Activewear is sportswear. It’s apparel you would wear while playing sports, working out and/or breaking a sweat.

Activewear is a very broad category in the apparel industry. It’s specific to individual sports and pastimes, yet broad enough to also include those garments you probably wear on a hot day without giving a second thought.

T shirts, hoodies, polo shirts, shorts, sneakers – heck, that Canucks jersey collecting dust in your closet next to your disco shoes and vinyl suit. Hey dude, I ain’t here to judge ;).

If you wear it for sports or exercise, then congratulations. That’s activewear.

Activewear VS Athleisure: What’s the Difference?

Activewear is clothing for sports or exercise. Athleisure is a narrower segment of it – athleisure is workout clothing that can be worn in a workout AND non-workout setting, like school, socializing or just hanging out with your compadres on a lazy Sunday.

So it’s like this:

Activewear – Clothes worn for sports or recreation.

Athleisure – Clothes worn for sports and recreation AND in a non-workout setting.

You can thank Lululemon founder Chip Wilson for (arguably) creating the athleisure niche in 1998 when he founded that company with such a devout following. Without Chip, the world would be empty of Yoga pants and those stylin’ accessories – much to the chagrin of Yogies and the people that, ahem, *admire* them across the planet.

Another example of athleisure? Our very own Abenaki Cross Trainer Bamboo T Shirt, which is designed for working out or which can be worn casually. And it’s made of Bamboo fabric…Hooray!

Shameless plug there for a second.

Activewear Clothing Examples

Activewear is a very broad description that includes clothes, head gear and sportswear, worn for any form of sports or recreation. That includes all those nifty clothes in your wardrobe you never gave a second though for other than lookin’ so darn special. Activewear includes:

T Shirt – A staple of activewear and probably your default choice for a muggy summer afternoon, the perennial T shirt is a unisex fabric shirt that…get this…looks like a ‘T’! Wow! See what I just did there?

T shirts have short sleeves and are typically made of a lightweight, stretchy fabric that’s easy to clean. It usually has a round neck, called a crew neck. T shirts from an athleisure brand like Underarmour or Abenaki are often made with a fabric that has performance-enhancing or technical properties, like bamboo.

Base Layer – A Base layer is an inner layer of clothing worn most often in cold climates. You would wear a base layer with two or three other layers – its purpose is to draw sweat away from your skin, so you stay warm and more comfortable when doing something like Rock Climbing.

Base layers are often made of wool, cotton, silk or a synthetic material like polyester.

Leggings – Leggings are a kind of leg covering. Yes, this includes Lululemon yoga pants – leggings are simply elastic and close-fitting pants that hug the legs and, thanks to Lululemon, are now the foundation of the athleisure industry.

Yoga pants are a kind of leggings, in case you were wondering, and while there are leggings for men, the vast majority of leggings are for women.

Shorts – Shorts are garments that cover the waist, hips and are cut off at the legs. They’re a ‘shortened’ version of trousers, hence the name. As with T shirts, there are countless variations of short styles, including cargo shorts, cycling shorts (yup, those spandex ones), running shorts, Daisy Dukes, gym shorts, and even Lederhosen.

And of course, those totally stylin’ Bermuda shorts from the 1980s, which, incidentally, I would know nothing about…Well, OK, I had a pair, but they were really awesome.

What the Heck is ‘Moisture Wicking’?

Moisture wicking is simply a fabric’s ability to 1) draw sweat away from the skin to the fabric’s outer layer, and 2) dry the fabric quickly. This is known as the ‘capillary effect’ – it’s the movement of liquid (in this case, sweat) in tiny spaces within the fabric caused by molecular force between the liquid and the fabric’s material.

Spend even 5 minutes looking for activewear and you’ll see ‘Moisture Wicking’ pop up. It’s important because Moisture Wicking helps sweat evaporate while you’re working out, allowing you to stay cool when you do something strenuous.

Generally speaking, you should wear a moisture wicking fabric whenever you break a sweat. Some of the best moisture wicking fabrics may include:

Synthetic Fabrics – Like Polyester and Nylon. Spandex is another example

Bamboo – Bamboo fabric has good moisture wicking properties

Bamboo fiber has good moisture wicking properties. Photo Credit: kazuend on Unsplash

Wool – Surprisingly, Wool can wick moisture quite well

What Kind of Activewear Do I Need?

If you walk, hike, hit the gym, do Yoga, surf, snowboard, skydive and/or do anything that involves sweating, you will likely need some form of activewear. The garments you need will depend on the activities you do. That’s a separate blog post in itself, but generally speaking, the average person will need:

A T Shirt

A Base Layer




Leggings (Women)

As a general rule, anything that touches your skin during strenuous activity should have good moisture wicking ability. Bamboo, spandex, polyester and combinations of them (such as UnderArmor) can all help you stay cool when your body heat rises.

Activewear For a Cause

You’ve got choices with Activewear. You already know the big players in this field. They include Nike, Reebok, Lululemon, UnderArmor and Adidas, among many others.

They all make good activewear. But hey, it’s 2019, and our planet is hurting. Plus, there’s that whole thing about the Ozaki 8 and helping others. The point being? Think about buying activewear from companies that give a fuck about the Earth and strive to help it. The following companies are worth a second look:

Patagonia – You know these guys. Patagonia makes outdoor clothing, including activewear, and famously donates 1% of its sales to environmental causes. Patagonia considers itself an activist company, and while you may not agree with everything they do, it’s good to know there are stewards among us.

10 Tree – A newer player, 10 Tree is a Canadian company that makes sustainably sourced men and women’s clothing that plants ’10 trees’ for every item bought. They’re growing quickly, and it’s not uncommon to see their familiar ’10 Tree’ logo among millennials in the Pacific Northwest.

Abenaki – An even newer player, Abenaki (that’s us) is an outdoor lifestyle brand inspired by extreme athletes. Founder Steve Hutchings (that’s ME), is a fanatical shark lover who donates 25% of proceeds from the Abenaki Tiger shirt to big cat conservation and continues to shape Abenaki into an organization that helps wildlife and animal conservation.

We don’t have all the answers right now. But we’re damn well trying 👍