Now that athleisure is officially a thing, it’s a good time to revisit men’s athletic brands on the market. There are a lot of options, so we pulled out the best and ranked them from best to worst, based on our experience using them.This isn’t a scientific ranking, but rather our own hands-on experience and expertise from studying these brands. Here’s how they ranked, based on affordability, quality, availability, style points and street cred:
Reebok — named after the South African antelope, the rhebok — has a wide variety of technical athletic wear. Its price points aren’t out-of-this-world high, but Reebok doesn’t have the street cred of its glory days in the ‘80s (who wants to wear a $65 hoodie screenprinted with “Cross Fit Victory” and a “fierce eagle breaking a barbell in defiance of giving anything less than your best”?)
Pros: It’s been around for a loooong time (since 1890) and is now a part of the Adidas Group. Reebok’s variety is still as huge as ever, with technical offerings for most track-and-field activities: running, walking, cross training, etc.
Cons: Its style isn’t as sharp as it used to be.
Gap has sold style-forward workout clothes targeted to its women demo, but has only recently (and quietly) begun selling Gap Fit gear toward men, “a new collection of high performance gear for every type of workout.”
Pros: The prices are affordable, and the designs don’t flamboyantly shout that you’re headed to the gym — a pair of running shorts is only $19.99 — but there isn’t a huge variety to choose from.
Cons: While understated, the designs are just that — basic. Kinda boring. Don’t get us wrong: It’s exciting that Gap’s making athleisure wear for men, but if you’re going to devote a line of workout gear toward guys, don’t make it feel like an afterthought.
Pros: UA’s variety is huge, with something for every sport from football to running and beach to hiking.Cons: Most of their stuff is emblazoned with its logo.
EYSOM (an acronym for “exercise your state of mind”), is a new LA-based label that focuses on how your gym clothes are supposed to fit and feel. The line isn’t huge, and it’s very expensive (an 8-inch training short is $180). But if you can afford it, the clothes are worth your money.
Pros: They really do fit well. They’re sturdy and comfortable. And if you fork over $180 on a pair of gym shorts that you look good in, maybe it’ll motivate you to use them more at the gym.
Pros: Puma looks good.
Cons: But its focus is clearly on lifestyle clothes more than technical gear. Its range is very limited in running shorts, for example, of which it only has a few.
Adidas is a streetwear essential (the Stan Smith is one of the best-selling shoes of all time), but its technical athletic gear is still worth your buck.
Pros: You know what you’re getting — Adidas is reliable, easy to find and its line has something for every sport.
What is there to say about Nike that hasn’t already been said? It’s everywhere, the Coca-Cola of athletic apparel, and just as basic.
Pros: You can find something from Nike anywhere you look. The variety’s huge and you know what you’re getting. Its technology, especially its Dri-Fit clothing, is some of the most dependable on the market for wicking off your sweat and keeping your body temperate.
Cons: While not huge, the logos are still everywhere. Nike is the cliche brand. It’s milquetoast athletics, which is why it’s in the middle of our list. Nike doesn’t stand out — overall, it isn’t the worst and it isn’t the best.
Pros: Of the workout gear we’ve been sent over the past few months, we’re constantly grabbing the Ten Thousand shorts. They fit really well, they have an inside mesh layer that doesn’t feel like net-whitey-tighties, and they’re rather affordable ($48 to $55).
Rhone makes it near the top of our list because it knows what guys want and need out of gym clothes — something that looks great whether you’re in a gym, on the track, on a trail or just running errands. But most importantly, it performs as well as it fits. Plus, they use silver in their fabrics for the element’s natural antimicrobial and antibacterial abilities, which keep your clothes from getting funky.
Pros: Wide range, good fit, high quality, performs well.
Cons: It’s a little high on the price range (a tank top is $54).
Champion Sportswear is not at the top of our list because of its name — that’s just a coincidence. Champion, a subsidiary of HanesBrands Inc., has given us much of the sportswear we take for granted today: the first sports jerseys, reversible shirts, nylon mesh uniforms — they were the first to screen print numbers and names onto sports jerseys. If you ever played Little League, chances are you wore Champion. But its style is still as classic and timeless as it’s ever been, and just as functional.
Pros: Super affordable, well-made and widely available.
Cons: Wear carefully, lest you end up looking like a dad.