The latest athleisure trend looks cool AF, but can leggings that take fitness-meets-fashion to the next level really stand up to a high-intensity workout?
In this brave new world where fashion meets fitness, sneakers have become runway mainstays, breathable mesh and beach-ready neoprene have gone couture, and "Athleisure" Has Officially Been Added to the Dictionary. And it goes the other way too: nylon windbreakers sport high-fashion capes and sexy cutouts have made their way on to leggings and sports bras. Is no trend safe?
No—not even leather, a material you'd hardly imagine wearing to the gym. And yet, the once-wintry trend is now showing up on all kinds of workout gear. But while most of the other trends translate easily to the gym, does anyone actually want to sweat in leather?
With the rising popularity of gym-to-street workout clothes, some companies are banking on it. Lululemon offered a pair of leather pants in their &go collection last year, Rita Ora's designs for Adidas feature leather, and Athleta's fall 2015 collaboration with Derek Lam was full of leather. Clearly, there's a market for this. But in the name of fitness, I wanted to find out what it's actually like to go to the gym in leather leggings.
ADAY is new to the athleisure market, and the New York- and London-based brand is making a name for itself by turning casual, everyday staples (i.e. leather pants) into workout-ready gear using performance fabrics that can handle even the toughest workout. I decided to test out the ADAY's Hail Yes Trackpants ($95; thisisaday.com). The leather joggers are cool AF—the faux leather looks legit and the mid-rise waist and tapered bottoms are flattering on legs of all lengths. More importantly, the pants are UV resistant, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying. But can they stand up to a fitness editor's high-intensity routine? (Meet 5 Athleisure Companies Blending Fitness and Fashion.)
Y7 Hip Hop Yoga
For my first workout, I decided to try hot yoga. Go big or go home, right? If the leather leggings could stand up to power vinyasa in a 105°F room (and the amount of sweat that guarantees), they could probably handle any workout. I looked undeniably urban "cool girl," but walking to the subway felt a little weird, as if people were looking at me like "she's wearing that to the gym?" (My sneakers and hoodie made my destination obvious.) Yes, yes I was. And, yes, after mere minutes in the always-sweltering subway temps, I was already sweating.
The Y7 studio uses an infrared heating system, powered by HigherDOSE—and it is no joke hot. Like, the hottest yoga class I've ever been in, and I do this regularly. I had to ditch my shirt at some point, and I was super nervous about straight up melting in the leather pants. The drapey faric was clingy in a way that felt different from second-skin leggings—whenever it touched me, I was super aware of how sweaty it (and I) was. But the pants were amazingly comfortable, and easily moved with me no matter pose I was in. And when class was over, there was no soggy subway ride home—unlike some of my other leggings, the ADAY pants actually did dry incredibly quickly. (Psst... We've got 11 Ways to Make Your Sweaty Clothes Stink Less.)
There's something intimidating about heading to a workout in the studio frequented by Taylor Swift and a gaggle of Victoria's Secret models (trainer Justin Gelband has worked with Karlie Kloss, Miranda Kerr, and Candice Swanpoel, just to name a few). I thought my "cool girl" joggers would give me a leg up on the fashionable fitness crowd, but I missed the memo on the unspoken black-leggings-and-tight-black-tank uniform, so I did feel a little "try hard" in my fancy pants.
No matter—the roomy fit still felt great, even in a class that focuses on teeny tiny movements. But the pants did distract me a bit from focusing on my form and technique, the loose fabric making it hard for me to tell whether my small motions were on point. But while I felt a little out of place in the studio (I guess the form-fitting uniform made sense here!), I fit right in when I walked outside smack into uber trendy Soho. So in that sense, the pants did their job, taking me from my workout straight to happy hour, no costume change necessary. (Check out these Must-Have, Multifunctional Workout Clothes.)
It was time to put the pants to the cardio test, but I wasn't about to hit the treadmill in baggy pants (performance fabric or not, I wasn't up for snagging myself on a piece of equipment and face-planting mid-class). Instead, I headed to The Movement for a strength, cardio, and yoga mash-up that promised to be "one big sweaty party." And sweaty it was, again, in part thanks to the pants. It seems like as soon as my internal temperature starts to rise, the pants make me that much hotter, if only because I'm so aware of how the fabric does and doesn't touch my skin.
That said, the class took us through yoga burpees (they're harder than real ones because they're slower, trust), handstand hops, mountain climbers, and more high-intensity intervals, and the pants allowed for a full range of movement while wicking away moisture (I was the only one without obvious sweat marks at the end of class!).
These pants are rad. Mostly because they look awesome, and pair just as nice with running sneaks as they do with my for-work-only heels. Would I wear them to a super high-intensity, cardio-focused class? Nah. But they were great in the lower intensity workouts (which are just as important!), and perfect for those days where you're going straight from the gym to brunch/happy hour. Plus, you get the added bonus of answering, "OMG, where'd you get those awesome pants?" with a casual "Oh, these? They're just my gym pants." Badass.