Athleisure--athletic clothing reenvisioned as everyday wear--is not merely an apparel category. Activewear represents a lifestyle shift. It's wellness for Boomers, self-care for Millennials, and a smidgen of ease we reclaim for ourselves in an uneasy world. Just under 100 percent of activewear users report donning workout clothes when they aren't exercising. Companies like Under Armour, Sweaty Betty, and Outdoor Voices are driving athleisure's ascent; the industry is expected to generate $232 billion in global sales by 2024. Even now, activewear claims 24 percent of all global apparel purchases. But the togs we wear while enjoying today's active lifestyles--or while eating takeout in front of the TV--have been finding their footing for decades.

1930s: The humble beginning

Brothers William and Abe Feinbloom invent the hoodie for laborers in chilly Rochester, New York, launching the $1.5 billion Champion brand and an eventually ubiquitous wardrobe staple.

1959: The great leap forward

DuPont scientist Joseph Shivers KO's the athletic "dress trouser" (don't ask) by inventing the crucial athleisure component spandex. By 2019, $5 billion worth of it will be sold each year.

1963: Do you work out? 

German entrepreneur Adi Dassler ("AdiDas") fashions the first sport-to-street tracksuit, thus helping unathletic men appear athletic. 

1969: Intergalactic haberdashery

Starship Enterprise's shiny nylon uniforms correctly predict a future in which all will be clad in comfortable synthetics.

1978: They didn't really dress like this in the '50s, but ...

Olivia Newton-John is the one everyone wants, thanks perhaps to the leggings she sports in the climactic scene of Grease. 

1980s: Oooh, baby, baby

A generation of MTV stars start to realize that flaunting it, rocking it, shouting it, or--as Salt-N-Pepa teaches us--pushing it is better in spandex.

1982: You're getting warmer

Jane Fonda's Original Workout videocassettes conquer the American waistline and launch a leg-warmer army.

1986: Their (and your) Adidas

Run-D.M.C. drop their landmark LP Raising Hell. Millions of suburban teens race to buy the trio's calling-card Adidas Superstar shell-toed sneaks.

1988: Looks that didn't age well, part 1

Weightlifters Dan Stock and Bob Truax target a massively thighed male market and start selling Zubaz's billowing pantaloons in eye-gouging animal prints. This color-coordinated enthusiast is far from its only fan--Zubaz will sell over 10 million pairs in a few years.

1996: Lingerie for sweaty jocks

Reworked women's underwear + teen boys + sweat-wicking fabric = $1 billion in Under Armour sales by 2010 for former college jock Kevin Plank.

1998: Fancy pants  

Founder Chip Wilson's goddess of yoga--Lululemon--is born to bring yoga pants to the masses, and she'll hit $3 billion in sales in 2018.

2001: Looks that didn't age well, part 2

Former shop girls Gela Nash-Taylor and Pam Skaist-Levy spend $200 creating colorful and huggy velour tracksuits. In 2003, they will sell Juicy Couture--seen here encasing Paris Hilton--for $56 million.

2007: Yoga pants go prime time minutes

Keeping Up With the Kardashians debuts on Bravo, beaming into America's homes a highly aspirational lifestyle in which yoga pants can be worn 24/7. 

2013: Workout or take out? 

Tyler Haney's breakout brand, Outdoor Voices, debuts its omnisex exercise apparel marketed to all those who are #DoingThings. Soon, she will raise nearly $60 million, and her company will notch triple-digit growth--annually.

2015: It's yoga pants by a nose  

Sales of stretchy athleisure pants top those of denim in the United States. Because no one wins a race in skinny jeans.

From the June 2019 issue of Inc. Magazine