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Fueled by shifting consumer preferences, innovative product features and designs, and increased interest in health and wellness, the men's activewear market accounted for a whopping $50.3 billion in sales in 2019 - over half of the total US adult activewear market.

Men’s Activewear Apparel: A Hot and Growing Market

Activewear sales have exploded. Fueled by shifting consumer preferences, innovative product features and designs, and increased interest in health and wellness, the men’s activewear market accounted for $50.3 billion in sales in 2019 – over half of the total US adult activewear market.

Not only is the market increasing, but it’s outpacing growth in the women’s segment despite women’s increased participation in sports and fitness activities. This highlights the significant opportunities for brands targeting male consumers.

What is Activewear?

Activewear refers to clothing designed for athletic activities and workouts, including tops, bottoms, footwear, and accessories made with performance and movement in mind.

The fabrics and materials used in activewear are moisture-wicking, allowing stretch and breathability during physical activity. As opposed to everyday wear, activewear offers functionality to meet the demands of sports and training.

Activewear was initially created for athletes but has steadily become mainstream fashion. The popularity of athleisure wear has cascaded over into lifestyle categories beyond the gym for good reason. While still utilized for fitness, pieces like joggers, quarter-zips, light jackets, and sneakers now double as casual wear and appear in corporate office settings.

While technical fabrics and functional cuts remain intact, design details, colors, and fit tend to appear more fashion-forward. The overall aim marries both style and comfort – achieving the aesthetic and practical demands of consumers.

The Scale of the Men’s Activewear Market

the US men's activewear market hit $50.3 billion in sales in 2019

As mentioned above, the US men’s activewear market reached $50.3 billion in sales in 2019. To put this number in context, that’s more than the size of the entire music industry or movie box office sales in a typical year!

And this market just keeps expanding. While growth estimates vary, most industry analysis points to continued expansion of 5-7% year-over-year. Compounding leads to the market effectively doubling in size every ten years.

The appetite for activewear drives this growth across ages, incomes, regions, and lifestyles. From hardcore athletes to weekend warriors trying to stay in shape, demand is high and expected to increase across demographics.

Several factors are contributing to the activewear boom among male consumers. Here are some of the most impactful trends:

Affordability and Value Take Priority

One of the most significant shifts is men wanting quality activewear without breaking the bank. Several reports show activewear sales under $50 surged 60% in 2022. Male consumers want to look tight without the premium price tags.

Several activewear brands have responded by increasing the selection of budget-friendly styles, with sub-$50 SKUs climbing 86% last year.

Technology and Innovation in Fabrics

Advances in fabrics and functionality also drive interest and purchases. Today’s activewear incorporates moisture-wicking material, compression fits, bold prints/colors, and other technical features. Collaborations with top athletes and celebrities act as co-signs and help generate buzz around the latest performance innovations.

For example, tennis icon Roger Federer took an entrepreneurial sponsorship approach in 2019 when he invested directly in the Swiss running shoe brand On. In exchange, he received a 3% equity stake and the opportunity to co-create new performance tennis sneaker models.

Take a look at the On Roger Centre Court Sneakers below. They’re hot! 🔥

This credibility and endorsement from the greatest tennis player of all time have bolstered On Running’s brand awareness and expansion beyond running as they continue leveraging Federer’s guidance to grow in the tennis market.

The partnership has proven mutually lucrative, with Federer’s ownership making him around $200 million when On went public while enabling the brand to tap into his market sway.

Versatility for Workouts and Everyday Wear

Consumers want versatility from activewear for vigorous workouts and casual settings, reflecting the rise of athleisure wear. Crossover apparel like hoodies, bomber jackets, and joggers performs double duty, distinguishing sport from leisure contexts so men can wear them to the gym or in the office.

For example, the Rhone Tech Full Zip Hoodie features a mesh body for breathability during workouts and a slim, modern fit that makes it stylish for everyday wear. The moisture-wicking fabric, thumb loops, and anti-odor technology work wonders during training sessions.

And, you can’t go wrong with the Legends Carson Bomber Jacket. The jacket’s water-resistant fabric, reflective trim, and breathable mesh liner equip it for outdoor training, while the classic bomber style and premium materials like leather trim work for relaxed social occasions or business contexts.

Eco-Friendliness Becoming More Important

Sustainability and ethical manufacturing have not historically been top purchasing considerations for men buying activewear. However, environmental consciousness is growing as a priority among consumers. More men want assurances that their athletic apparel is sourced and produced responsibly without exploitative labor practices or negative environmental impacts.

Specifically, interest is rising regarding eco-friendly fabrics made from recycled plastics and waste materials. Using recycled polyester, nylon, and spandex, diverting post-consumer debris from landfills now drives many men’s purchases.

Companies understand this shift, and many athleisure brands, such as Vuori, tentree, and Outerknown have responded by announcing their sustainability commitments. 

A 2020 survey found that 73% of Gen Z consumers were willing to pay more for sustainably made goods—a higher percentage than any previous generation. With these conscious buyers representing future purchasing power, activewear brands continue enhancing their environmental credentials through renewable materials and ethical factories.

Shorter Shorts, Yoga Apparel on the Rise

Two fast-growing activewear segments are men’s shorts and increased purchases of yoga-focused apparel. Both trends link to greater male body confidence and desire for functionality. Shorter shorts allow more unrestrained movement, while yoga gear wicks sweat and stretches appropriately during poses.

For example, the Luka Shorts by Legends utilize four-way stretch fabric and laser perforation technology to deliver maximum breathability and aerodynamic movement. They are available in 5 or 7-inch inseams and feature an antimicrobial liner, moisture-wicking composition, and strategic ventilation zones ideal for high-intensity training and, yes … yoga.

The flexible fabric and ergonomic paneling move freely with the body across any pose or motion without restriction.

Retro Styles Making Comeback

Vintage sportswear styles are also coming back into fashion. These nostalgic pieces remind men of their youth while offering modern performances. The shift to vintage is also happening among men’s eyewear trends.

Big logos, iconic team branding, and bright, retro color schemes all tie back to the sports gear of yesteryear. But new tech fabrics and sizing make these throwbacks wearable today.

Top Activewear Brands Targeting Men

With so much industry growth and consumer demand, significant brands vie for market share. Here are some of the most prominent names in men’s activewear right now:

  • Nike: The sportswear giant leads in brand awareness, retail distribution, and sales. Nike leverages technology like Flyknit material and partnerships with elite athletes.
  • Adidas: Nike’s biggest competitor, Adidas, focuses on innovation through its Boost cushioning foam and Primeknit fabric. Celebrity collaborations also drive hype for new drops.
  • Lululemon: Originally known for women’s yoga apparel, Lululemon continues to expand its men’s assortment. Quality, sweat-wicking gear makes it popular for yoga, running, and HIIT training.
  • Rhone: This premium brand uses technical fabrics in versatile designs for the gym and beyond. Sustainability is a crucial tenet and helps attract modern, urban men.
  • Champion: The heritage brand has vintage appeal but modernizes styles through streetwear-inspired remixes. Champion’s iconic reverse weave hoodies and sweats have a broad demographic draw.
  • Public Rec: Known for versatile, technical apparel priced under $100, Public Rec reached $100M in sales faster than any other activewear brand.
  • Vuori: This San Diego-based brand exploded with its soft, stretchy performance fabrics. Their joggers and hoodies keep selling out, especially among younger consumers.

The Differences Between Activewear and Sportswear

While activewear and sportswear overlap in many regards, some key differences exist between the two clothing categories.

Activewear refers to apparel suited for both athletic activities and casual, everyday settings. The design emphasizes functionality for wearing during a workout but also incorporates stylish elements to coincide with fashion trends. 

Activewear utilizes stretchy, moisture-wicking technical fabrics to perform during vigorous movement. But colors, prints, and fit also adhere to what’s on-trend. Versatility is a cornerstone of activewear, allowing the garments to transition from the gym to running errands.

Comparatively, sportswear focuses more singularly on athletic performance. While it offers stretch and breathability, it prioritizes enhancing sport-specific mobility, airflow, and comfort during training or competition.

Rather than factoring style preferences into the design, sportswear zeroes in on precision engineering that amplifies physical output. Uniformly, sportswear encompasses performance jerseys, shorts, compression tops, and sneakers – attire required to excel at a particular athletic activity versus casual settings.

Outlook for Continued Growth

Given the confluence of athleisure trends driving purchases, the men’s activewear market still likely has many years of expansion ahead. Despite economic uncertainty, demand has remained resilient as consumers prioritize health, wellness, and versatile apparel.

Established brands will fight to retain their market share, while disruptive companies with differentiated products and branding can grab attention. One thing does seem confident—with so many tailwinds, men’s spending on activewear should continue climbing higher.

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