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Teens Are Ditching Jeans For Yoga Pants, Driving ‘Athleisure’ Fashion Trend

in Business of Yoga, YD News

Girls wearing matching Ivivva outfits at the Yoga Garden during the 2015 White House Easter Egg Roll | image via Ivivva twitter

Teens have come to their senses and are ditching modern torture devices also known as jeans, or denim, or, to some early adopters, dungarees. They are, instead, opting for the comfort and stretchiness of yoga pants causing a spike in what the industry folks now call the annoyingly titled category of “athleisure.” According to research by Piper Jaffray in a report called the “Taking Stock With Teens Survey,” yoga pants are considered part of a top teen fashion trend. Of course, it goes without saying we are completely biased when it comes to matters of lower extremity comfort and breathability. We actually believe this to be true:


And can we really argue with the gaggles of girls and boys choosing clothing that represents a generally positive activity, whether it be yoga or another form of physical fitness? Heck, we remember those days in high school when we just kept our gym clothes on all day because it was WAY more comfortable than those restrictive skinny jeans. But the “athleisure” options the kids have today are so much cooler and more stylish. They’re also much more expensive today because they’re cooler and more stylish. And because Lululemon. (As some parents are shaking their fists to the sky.)

According to the Piper Jaffray survey, “Athletic-leisure, preppy, leggings and jogging pants are among the top teen fashion trends.” More stats via Buzzfeed:

Almost 16% of teen girls from upper-income households said their preferred brand was a “fashion athletic” label, up from 1.5% in 2009, the firm said in a report issued Tuesday. Only 9.1% of respondents picked a denim-based brand, down from a peak of 20.2% in 2010.

Companies that have depended on the sales of jeans have either expanded a workout line or sprouted a new fitness offshoot to meet the “performance lifestyle” demands (like Urban Outfitters’ Without Walls), or they’ve been toiling away trying to master the jeggings phenomenon – which, let’s all admit it, they’re leggings, not jeans. (We’re not complaining.)


Lululemon remains on the top of the must-wear list for those who can afford it. And their kids’ brand Ivivva, which offers smaller versions of many of the same items you’d find in a lulu store and at close to the same prices, is showing nothing but growth. A recent article in the Washington Post pointed to the Ivivva success and wondered if we have arrived at the point of ultimate yoga pants peak saturation:

The company recently said that Ivivva in the fourth quarter saw sales increase a whopping 51 percent at its stores open more than a year while its revenue shot up 13 percent to 1.8 billion for the full year. The company expects to add 20 new locations in 2015 to its existing 72 stores and showrooms.

That Ivivva has had such success connecting with young shoppers shows how widespread the so-called “athleisure” trend has become.  But it also poses a tough question for the retailers that are hoping to ride this aesthetic to long-term success: Once little kids are wearing the same outfit as you, has the look lost its sheen of cool?

Why are so many teens clinging to their stretchies? Fashion, comfort, status, peer pressure, rebellion, expression, pop stars are singing about them…why do teens do anything?

yoga-pants-fashion-googleTo us, there are a few things going on here. First, yoga pants are comfortable. Second, yoga is pretty freaking popular. Third, marketers and retailers are betting the farm that this “athleisure” trend will continue to grow and have put all of their energy and resources into making that happen. Fourth, teens are impressionable, they rely a lot on peer approval as they figure themselves out, and they loooove to latch on to trends with a deep fervor we only once understood when we were that age. (See UGGs, One Direction, etc.)

And yet there has already been a big backlash, not from parents shelling out $200+ for their kids’ athleisure suits, but school administrators who have come down on yoga pants and leggings for being too tight and revealing, deeming them inappropriate and against school dress codes. Many students (and some parents) have pushed back in protest, but it seems there are more and more stories every day of yoga pants bans and students being asked to change or be sent home from school.

But the question of sexuality and yoga pants goes even further, like with Christian blogger Veronica Partridge, who publicly declared she would not longer wear yoga pants because it’s disrespectful to her husband and “if a man wants to look, they are going to look, but why entice them?” Meanwhile, we have Montana lawmakers who want to make wearing yoga pants in public illegal. We know at least one other sharp critic who would strongly agree with that. If yoga pants are ruining women are they ruining children, too? Are only certain people allowed to wear them? Yes, yoga pants do have a lot of politics woven into their pliable fabric. As for social exclusionary aspect, it’s not hard to blame Lululemon for creating the foundation for an elitist yoga club, affluence and the right body type required. This is a shame. Everyone should feel free to wear yoga pants, damn it, and they shouldn’t have to pay through the third eye to do it.

When we were growing up, “athleisure” meant Champion sweatshirts and everything else “cool” was either made by The Limited, Fila or Tommy Hilfiger. At the time, there seemed to be no real rhyme or reason to it, besides that brands and labels have super powers when it comes to the inner-cosms of teenage social life. Strong, those forces are. Apparently, sitting here in our indie-label stretchy yoga pants and comfy, breathable top, we are super hip and didn’t even know it. Obviously way ahead of our time.

So an increase in teens wearing yoga pants doesn’t necessarily mean a shift in a more yoga-centric peace-loving adolescent society (the study also reported that 36% of the teens surveyed anticipate playing more video games in 2015). But we do know more young people ARE practicing yoga, a lot of it in school, ironically, so while it’s maybe a chicken or egg scenario, we’re pleased the yoga fashion trend sort of goes both ways. Yoga has been shown to be especially beneficial to teens, helping them do better in school and even battle eating disorders. It’s just a bummer that yoga pants, and yoga by association, come with such a hefty price tag of cost and classism, because they’re pretty much the most comfortable things to wear ever.



10 comments… add one
  • Ana

    This is great. How true. Every time I walk in the house and can’t wait to take off the jeans and put on some type of more comfortable clothes I am amazed at how I used to think that jeans were comfortable clothing. I love the article almost as much as I love my yoga pants :).

  • hank

    I think they’re ugly — both the color but especially the design pattern. And the fact that all of the little yoga bunnies are wearing the exact same outfit projects an aura of cultish mass conformity that so much of today’s yoga has become.

    There is a real lack of creative fashion sense in so many of the women who have bought into the yoga pants trend. Occasionally you will see someone — usually someone from New York — who has created an interesting mix of clothing pieces. Otherwise it is typically black pants, Ugg boots and a Northface jacket. There is more intelligent fashion sense among women in North Korea.

    Mass marketing to kids — and through kids — has been the subject of an enormous amount of highly critical social research. It’s not something to be taken lightly when such an exploitative company, facing problems with adults, now tries to ensnare their children.

    These pants are absurdly overpriced. The reason so many women wear leggings is not just the comfort –it’s because they are so much cheaper than anything else. I mean $8 compared to $70 Ivivvas or $100 jeans — no brainer.

    If yoga wants to retain its transformative edge — rather than just line the pockets of the Chip Wilsons of the world — it needs to be able to tackle the mass market with some genuine critical insight.

    In the 1970s, in an era of intelligent feminism that has long since passed from the scene, women might have protested the White House using a tax-payer funded event as a blatant sales prop for a company so closely associated with classism, racism, and misogyny.

    Not many of these yoga pant wearers in middle school actually practice yoga by the way? Maybe girls should be banned from wearing them if they don’t have the brains to do more than strut their derrieres in them.

    Sure yoga sells – but it’s not selling yoga, not even indirectly. It’s purely a marketing gloss to make the Chip Wilsons of the world rich.

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