in some yoga pants or shirts made from what’s considered to be athletic material is just narrow-minded. Especially for a website that prides itself on empowering people (specifically women) as their entire credo above declares.
But in her attempts to tear down The Kardashians and build up the general public, her argument still falls flatter than the asses of the girls wearing yoga pants who don’t actually do squats (Oh, no!).
Athleisure is a smaller figment in the cultural trend towards performing fitness, which in itself is lifestyle marketing. Subscribing to athleisure as a trend can lead to the illusion of being on the way to or from the gym, just like the Kardashians always seem to be in their Instagrams. They clearly work out hard and often, but for those of us who cannot devote such time to [working out], the projection that we are less sedentary than we might be is a way of telling ourselves that we are not bad because of it. In other words, fitness is great and deeply important for our health. But the cult of it is a complex, rude imposition.
With all due respect, give me a fucking break. Yes, the “cult” (her words, not mine) of fitness is in everyone’s face. For everyone claiming that you should adopt a paleo diet or describing their Crossfit routine to you, there’s someone who shouts from the rooftops even more about how annoying these people actually are (which in return is just as annoying most of the time). Declaring that fitness is “great and deeply important to our health” only to renege on that by claiming it an “imposition” is flawed. People who don’t work out? They need to work out (read: me). People who workout? They love to talk about how invigorating their workouts are. That’s not news to anyone, nor should it be.
But to insinuate that people should refuse a fashion trend because they aren’t actually living that type of lifestyle is preposterous. That’s like saying that someone shouldn’t wear jeans or boots because they don’t work on a farm, or that frat guys shouldn’t wear boat shoes because they’re not fucking sailing. The entire point of fashion is to project to the world what you want the world to see in you. If that’s getting a tattoo of a teacup to accompany your hipster 50s housewife dress or wearing a pair of yoga pants on your run to Whole Foods, it really shouldn’t matter – should it? .