| NEW YORK, April 28
NEW YORK, April 28 Function and fashion must
blend seamlessly in modern workout clothes, which have come a
long way from the bulky gray cotton sweatshirts and canvas
sneakers of years past, fitness experts say.
From sophisticated sweat-absorbing synthetics to cycling
pants with strategically placed padding, today's exercise
apparel must be durable enough to withstand a hardcore workout,
stylish enough to meet friends or run errands, and distinct
enough to let the world know who you are.
Chris Froio, head of training for Reebok International Ltd,
the running shoe and apparel company, said consumers of both
sexes are expecting their clothes not only perform but express
the fitness lifestyle of the wearer.
"What you see is: 'Yes, I need my functional clothing, but I
also need to look good going to and from the gym and picking up
the kids," said Froio. "'I need the style and comfort that's
going to let me wear it all day.'"
Froio said customers aren't looking just for function or
just for style, they are demanding a blend.
The world sports apparel industry is expected to exceed $126
billion in sales by 2015, according to a 2013 report by Global
Industry Analysts, a market research firm.
Froio cites the ubiquity of running shoes being worn by
non-runners and notes that teenagers appear to be favoring
leggings, yoga pants and other athletic styles.
Bold colors, prints and graphics have gone from the
periphery to a fashionable mainstay, Froio said, as exercisers
look for clothes that communicate as well as perform.
"People want something that conveys the attitude of the
wearer, that allows them to express themselves, whether through
a colorful headband or by revealing their tattoos," he said.
Functionality, starting with lightweight, durable,
breathable fabrics with enough stretch to cover the exerciser's
full range of motion, has evolved with the help of technology
imported from other industries.
"We have cooling technologies developed from the aerospace
industry," Froio said. "From cookware we have (developed) the
Teflon applied to running wear to keep rain off athletes."
Miami-based trainer Jessica Smith said the new fabrics hold
out the dual promise of making the wearer look good and
improving performance as well.
"We have compression materials, supportive materials,
fabrics that breathe and give," said Smith, creator of the "Walk
On" fitness DVDs. "Also, you'll see a difference between yoga
clothing and clothing designed for running."
Design becomes more functional as science becomes more
sophisticated, she said, from pockets for cellphones to
anti-bacterial wicking that claims to keep the exerciser not
only dry but odor-free.
"We're seeing colorful and decorative compression socks that
help Olympic power lifters avoid shin burns (from chafing
barbells)," she said.
Clothes have become more sophisticated, said Jessica
Matthews, an exercise physiologist at Miramar College in
"Fitness apparel has evolved in the quality of material and
the quality of construction," she said.
Trends in general fashion bleed steadily into fitness
apparel, Matthews said, though not always with the most
functional of outcomes.
"I remember a few years ago a trend towards low-waisted yoga
pants ... not the best choice for the curvier among us," she
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Gunna Dickson)