Oh, workout clothes. You so silly. The really good pants can cost $100. And the nice tops can cost $70ish. You only wear the stuff for an hour at a time. And then it’s going to smell like butt. Literally. Where do they get off charging that much for smell-like-butt clothes?
Well. Back in the day I would have thought it was just branding and luxury marketing and all that seventh grade stuff. Charge more and people will think it’s better. Then every yoga mom has to have a Lulu logo on her butt. But now that I actually design and manufacture stuff myself (paper goods, not clothes. bsandrs.com) and have a friend who designs and manufactures jeans (tallwaterjeans.com), I understand the work that goes into production and development and how much quality costs. And also, the more workouts I try, and the more laundry I do, the more I appreciate high-functioning stuff.
So. Why do they charge that much for smell-like-butt clothes? I’ll tell ya.
1. Quality of fabric. The fabric matters a ton. The fabric is what determines sheerness, wicking, longevity, fit, whether or not your cellulite shows, whether or not they keep their shape or stretch out, how easy they are to get in and out of, and whether or not the pants will slide down when you get sweaty. That’s why LuluLemon got big. Not just because they were design leaders, but also because of Luon fabric.
2. Technology. Not only do they have to be the right thickness and all of that, these fabrics have to breathe and wick and stretch both ways. They have breathable panels in body-mapped places. And those silver seams? Those actually cool you down and don’t absorb your stink. (I worked on adidas for years. Trust me. I know things.) F-yeah, science.
3. Design. Designing fitted things is hard. Designing fitted things that stay in place while flexing to and fro is hard. Figuring out how wide to make a waist band and how tight or high it needs to be to keep your poppin fresh dough from spilling out is hard. Placing the seams in a way that draws the eye around your leg, cutting the strap so you don’t get armpit boob, adding a key pocket without actually adding a pocket is hard. (It adds material, complicates pattern, takes longer to manufacture…) These are the things that make good pieces good. And they’re what make you keep on choosing to wear that one top or those certain pants instead of all the others.
4. Engineering. If you have more than a B cup you know you need a real jog bra, and you understand what a feat of engineering that those suckers are. (Bounce. Moving Comfort.) And some workout pants even have built in spanx-y panels and butt lifters and stuff (Lucy). Compression patterns support your muscles and help you work longer. It’s way more complex then sewing two halves of a pattern together.
So you see, a quality piece of fitness apparel takes a lot of work and design and R&D. It’s made with stuff that costs a lot more than cotton because it has to do a lot more than cotton. And the benefit you get out of that piece (comfort, support, confidence, performance) is directly related to how much work went into creating it.
I still have my first pairs of Athleta and LuluLemon capris. They’re at least 5 years old. And I still pick those guys from my drawer before all of the rest. Meanwhile, the Old Navy Active yoga crops I just bought for less than the cost of my lunch are thin and scratchy, don’t have stretchy thread, and will be busted in a matter of months. There’s cost per wear. And there’s just wasting time churning through cheap stuff when one great piece will remove “shop for gym pants” from your to-do list for years.
I am absolutely not trying to peer pressure you into buying something you can’t afford. (Hello, I wear old navy tank tops 90% of the time.) But I am for sure telling you that there IS a difference and you will get A LOT of use out of the good stuff for a LONG time.
And yeah. It’s way cuter.