Activity, chronologically

Deccan Chronicle.  | Nitisha Kapur

Lifestyle, Health and Wellbeing

The clock turned on its head — from cumbersome fitness outfits and equipment to a haven where active wear is now determined by activity...

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Kettle ball, RPM, Body Pump, Power Yoga, Zumba, Aerobics, Bollywood dancing, Core strengthening,  water aerobics,  kick-boxing, stretch therapy, high intensity interval training, core Hatha, dance aerobics, Ashtanga yoga, mixed martial arts, marathon training, weight training, dynamic strength training, static strength training, circuit training... The word exercise just doesn’t hack it anymore.

Sports bras, leggings, yoga pants, track pants, shorts, tights, tees, crop tops, joggers, cleats, boots, leg warmers, hoodies, sweatshirts, board shorts, vests, tank tops, seamless gear, sun protection, anti-sweat, temperature control, body sculpted construction, wearable tech, made for the cold, made for the heat, made for speed... The word clothing doesn’t hack it anymore either!

It’s not just about working out, it’s the science behind working out, the layers that dress working out, the innovation in fabric, in construction, in specialised attire for specialised work-out regimes.

The human body has always been a subject of obsession. Whether fitness is the objective or a well-toned frame, whether it’s adding mass or loosing flab or whether it’s just to get those endorphins flowing — as a species, we’re on a constant mode of self-improvement and evolution.

What’s also constantly improving and evolving is the drapes we adorn. What we wear during work-outs, is now a result of the lifestyle shifts that seem to occur more often today. But, where did this evolution start? As far as I can remember, I’ve always associated exercise with sports. Today though, we’re mostly armchair sports men and women and the concept of exercise has become a subject to itself with so many variants and interpretations.

It is interesting to see where all this began, different shapes, forms and meanings that the concept of fitness has taken over the last century. In the early to mid 1900s working out or exercise didn’t look half as appealing as the scores of sports brands represent today. It didn’t at all look like a celebration of grit, endurance and the human form that we see plastered across billboards. Long skirts layered with petticoats and corsets, stockings and heeled shoes to add to that. Comfort and freedom of mobility were clearly not priorities in those days. Did I mention hats? Yes, no respectable man or woman could be seen in public without a sturdy hat.

Fret not! Sanity prevailed and we lost the hat, cumbersome that it was to jump up and down a 100 times in the name of fitness — while you leave your hat on! The petticoats and corsets however, were another story, they had to stay a little while longer.

Around the 1920s, we saw the entry of rudimentary machines, inspiring our RPM classes. But back then, they were bulky, uncomfortable and took some serious effort to get moving. Even up until the 50s, socks and sandals were a prerequisite for proper women in the gym. And who can forget those vibrating bands around ample bellies. I remember walking into this rudimentary gym at an old school colonial club and the sight of overflowing potbellies vibrating to the hum of a machine harnessed in an unsightly band of sorts,  was a hoot in the mind of a five year old. I seriously doubt that memory will fade away any day soon.The 1960s, Olympics saw female athletes sporting shorts and vests, now we’re getting closer to our reality. Enter the 80s, known not just for bad hair, but, another contribution that will forever leave a scar — Spandex! Red-electric-blue spandex, sported by all shapes and sizes and just for effect, let’s add that head band! Hello Jane Fonda — burn that bra!

Then comes this interesting period — the 90s. Moore’s law at its best — the science behind fitness became a concept. The science behind what you wear while attaining fitness became a flourishing industry that made the average joe- the working class hero! Long distance running, triathlons, training regimes, Tai chi, power yoga — old practices with new interpretations. The world of fitness had accelerated its pace of evolution and every other month, there was this new craze in the world of fitness. This new way to build strength and to work muscles that I didn’t know I had — till they started hurting!  I remember in the early 2000s, Madonna was into yoga and then into pilates. Wonder what she’s up to today...

Now, it’s not just active wear, it’s active wear determined by activity. The category of active wear has gotten so specialised that micro targeting for brands is not just a pre-requisite, it needs to be supported by subject matter relevance, knowledge and authenticity. No more surface level marketing — brands can’t just talk the talk, they need to walk the walk! A majority of news year resolutions are testament to the fact that we as a people are on a constant road to self improvement.

Till next time, keep it sharp!

A fashion aficionado, film maker, script writer, stylist and marketing junkie. The writer indulges in the latest fashion and currently drives marketing for youth fashion brands in Indus League —A division of FLF..