Athleisure: Apparently Yoga Clothes Now Count As Business Casual

It’s been a long time coming: athleisure, love it or completely despise it, has started making fly-by-night appearances at the office. You can thank the yoga-meets-life appeal for this expansion, or people’s love of whatever’s comfortable, or maybe the increasingly lax approach—at least in the arts, publishing, and non profits—to traditional office wear.

But you can also thank the clothing industry: in a world where, in 2015, athleisure sales increased 16% (if you remove this category, overall clothing sales would have declined 2%), it only makes sense to expand the appeal. Not only are these yoga pants perfect for yoga, says the clothing industry, they’re also perfect for the office, the grocery store, and the bar.

Seriously?

Yep. But yet another piece of data completes the puzzle: the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2015, yoga-specific clothing sales increased 45%, but actual yoga practicing only went up 4.5%. That leaves a lot of clean yoga pants that are—you guessed it—appearing at the office.

This isn’t the first time the clothing industry tried (and succeeded!) in changing workplace culture: in this recent article, Bloomberg reports that Levi’s re-defined business casual in the ’90s to include their khaki Dockers pants by sending “A Guide to Casual Businesswear” to HR managers across the country. That was huge—in the ’90s and into the early 2000s, you couldn’t throw a stapler in midtown without hitting a dozen Dockers.

To underline (and test) the trend, this Fast Company Business + Design writer tried wearing yoga pants to the office for five days straight, but only suffered ridicule when she asked for it.

We love yoga, and we love yoga pants (especially the ones that help us avoid breakouts) but we’re not sure about this yoga-pants-as-office-wear trend—what do you think?

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