Oh my god: it’s like a full-time job, working out all the time,” says my friend Jane as she pops two Advils and downs them with her coffee, complaining about how sore she is from CrossFit. Jane is stick-thin and dressed in a super-short Lululemon skirt—the pleated kind that looks like a tennis skirt—that shows off her long, muscular legs and a matching zip-up hoodie. You would never know she just came from the gym, looking sporty-casual in the perfect outfit for sipping an iced latte at the most visible sidewalk café in town. After this, she’ll head up Smuggler—where people go on their lunch break when they don’t want to actually eat anything—for a quick hike, without even having to change her skirt.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say she’d jumped into the latest casual fashion trend, athleisurewear, with both feet. But really, she’s just dressing the way many Aspenites—fitness crazed or not—have for years.
As Vogue recently reported, “performance wear as everyday wear for women of all ages is becoming de rigueur—even if you don’t work out.” But Aspenites have been sporting athleisurewear since long before there was even a word for it, and certainly for years before Lululemon opened its doors on Galena Street with the aim of gracing the gams of every woman in town in seriously overpriced leggings. It is, after all, the official uniform for those of us who (as Jane so eloquently put it) take on fitness as a full-time job.
But it’s more than that. Unlike other Colorado ski towns, where fleece hoodies and Gore-Tex reign, Aspen has always had a strong fashion sense. We seemingly have more designer boutiques per capita than Madison Avenue, while our athletic prowess rivals that of any other mountain mecca, duct-tape-patched-pants-wearing Jackson Hole locals be damned. So of course, not only are we good at cycling and skiing and all that jazz, but we’re good at looking good doing it.
You might even argue that designer ski gear was the original athleisure look, what with local ski bunnies donning Prada, Jet Set, Moncler, Gucci, and Dior and treating the slopes of Ajax like it was the red carpet long before Kendall Jenner was even born, let alone photographed on the streets of New York in an athletic bra and leggings. For what is designer ski apparel if not the original concept for athleisure: technical apparel that not only has a purpose, but also rocks some serious style to take you from a day of skiing to the bars for après?
Here’s the thing: when living an active lifestyle is a full-time job, who has the time to change outfits? In Aspen, prancing around town in “Patagucci” or Prana, especially when it translates easily from the trail to the office or from the slopes to the bars, isn’t just a trend; it’s a way of life. Besides, what’s the point of having a killer body if you can’t show it off?
Aspenites have always lived by the adage, “It’s not how you ski, darling—it’s how you look.” Long after the supermodels and the celebutantes have stopped parading city streets in yoga leggings and jog bras, we’ll still be wearing them—and actually working out in them—just as we always have.