The 15 New Activewear Brands Every Guy Should Know
By Tanner Garrity / March 22, 2019 9:00 am

Lululemon was revolutionary — sort of.

It’s been more than 20 years since founder Chip Wilson sold his first pair of yoga pants; today, you can’t walk a city block without crossing one.

Take stock of your surroundings and you’ll probably see at least one man in nylon microfiber joggers. Another in a logo-less merino-wool pullover. Moisture-wicking running shorts and louvred tees and paper-thin zip vests, all done up in colors that can vaguely be described as “charcoal” or “heather.”

Where are these men headed? Who knows. Maybe to the grocer. To a friend’s house. To meet a fiancée at the courthouse.

What we can’t say for certain is whether any of these men are headed to or from a workout.

Consider this stat: from 2009 to 2014, sales of yoga clothes increased 10 times as much as participation in yoga classes. Consumers have clearly crowned Lululemon an apparel king — it brought in $2.65B of revenue in 2017 — and knighted a Round Table of like-minded activewear startups, many of them geared toward men.

But while this all seems like some new and radical movement, it’s actually par for the course, especially in America. As The Atlantic pointed out late last year, there exists a proud national tradition of infusing everyday outfits with athletic sensibilities. The now-ubiquitous polo shirt, sneaker and sweatshirt? All have their roots in athletics, from hardwood courts to lawn games to regattas.

What’s different about this new breed of fitness gear is the word itself that many use to define it: athleisure. It posits a world where the traditional boundaries between working out and not working out have disappeared entirely. To wear “athleisure” gear is to project an image of perpetual activity, as if prepared at all times for an impromptu jog or pilates class. In other words, a $90 running top doesn’t just wick away sweat — it’s a simulacrum for the healthy, fit and generally successful lifestyle of the person who wears it.

Which isn’t to say that these clothes are bad, or that we discourage wearing them. The athleisure boom — it will be an $83B industry by 2020 — has given rise to unprecedented standards for comfort, quality and creativity in the world of fitness apparel.

There are no flashy logos splashed across chests. No over-reliance on celebrity endorsements. No need to have a “golf” line or a “basketball” line. Just approachable, pared-back, do-whatever-the-hell-you-want-with-’em wares, built precisely to become your favorite piece of clothing.

But with a legion of Lululemon imitators now in existence and more on the horizon, one issue remains: figuring out which one best suits your needs. Hence, this comprehensive roundup of every activewear startup a guy should know. From household names like Rhone to newcomers like Vuori, they’re all here, and primed to take on whatever activity you throw at them — leftovers and Netflix included.

Olivers
Year Launch: 2013
The Skinny: A Los Angeles brand smitten with quality, Olivers makes stretchy, water-repellent, all-purpose shorts and tees with fabrics from villages in Peru, farms in Australia, you name it. Each product comes in a clean, monochromatic design; of all the brands here, this might be the easiest for building an entire wardrobe from scratch.
Favorite ModelConvoy Tee

Rhone
Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: If Lululemon takes the gold for athleisure familiarity among men, Rhone is a solid silver. Founded in Connecticut by an ex-NFL employee and a former NCAA lacrosse player, the company famously spends big on fabric, weaving its duds with SilverTech threading, an antimicrobial fabric initially developed for American military operations in Iraq. Rhone also has one of the best examples of logo subtlety in athleisure — three interlocking X’s stitched into the side hemming, meant to signify the strength found in numbers.
Favorite Model: Reign Long Sleeve

Myles Apparel
Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: A joint SF venture by the founders of Huckberry and Taylor Stitch (who are all friends, by the by), Myles Apparel was named for both the first king of Sparta and the miles (duh) you knock out during a run. While running is a clear focus — they began by trying to create the perfect athletic short, and currently host a running club — their clothes are successfully activity-agnostic.
Favorite Model: Everyday Short

On Running
Year Launch: 2010
The Skinny: Put a multiple-time Ironman winner (Oliver Bernhard) in a room with some Swiss engineers, and magic is inevitable. OR began with a superfoam running shoe that was scientifically proven to lower blood lactate levels in runners, and hasn’t looked back, since expanding its line to technical hoodies, lightweight shorts and performance vests, all equipped with rear vents and subtle zip pockets.
Favorite Model: Hoodie

Fourlaps
Year Launch: 2016
The Skinny: Fourlaps first caught our eye with their natty Relay Track Suit (pictured above), which are made from a polyester blend that makes them a little more all-seasons-friendly than the featherweight options that most brands favor. But this isn’t a fashion company: Fourlaps’ lightweight workout tees and shorts are built for performance, with excellent moisture-wicking, stretch and breathability. They also tend toward roomier, classic fits that won’t cling to you in unflattering ways, which is hard to find these days.
Favorite Model: The Long-Sleeve Level Tee

Ten Thousand
Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: The name references Malcolm Gladwell’s prescription for perfection, and Ten Thousand seems hell-bent on supplying perfect shorts and tees to its customers. Proudly DTC, the company eschews the “BS marketing” of the big boys and has a simple line products: three shorts (one for versatility, one for durability, one that’s super lightweight), two shirts (one for durability, one that’s super lightweight) and a few base layers.
Favorite Model: Distance Shirt

Vuori
Year Launch: 2013
The Skinny: Based in Encinitas — a San Diego County beach hamlet with an average year-round temp of 72 °F — the folks behind Vuori know a thing or two about getting outside. Their clothing balances SoCal’s access to nature with its “do as you like” MO, offering a blend of high-performance attributes (moisture-wicking, quick-drying and anti-odor) with a colorful nonchalance. Find bright pocket tees, outerwear with camo shells and even board shorts, a bit uncommon for the industry.
Favorite Model: Banks Short

Outdoor Voices
Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: Austin-based Outdoor Voices is a brand for women first. Pay a visit to the brand’s Instagram page and you’ll scroll through 12 or 15 photos of yoga pants before finding photos of their men’s offerings. But don’t worry, there are enough joggers, shorts and tees in male cuts for men to post their own #DoingThings photos in OV gear.
Favorite Model: CloudKnit Hoodie

Wolaco
Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: Wolaco’s first product — the North Moore compression short — solved one very specific problem: giving runners a place to put their phone and keys without adding and bulk or jostle, thanks to two velcro’d pockets on each leg. They’ve since added tights with the same feature, as well as some solid shot and top options.
Favorite Model: The North Moore Short

Reigning Champ
Year Launch: 2007
The Skinny: Though located just miles away from Lululemon’s HQ in Vancouver, Reigning Champ gear feels completely original in the athleisure sphere. Its interlocking “RC,” lightweight terry crewcuts and satin varsity jackets all evoke a sort of restored corner boxing gym. No wonder one of their most beloved lines was a Muhammad Ali collection, dropped last summer.
Favorite Model: Logo Stadium Jacket

Tracksmith
Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: Borrowing their design cues from vintage running gear, Tracksmith’s collection of shorts, tops and sweats looks like it fell out of the back of a truck headed to the 1975 Penn Relays. Modern materials (water-repellent “dryskin”) and features (zippered card and key pockets) seamlessly wed with old-school flourishes like stirrups and four-inch inseams to create impeccably stylish but functional silhouettes.
Favorite Model: The Van Cortlandt “Singlet”

Proof
Year Launch: 2017
The Skinny: Huckberry’s in-house brand, Proof’s tees and henleys are constructed with an assist from Global Merino, a leading textile manufacturer that sources its merino wool from three sustainable farms in New Zealand. Mix that merino wool with a little nylon, and you’ve got a tee that literally stayed crisp (and odorless) during three straight days of use in Iceland. You can watch the adventure, which includes a near-5,000-foot glacier, here.
Favorite Model: 72-Hour Merino Henley

Public Rec
Year Launch: 2015
The Skinny: Public Rec blasted onto the scene in 2015, raising $180K and selling 2,000 pairs of sweatpants via Kickstarter. That pant (the “All Day Every Day”) is still their crown jewel, and effortlessly embodies the spiritual soul of athleisure today. Good for the gym, couch or Casual Friday at work (if you have them in black or navy). But the Cleveland-based brand is far from a one-hit wonder, branching out from sweatpants into weekenders, beanies and beyond.
Favorite Model: All Day Every Day Pant

Eysom
Year Launch: 2015
The Skinny: Eysom is one of the more fashion-forward athleisure brands out there, with a line of premium, if somewhat pricey, tank tops and training shorts. Founder Stan Cheung won a design competition back in 2015 to earn mentoring from Billy Reid, and it’s clear Reid’s advice (“balance a business mind with creative freedom”) has paid off.
Favorite Model: Standard Muscle Tee

Kit and Ace
Year Launch: 2014
The Skinny: Another Vancouver brand, only this one’s geared for commuters. So long as an article of clothing passes the “the bike test” (Can it handle movement and moisture?), it’s a fit for Kit and Ace’s line. This is a smart filter for an otherwise broad industry. Transport brands are “last-mile” obsessed right now, and this clothing conceals reflectivity and ventilation while looking as stylish as anything else at the office.
Favorite Model: Navigator Stretch Trouse


Main image via Rhone
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Additional reporting from Walker Loetscher