The Evolution of Activewear

The Evolution of Activewear

You wear it to the gym, on a hike or even just for a dash to the shops. Activewear is everywhere these days. And why not? It’s so darn comfortable to wear, even if you’re not planning on doing anything remotely active that day.

But could you imagine hitting the field in an ankle-length skirt? How about stretching out your yoga mat in heels or punching through a boxing class with a tweed jacket and hat on? It may sound strange, but it may not have been so unusual just a few decades ago.

Activewear has come a long way in a short span of time.

Early 1900s  

For many, the new century ushered in an era of leisure. Economic growth meant people had more time to pursue sports like swimming or tennis, but activewear was still very conservative by today’s standards. Men wore formal jackets or suits when bicycling, golfing or hunting. Things did become slightly more comfortable for the ladies; women’s skirts rose from floor length to above the ankle, allowing for a bit more movement.


It was the Roaring Twenties and people were embracing jazz, the Charleston and slightly more comfortable clothes. Women started to wear shorter skirts and men also opted for less formal attire. Women also adopted long knickers for sports, but it was still uncommon to wear trousers, which were considered men’s clothing at the time.    

1930s and 1940s  

Throughout the 1930s and ‘40s, man-made fibres like rayon and nylon began to replace expensive silk, making sportswear more accessible for the masses. It also led to tighter, less bulky options. Zippers also became widespread, changing the way athletic wear was fastened. World War II further changed the fashion of the day, with women increasingly adopting styles that were traditionally “men’s only”.  

1950s and 1960s  

Activewear became more casual, helped by new fabrics such as spandex. Shorts got even shorter and women continue to adopt styles picked up during the war, including cropped pants like ‘pedal pushers’ for their workouts.  


Don’t you miss the days of playing footy in polyester? We don’t either! In the ‘70s, it was the fabric of choice. The t-shirt, once considered underwear, also became commonplace as did jumpsuits, tracksuits and leotards.  


Bring on the high-ponytails, leg warmers and colours bright enough to stop traffic! A storm of aerobics-loving, fitness fanatics swept across gyms and (thanks to the VHS) living rooms everywhere, leaving us with one of the most iconic workout styles ever. We hope you’re ready for Jazzercise!  


Anyone looking to get fit in the ‘90s had ‘the step’ – the decade’s hottest fitness craze. Athletic shorts, bodysuits, and later, oversized everything became the ‘must have’ activewear staples. (You have to look the part if you’re ever going to get those Buns of Steel!)  

2000s and today  

Today’s activewear is made to go from fitness studio to street (and just about everywhere in between!) It’s the unofficial ‘brunch uniform’ – perfect for our always on-the-go lifestyles and beloved by sporty MAMILs (middle-aged man in Lycra) among us.  

Activewear now comes in quick-dry, breathable fabrics, fashionable prints and a variety of designs. While yoga-inspired leggings and tank and crop tops have become the norm, a focus on comfort and support has helped Australians enjoy all kinds of sport activities and hobbies. Maybe one day we will we look back on today’s styles and laugh, but we think today’s athletes definitely have the best activewear of the bunch  

Want another look at the activewear evolution? Check out Mode’s video for a fun look at the changes throughout the years.  

What decade’s style is your favourite? Would you still be able to do your normal workouts or play your favourite in any of the other styles?  

If you want custom sports and athletic wear that’s made just for you and your team (whatever your style!), get in touch with us today.  


The Evolution of Activewear

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