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Blog / Style & trends / Athleisure vs. Activewear: The Ultimate Sportswear Comparison

Style & trends

Athleisure vs. Activewear: The Ultimate Sportswear Comparison

Athleisure vs. Activewear: The Ultimate Sportswear Comparison
Sandra Ķempele

By Sandra Ķempele

5 min read

As more people turn to activewear and athleisure for comfort and style, they’ve become essential to modern wardrobes. Naturally, the demand for casual and comfortable clothing is also growing—the activewear market is expected to rise from $421B in 2022 to $780B in the next decade.

If you’re interested in selling sportswear or even launching your own line of sports gear, the first step is understanding the differences between athleisure vs. activewear.  While the terms are often used interchangeably, they represent distinct styles and purposes.

Athleisure is a style that seamlessly blends athletic wear with casual wear. Think breathable fabrics cut in a relaxed, trendy silhouette that’s comfortable to wear out and about.

The athleisure trend, emphasizing style and versatility, has become a lifestyle choice beyond the gym. Its recent popularity is boosted by a broader trend towards more relaxed, laid-back fashion choices.

a woman sitting on a log posing for the camera

Source: Pexels

Activewear is a clothing category specifically designed for exercise and physical activities. It’s characterized by moisture-wicking properties and comfortable cuts.

Think about the sportswear you pick to go for a run or a gym session—that’s what activewear is all about. 

a man sitting on a mat with a woman in the background

Source: Pexels

In sportswear, the line between activewear and athleisure is often blurry. Below, we delve into each category’s core characteristics to help you create a sportswear line that seamlessly blends fashion, function, and personal flair.

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Athleisure is designed to transition from athletic activities to everyday wear while maintaining an effortless, casual appearance.

In recent years, it’s become a wardrobe essential that’s great for a casual social life: a brunch with friends, a leisurely stroll in the park, or a coffee date. Athleisure wear is also popular for long road trips or airport travel. Plus, the widespread adoption of remote work has led to a huge demand for casual attire.

So, what’s the difference between activewear and athleisure? Activewear clothes are best for all kinds of exercise. Whether it’s hitting the gym or going for a run, activewear is made to meet the demands of physical exercise, emphasizing functionality above all. It’s also great as protective gear for outdoor adventures like hiking or trail running.


Athleisure embodies a stylish aesthetic, catering to those who want a fashionable look without sacrificing comfort. With an athleisure aesthetic, you’ll often find items like joggers, yoga pants, leggings, crop tops, t-shirts, and hoodies.

It’s often available in trendy colors, patterns, and cuts, mirroring fashion industry trends. In contrast, activewear highlights ergonomic design features that prioritize movement, breathability, and support. The main goal is to keep you cool and ward off discomfort.

Traditionally, activewear and athleisure items are designed in neutral tones for versatility, but vibrant prints are increasingly popular. Plus, partnerships between sports brands and fashion designers have become more common, with activewear clothes reflecting current fashion trends.


The fit of athleisure clothes tends to be more relaxed. Comfort is key, often featuring loose cuts and soft fabrics for a casual, laid-back look. Styles may range from slim, tailored designs to oversized silhouettes.

Typically, activewear is designed with a more snug fit that allows for unrestricted motion during intense gym workouts or yoga sessions.


Activewear clothes are often made from stretchy, high-performance materials like polyester, nylon, and spandex to fit the demands of intense physical activity and help with the longevity of exercise wear. Brands increasingly opt for sustainable materials like organic cotton, bamboo, lyocell, and recycled fabrics.

Athleisure items come in various fabrics, including cotton, modal, and jersey. As a soft and breathable fabric, cotton is the most popular choice. Jersey knit fabrics are also favored for their softness and stretch. Plus, they add a more casual drape to the clothing.

From fully customizable basketball jerseys to all-over print leggings and yoga pants—Printful’s activewear and athleisure product collection offers 60+ items to choose from.

If you’re wondering how to start a fitness clothing line with your designs, begin by exploring these best-selling print-on-demand products.


  1. Polo shirts

The classic collar in combination with a relaxed fit puts polo shirts among the top trending products for athleisure. Polo shirts can be easily dressed up or down with smart trousers or athletic shorts for a sporty look.

  1. T-shirts

It’s a good idea to balance athletic apparel with casual items like custom t-shirts. Celebrated for their comfort and breathability, t-shirts in different fits and designs are a must.

  1. Hoodies

If you aim to offer athleisure wear to the general public, highlight the importance of comfort in everyday life. Custom hoodies are versatile layering pieces and help transition from workouts to casual leisure time with ease.

  1. Joggers

Joggers are essential to the laid-back, modern aesthetic of athleisure. The tapered fit and elastic cuffs make them suitable for both athletic activities and casual wear, effortlessly blending the best of both worlds.

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  1. Rash guards

All-over print rash guards are slim-fitted, long-sleeved, and tailor-made to protect from the sun and wind during an active day outdoors. Make sure to add an eye-catching design to make this traditional sporty clothing unique.

  1. Basketball jersey

Made with recycled polyester fabric, this high-tech basketball jersey is designed to keep athletes cool and dry even in the heat of competition. You can customize it with team logos, names, or even fun mascot designs.

  1. Sports bras

The all-over print sports bras are made from moisture-wicking material, specifically designed for an active lifestyle.

  1. Athletic shorts

You can customize these athletic shorts to create the perfect sportswear item. Thanks to the smooth, water-repellent fabric, they’re the perfect item for running, exercising, and even swimming.

  1. Leggings

Finally, a pair of sports leggings is a must-have workout apparel for women. These sports leggings are made from compression fabric that offers excellent support during workouts.

a woman stretching her leg

Source: Printful

Athleisure vs. activewear: Have you found your perfect fit?

In this blog post, we’ve covered the differences between athleisure and activewear to help you decide what kind of sportswear is a good fit for your customers. 

If you want to carve out a niche in this industry, make the most of print-on-demand services like Printful. Customize our activewear clothing and athleisure wear with unique, eye-catching designs and make your mark!

We hope you’re now equipped with the knowledge to start selling custom sportswear, making the world a more comfy place. Best of luck!

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By Sandra Ķempele on Jan 8, 2024

Sandra Ķempele

Guest author

Sandra is a freelance writer and educator with a background in art and communication. She holds an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies, and in her free time enjoys reading, museum visits, and outdoor adventures.

Sandra is a freelance writer and educator with a background in art and communication. She holds an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies, and in her free time enjoys reading, museum visits, and outdoor adventures.