6 Essential Athleisure Pieces All Stylish Men Should Own

Image Credit: L'Estrange

In the late 2010s, a new way of dressing emerged. It ignored the fusty old rules of menswear and set out on its own relaxed path, combining luxury takes on sportswear with existing wardrobe staples.

It was athletic yet refined, comfortable yet sharp enough for most casual occasions. Somewhere along the line, someone decided to call it ‘athleisure‘, but despite the awful name the look hasn’t lost any of its appeal.

This is an aesthetic that works in the gym as well as it does out, with simple designs, performance fabrics and minimal branding the order of the day. You can think of athleisure as falling somewhere between streetwear and smart casual dress. It’s easy to wear and you don’t have to think much about it. Simply combine a few staple pieces, which are essentially interchangeable, throw on some sneakers and you’re good to go.

Not sure where to start? Below you’ll find six key pieces that form the backbone of any successful athleisure rotation in %%year%%.

What Is Athleisure?

Brunello Cucinelli

Athleisure is two things: athletic wear combined with leisurewear. This translates to sports-inspired pieces like track pants and polos mixed with off-duty staples like T-shirts, jersey sweats and lightweight outerwear.

It’s essentially a more casual-leaning take on smart casual; one that prioritises comfort and practicality. However, a non-negotiable element is sports attire. It wouldn’t be athleisure without some form of field, court or track-inspired garment incorporated.

You wouldn’t wear athleisure for a business meeting, but as comfortable, off-duty wear – think lounging around the house at the weekend, running errands or brunch with friends – it makes a ton of sense.

6 Key Athleisure Pieces For Men

The Technical Jacket

Technical outerwear refers more to the fabric than the style. A ‘technical fabric’ is one that’s lightweight yet windproof, breathable yet water-resistant – it will have your back (figuratively and literally) whether you’re caught in a blizzard or stuffy train carriage.

Such material are often a polyester or nylon blend, sometimes with a slight sheen or perhaps a ripstop texture. They’re often cut in light, spring-friendly silhouettes like short hooded raincoats, bombers or track jackets, all of which are perfect for wearing as part of an athleisure look.

Tailored Sweatpants

Tailored sweatpants aren’t always easy to find, but when you get hold of them you won’t want to take them off.

Infinitely more refined than the baggy joggers you’re probably used to, this type of sweatpant comes in a slimmer fit that narrows towards the ankle to create a sleeker silhouette. This allows them to be combined with smarter pieces up top – think cashmere knits, long-sleeve polos and luxe bomber jackets – to nail the high-low aesthetic that’s so integral to athleisure dressing.

When searching for your perfect pair, keep an eye out for secure slanted side pockets, a chunky drawstring waistband and tapered cut.

The Quarter-Zip Sweat

When it comes to athleisure, any close cut sweatshirt will do. But for one with more of a throwback feel, try a quarter-zip design that does up to a funnel or collared neck.

Comfortable and easy to wear, they’ll work just as well as a mid layer (try one underneath a smart coat or even an unstructured blazer) as as they do on their own above a tee.

Look for one made from a mid-weight cotton jersey and you can’t really go wrong.

The Zip-Up Cardigan

A zip-up cardigan makes for an excellent, elevated alternative to your zip-through hoodie. Leaning slightly smarter, it’s perfect for athleisure looks, particularly if you go for one in a high-end material like merino wool or cashmere.

Able to be dressed up or down on demand, try it with an Oxford button-down and wool drawstring trousers during the working week, then throw it on over a tonal T-shirt and track pants for an effortlessly cool weekend look.

Retro Running Shoes

We’re not talking high-tech (read: garish) running shoes here. Instead, we’re referencing the classic retro runners that were all the rage back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Offering technical features with a slightly more pared-back aesthetic, they typically feature waffle soles, minimal branding and come in a variety of vintage colourways, making them perfect for adding a point of difference to an otherwise tonal athleisure outfit.

White Sneakers

It’s difficult to go wrong with white sneakers. The most versatile and easiest to wear of all trainer styles, this clean-cut icon is beloved by everyone with a penchant for simple, timeless design.

These days white kicks run the gamut from chunky and oversized through to sleek and minimal, so there’s something for every taste. If you want to add a point of differential to yours, try a canvas pair for a throwback feel or models with suede detailing/panelling for a more opulent take on a classic.

Charlie Thomas

Charlie Thomas is a writer and photographer, contributing to publications including The Independent, The Times, The Rake and Black + White Photography magazine. His photography has been exhibited by Photofusion, Central Saint Martins and Photo Co-Op.