Now that the defining lines between athletic wear, loungewear, and relaxed after-hours-wear have been blurred to soft smudges, searching for the best activewear brands is a triple play. In 2021, everything lives beyond the gym, the studio, or, of course, the yoga mat.
By day, a recycled Girlfriend Collective bike unitard is one stretch away from being topped with a sweatshirt and scrunchy socks—capturing all the glamour of Princess Di running errands. By night, a Nike sports bra transforms into a high-neck crop top so stylish you’ll wonder if you need it in both colors. Consider the versatility of a classic Adidas tracksuit that made it so beloved by filmmaker Wes Anderson or Japanese designer Nigo. The latter reimagined it in a reversible format (see below) for his post-Bape label Human Made. Even Rick Owens, with a reputation for sculptural leather and aspirational gothwear, has embraced the skort—not to mention vegan materials.
Here, a running tally of the emerging, essential, and delightfully useful labels making some of the best activewear brands in the game to shop and infinitely style.
Through its tagline “future is in the past,” the label’s Human Made collection with Nigo nods at the Adidas suits that defy space and time, along with their appeal. Today’s versions feature recycled cotton and polyester interlock.
Associated with supermodels like Candice Swanepoel (who hosts a series of digital workouts for the brand) and the Hadid sisters, Alo Yoga’s designs are exactly the kind of athletic wear you’ll see in celebrities-in-the-wild paparazzi shots and yoga classes alike.
The Burch brand has tennis whites and on-court accessories baked into its DNA. Its best-sellers blend Coolmax® EcoMade fibers with classic silhouettes for preppy staples that feel safe to break a sweat in.
In apparel, Nike’s figured out the sweet spot for high-performance fitness pieces that masquerade as real clothes. Their DRI-Fit tech, featured in compression pieces, is thinner (and somehow stronger) than traditional stretch yarns for a featherlight touch that lets you move more freely.
Co-founder Robyn Berkley left a career in fashion to get a yoga certification in Bali that eventually led her back to fashion—this time, using conscious fibers and production methods to create Live The Process. Think hi-tech fabrics with a ballet-pretty aesthetic.
Credit where credit is due, Stella McCartney was in the first wave of designers to consider the health and fitness of all forms of life by promising to avoid materials that harm animals. Futuristic and functional, the line’s eco-solutions range from the recycled polyester for this wearable water bag to recycled polyamide in supportive bikini shorts.
Girlfriend Collective considers all bodies in their process with extended sizing, then goes a step further to offer an eco recipe for each piece. For example, the bike unitard below diverted 26 water bottles from landfills, while the bra diverted 12.
Reebok and Victoria Beckham reunite with additional accessories like intarsia logo socks. Beckham wears and vets each piece, like the line’s bike shorts designed to smooth and support, to be sure it aligns with her vision.
This is where basics are married with thoughtful fabrics. Like an oversized sweatshirt cut in organic french terry that’s as soft as a pullover should be or a unitard that bounces back from 58% recycled nylon.
Along with flattering lines, the body-sculpting Compression Texture material that Outdoor Voices utilizes in their designs makes head-to-toe spandex look easy. Strategic color blocking provides a helpful assist.
A sports bra cut more like a sculpting crop top? A bike short that both tricks and delights the eye? Port De Bras lends stylized details to the ever functional fitness space.
A favorite amongst fitness buffs, Lululemon’s activewear accessories are as impressive as their leggings. A straightforward running visor to protect your face and comfy boxing wraps to protect your hands offer lowkey value adds worth considering.
Great for anyone who prefers a workout ensemble that doesn’t require skintight spandex, Spirit Jersey also includes an entire vertical of unisex options for all. Themed collections celebrating bicoastal beauty from New York City to the City of Angels mingle with collaborations with major labels like Coca-Cola.
Of course, Virgil Abloh thought to include a shoulder-defining rowing top in Off-White’s culty mix of athletic staples that double as fashion flexes. For the most eye-catching options, logomania is alive and well.
With native New Yorker and founder Ronnie Fieg’s roots in sneaker culture, KITH’s evolution into a brand lauded for some of the most coveted runway-to-reality fitness basics makes sense. So does the ultra-tonal palette that creates endless pairing possibilities.
An indie, Portland-based label that started as a tennis line, Full Court Sport has evolved into a full body of activewear necessities. Its classic designs are defined by flattering shapes and sophisticated color schemes.
From Australia, P.E Nation makes 90% of their athleticwear out of recycled and regenerative fibers. And, unsurprisingly, the Jenners and Hadids of the world are already wearing the graphic pieces by founders Pip and Claire, who previously worked with brands like Topshop and sass & bide.
While you’re likely familiar with their tights and socks (they make great stabilizing ones to prevent sprains), Falke also delivers elegant basics. Tanks that keep you cool, tiny shorts that keep you warm—the German brand approaches each piece with logic and a light hand.
Both Kate Moss and her daughter Lila Moss wear PRISM Squared. As if one requires more convincing, all pieces are made sustainably in Italy with a minimal-waste production technique using 3D knitting. They’re also eco-dyed according to Greenpeace-certified protocol.
Rick Owens is the darkwave choice for those who prefer everything to be a varying shade of black. Beyond his line for Champion, Owens has an ongoing collaboration with Veja, where corn waste and polyurethane create a vegan-approved alternative to leather trainers.
For yogis and high-impact athletes hoping to level-up poses and performance, grip accessories are essential wear. Athleta carries cult brands like Toesox and Tavi Noir, loved by celebs like Hailey Bieber and Heidy De la Rosa, respectively.
L’Etoile Sport, despite its French name, is actually an American sportswear brand that launched about a decade ago in Southampton. Specializing in classic tennis silhouettes, they also have a range of golf and activewear that follows the line’s “play all day” ethos.
Made by a family-owned circular knitting factory based in Canada, TWENTY Montreal trademarked the terms “3D Activewear” and “Hyper Reality Knit” for a reason. They created a new category of performance sportswear thanks to their 3D knitting technology.
Yvonne Bulimo, born in Kenya and raised in America, launched ZOEZI Sport (zoezi means “exercise” in Swahili) as a lifestyle brand with fashion at the forefront. On top of seamless cuts, Bulimo offers a unisex line of comfy sweats.
Embracing the nuances of pastels and earth tones, FP Movement’s line comes in every shade found in a rainbow—or the earth itself. Even Puma submitted to the color spectrum in its line of tie-dye sneakers for the label.
For athletes in need of fleece, The North Face continues to offer its take on the noughties trend. Modern updates to the brand’s outerwear arrive in shades like Green Mist and Pearl Blush.
For easygoing staples like finely ribbed square-neck tops with adjustable straps, Aerie delivers. Somehow, they’ve even made a cargo legging look sleek.
The cinching effect of these Year of Ours lace-up football leggings (one of the label’s signatures) has drawn in celebs like Hailey Bieber and Eiza González. In black, they’re a convincing after-hours addition.