On my block

The colourful mini-history of an athleisure look

The term “Athleisure”, a portmanteau of  “athletic and leisure” has grown in popularity over the last decade or so, but the trend itself has been around long before, starting with people’s need for casual and comfortable clothing to suit a lifestyle of more free time for leisure activities and recreational sports. If you want a more in-depth look at the trend and its history, we recommend you watch the Athleisure episode on Netflix’s docuseries, Explained.

But since we’re looking at the history, we might as well continue skipping down memory lane and throwback to the 80s, when athleisure really started powering through into the mainstream, to understand a trend quite literally made for flexing.

Acceptable in the 80s

Bodybuilding was lifting off. Boets from Boksburg to Benoni, were flexing their gains, in short shorts and ripped muscle tank tops. The fitness craze was in full effect, from aerobics to Billy Blanks’ tae-bo. Workout clothes became more popular and less confined to the gym because everyone and their mom had a workout VHS tape, and were eager to show off their affinity for exercise even while running errands and hanging out.

‘93 til infinity

Fast-forward to the 90s: more and more hip-hop was heard blasting through mainstream radio stations and shows like In Living Color and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air jumped onto our standard definition television box sets to give us even more fashion inspiration. Music videos on Bop TV, MTV and Vh1 encouraged us to take bold risks with fashion, throw out the rule book by pairing different shapes, prints and colours to create unique looks. 

The colour blocking trend was solidified in pop culture when Brooklyn-based cult brand, Karl Kani made it one of their signatures. All the hottest hip-hop stars from the east coast to the west coast – from Nas and DMX, to Dr Dre and Tupac – were seen wearing the urban streetwear brands colourblocked and oversized T-shirts, leather puffer jackets, caps and more.

Looking back, we see how colour-blocked athleisure has been a bold, unique style with an attitude to match. But how does it look in 2021?

Here and now

We’re all quite familiar with the casual co-ords that have become a closet staple since the pandemic hit and we collectively swapped out jeans and chinos to comfortable sweats while WFH. But athleisure’s new offering takes the trend to the next level: from simply chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool on the couch with your XBox in cool, laidback pastels, to hitting the streets and turning heads in bright and bold colour that pops.

But how do you pull it off without looking corny? We know bright colours can be a little intimidating, so we suggest you start off with one colour-blocked piece. Pair a colour-blocked sweater with denim shorts and the sock and slide combo, for an effortless cool that’s down for whatever. Grab a pair of colour block shorts or joggers, a plain white tee and crisp white sneakers, throw on a bucket hat and a crossbody bag, for a look that’s distinct but not OTT.

If confidence isn’t an issue for you, then by all means do the most. Go all out with a full colour-blocked look, sweatshirt and shorts. Pair them with your favourite sneakers, a pair of retro shades and a bright neon RJ interlink 5 panel cap. There’s no way your “friends” can say they didn’t see you in Braam, because how sway?

Up your style game and shop the colour blocked look here.