Several years ago, I ran Lululemon’s annual SeaWheeze Half Marathon through the company’s picturesque hometown of Vancouver, BC, Canada. Once I adjusted to the kilometer markers in place of mileage ones, I had a blast. But I couldn’t help noticing that the overwhelming majority of the participants were women, indicative of the company’s deep roots as a female-focused yoga brand.
Thanks to a strong belief among higher-ups that the company’s men’s business can be as potent as its women’s side, as well as an increased focus on marketing to and making products for men, that ratio’s starting to change. At the end of 2018, 21 percent of Lululemon’s business came from the men’s side — and the brand’s sales as a whole represented 1.9 percent of the sportswear market. That figure is well behind leader Nike (18.3 percent) but within striking distance of Adidas (6 percent) and UnderArmour (4.1 percent). And with its sights set on disrupting the industry, Lululemon aims to double its men’s sales in the next four years, to the tune of $1 billion.
Its latest bold foray into guys’ athletic lives? The License to Train capsule collection, an eight-piece line of stylish, technical workout gear featuring a hoodie, two shirts, four pairs of shorts and boxer briefs, that just dropped. I got to test some of it during a workout at New York City’s uber-exclusive Performix House yesterday with rock star personal trainer Nick Pags, and let’s just say he did not go easy on me—and by extension the product. Here are three big takeaways from one aggressive training session.
1. The looks could kill: Long gone are the days when you should balk at the idea of sporting apparel from what began as a women’s yoga brand. The admittedly high-end men’s clothes are totally different — sorry, no stretch pants that make our butts look their best — featuring figure-flattering silhouettes, even for those of us who don’t spend all day in the gym. Of particular note here is the Always Agile Hoodie ($108), a lightweight and comfy marvel of athleisure ideal for a workout warmup, cool-weather jog or even an outdoor date — but all the stuff I tried fit well and looked sharp.
2. The function rivals the form: As I hinted above, Pags maximized our 45-minute session, pushing me through multiple sets of sand bag walking lunges and cleans, kettlebell farmers carries and overhead walks, explosive sled pulls and a curse-inducing exercise called “Single Leg Bulgarian Split Squat with Med Ball Rotation.” As I struggled for balance and felt the burn, that move immediately made me regret Sunday’s three-hour bike spin. It didn’t help that yesterday was particularly hot and humid in NYC, a condition that combined with the moves to leave me dripping with sweat just 10 minutes in. (I truly feel bad for whoever picked up that med ball after me.) But one thing I didn’t “sweat” during the workout? My clothes. The marketing copy trumpets such features as four-way stretch, underarm gussets, quick-drying mesh paneling and Silverescent odor-fighting fabric. And all that stuff is awesome. But when you’re in the gym, all you really care about is being able to focus on, say, tightening your transverse abdominus without getting hung up on your duds — and that’s where this stuff delivers. As the title of this story indicates, these clothes are so well constructed that, much like stupid sexy Flanders, you’ll feel like you’re wearing nothing at all.
3. Choose your workout clothes wisely: I do have one very minor knock, though I’m at least partially to blame. For the workout, I opted to don the Always Agile Short Sleeve shirt ($78), T.H.E. Short 9″ Linerless shorts ($58) and LTT Boxers ($38). And as I said, they didn’t hinder me one iota during the workout. Only when we wrapped things up did I notice just how drenched my clothes were. Meanwhile, Pags, wearing the Always Agile Sleeveless shirt ($68) and T.H.E. Short 9″ Lined shorts ($68), emerged relatively cool and dry. Granted, the moves were all new to me — and I’m not a personal trainer — so I was (probably) working harder, but the lesson is clear: When it’s hot and humid and you’re doing complicated split squats and sled pulls, wear the most minimal stuff available. Indeed, I’m rocking the sleeveless shirt and lined shorts as I type these words, and they feel amazing, particularly the shorts. Two features that’ll make your day: the discreet and handy little zippered “no bounce” phone pocket on the right hip, and the, ahem, “built-in pouch,” which keeps the boys in place as part of a soft, feather-light liner that practically ensconces the package in cushy comfort.
Safe to say, if Lululemon keeps making apparel like this dreamy collection, those market leaders we know so well just might be the ones sweating.
The License to Train collection is available in stores and on lululemon.com, with prices ranging from $38 USD to $108 USD. Lululemon provided product for this review.
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