Whether you’re looking for innovative or affordable alternatives to lululemon for men or women for activewear, athleisure or workleisure, try these fashion brands on for size. These online stores sell comfortable performance clothing that is perfect for everything from yoga to working out to working from home in 2021.
About lululemon and the rise of athleisure
Canadian businessman Chip Wilson founded Lululemon Athletica in 1998 and is widely credited with sparking the rise of athleisure and workout wear laced with stretchy technical fabrics. (He’s also sparked controversy over the years for saying things like, “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work” in Lululemon’s pants.)
Athleisure has gained tremendous traction in the years since lululemon was founded. While the trend began with leggings, joggers, sports bras and t-shirts, today innovative brands are incorporating technical fabrics into everything from loungewear, hoodies and jeans to “workleisure” suits, dresses and button-down shirts.
(I had to add an entire section detailing where to buy technical fabric-laced performance button downs to my rundown of the best places to buy men’s dress shirts online.)
The popularity of athleisure and performance clothing has accelerated during the COVID19 pandemic, as people everywhere turn to comfortable clothes while working from home.
This guide lists innovative and more affordable competitors to lululemon, focusing on alternative brands that feature technical fabrics in workout, athleisure, business casual and work wear.
What are performance fabrics?
As I wrote in Modern Fellows’ essential guide to performance fabric clothing,
Performance fabrics, also known as technical fabrics, are thread blends that are engineered for specific properties. For example, performance fabrics may be engineered to be anti-microbial, moisture-wicking, and/or waterproof or water-resistant. These fabrics are then incorporated into clothing for added comfort, durability and performance.The Essential Guide to Performance Fabric Clothing
While lululemon helped popularize the use of technical fabrics and the new athleisure category, innovative entrepreneurs have been using technical fibers for centuries.
As just one example, the original Macintosh coat company utilized performance fabrics way back in the 1820s by producing its raincoats with rubberized cotton. Other materials commonly found in today’s athleisure-wear such as spandex and Gore-Tex have been around for years.
Comparing the cost of athleisure for women and men
Costs for athleisure clothing can vary wildly depending on the brand.
In an attempt to provide some benchmark for comparing prices between the various brands in this post, I’ve listed prices for women’s athleisure leggings and men’s joggers or trekking pants.
Comparing the cost of athleisure leggings for women
|Boody Eco-wear Full Leggings for women||$28|
|Uniqlo Airism Soft Leggings with UV Protection||$30|
|Pact Go-to Leggings for women||$35|
|Gymshark Flex Leggings for women||$40|
|Yummie cotton stretch shaping leggings||$50|
|Lulu’s fit-for-life leggings||$52|
|Everlane Perform Legging||$58|
|Ref’s Court high-rise leggings||$58|
|Zella by Nordstrom Live-in High-waist leggings||$59|
|Girlfriend Collective compressive high-rise leggings||$68|
|prAna Pilar leggings||$69|
|Marine Layer Megan leggings for women||$78|
|Outdoor Voices TechSweat leggings||$88|
|Tommy John Go-Anywhere leggings||$88|
|Athleta Salutation stash pocket tights||$89|
|K-DEER high-waisted striped leggings||$98|
|lululemon Align II Leggings for women||$98|
|Sweaty Betty Power Workout Leggings||$100|
Comparing the cost of athleisure pants for men
|Uniqlo Stretch-Dry Sweatpants for men||$30|
|Gymshark Block joggers for men||$35|
|Pact Zip Jogger for men||$50|
|Zella by Nordstrom Pyrite slim-fit joggers||$59|
|Everlane French Terry Sweatpants||$68|
|Vuori Ponto Performance Pant (via Huckberry)||$84|
|Free Fly Bamboo Fleece jogger (via Huckberry)||$85|
|Outdoor Voices RecTrek pants for men||$98|
|Myles Apparel Weekend Joggers for men||$98|
|Ten Thousand interval pants||$98|
|prAna West Edge jogger||$99|
|Marine Layer Sport yoga joggers for guys||$99|
|lululemon Sure Joggers for men||$118|
|Rhone commuter joggers||$128|
|Oliver’s Apparel Bradbury joggers||$128|
|Tommy John Go-Anywhere quick-dry joggers||$128|
Brands like lululemon for men and women
The following brands are great alternatives to lululemon for both women and men.
Sustainable fashion brand Pact is quickly becoming one of my favorite destinations for basics, loungewear, athleisure and workout clothing and is an extremely affordable alternative to lululemon. Pact utilizes organic fabrics and relies on fair trade certified factories to produce its lines of functional, minimalist clothing for women and men.
For women, Pact features stretchy leggings and tights made from organic cotton and elastane blends, sweatshirt dresses, midi and tank dresses, loungewear, airplane cardigans and more.
I love that Pact adheres to a Zero Branding philosophy, joining other minimalist brands like Oliver Cabell in not slapping their logo across all of their clothes (unlike some others on this list). Much of their clothing is also tagless. They offer free shipping on orders over $50 and free returns.
Get a coupon for a 20% discount off your first Pact order by signing up for emails from the company. (Pact also has frequent sales, which you can keep track of via my separate post on the best online men’s clothing sales and coupons.)
Everlane has been adding to its selection of activewear and athleisure, and also carries a ton of 100% cotton fabrics, making them another affordable alternative to Athleta and lululemon for unfussy basics and athletic wear for men and women.
Michael Preysman started Everlane in 2001 with an emphasis on “radical transparency” into the company’s supply chain. I like Everlane’s simple, relatively-affordable basics for women and men like t-shirts, cashmere crew and v-neck sweaters, fleece pants, backpacks and outerwear.
For women, Everlane’s athleisure and activewear offerings include bodysuits, t-shirts and camis, and regular and cropped-length leggings.
The Everygirl review of Everlane’s Perform Leggings gives them high marks:
They fit … perfectly. They hugged my body in all the right places and were the perfect amount of high-waisted and were long enough but not too long. They are also the most unique material I have ever felt in a legging. They’re very thin but are not even slightly see-through. They don’t feel anything like a typical workout legging but are incredibly lightweight.
For guys, Everlane doesn’t have as many stretchy, rain-repelling or moisture-wicking options available, though they carry affordable 100% cotton French Terry Sweatpants, 100% wool track pants and 100% cotton waffle shirts and hoodies and long and short sleeve t-shirts.
Entrepreneur Ben Francis launched Gymshark from his parents’ garage in the United Kingdom while he was at university in 2012. It has since gone on to become a multi-million dollar industry leader in workout and athleisure clothing.
Gymshark prides itself on exceptional customer service and delivering a range of comfortable and affordable workout basics including shorts, leggings, joggers, shorts and tops for men and women. Their leggings are made from a stretchy fabric blend of polyamide, polyester, and elastane. For men, their shirts are made from 100% cotton or cotton blends, and their joggers are made from a cotton-polyester fabric.
Unlike Pact, the company definitely does not follow a zero branding philosophy. Gymshark is more like the B.U.M. Equipment of modern workout wear: Its name is plastered in bold capital letters across its leggings and much of the rest of its line.
In exchange for serving as a walking advertisement for the brand, Gymshark’s clothing is among the most affordable alternatives to lululemon on this list:
Ok, perhaps it’s an odd-sounding name for a clothing brand, but Boody Ecowear sells remarkably affordable, eco-friendly activewear and athleisure apparel for women, men and kids. Dave Greenblo and Neil Midalia founded the brand in Sydney, Australia in 2011. (Don’t worry, they ship fast and free to the United States for orders over $49.)
Boody’s straightforward lineup of simple, understated activewear is crafted from naturally-grown, organic bamboo that the company notes is “skin-healthy” and sustainably produced.
The company offers many more options for women — like under-$40 sports bras, hooded activewear tops and extremely affordable leggings — than it does for men. Men can enjoy performance boxer-briefs, muscle tees, and short and long sleeve shirts, though no joggers or other pants options at the time of this writing.
Tyler Haney founded Outdoor Voices in 2014, focused on selling bright, colorful activewear, yoga attire, loungewear and athleisure clothing, including workout kits. Her brand took off from there, including through a partnership that put OV’s products in J. Crew stores.
Outdoor Voices is definitely not the cheapest alternative to lululemon on this list. (In fact, it’s clothing lines are about comparable in pricing.) But Vogue calls Outdoor Voices the “anti-lululemon” for the brand’s minimalist wardrobe attire and focus on getting out and moving. OV sports a high-quality line of performance workout clothing for women and men featuring technical fabrics that are soft to the touch and wick sweat.
Their Sweatee collection for women and men features technical performance cotton laced with “drirelease” tech that takes moisture away from your body. For women, Outdoor Voices offers sports bras and tops, sweatshirts, leggings, skorts, pants and the Exercise Dress, made of OV’s LightSpeed performance fabric.
Uniqlo founder Tadashi Yanai built his operation as a technology company first. The retailer has increased its popularity in the United States over the past few years on the back of a well-deserved reputation for cheap-yet-durable wardrobe basics for women and men. (I love their super-warm winter jacket and extremely affordable cashmere sweaters.)
The Japan-based retailer has doubled down on its activewear and athleisure lineups. Uniqlo’s activewear often sports “Airism” or “Heattech” technical fabrics at its core, which are both meant to wick away moisture and boast other performance properties.
Pam and Beaver Theodosakis first started prAna in the early 1990s from their garage in Carlsbad, California with the goal of selling sustainable clothing. Today, the company is led by CEO Scott Kerslake, who founded Athleta, another athleisure and yoga brand.
The company produces sustainably-made apparel for yoga, the outdoors and athleisure including yoga and bra tops, leggings and yoga pants and other basics.
PrAna also sells smart and business casual apparel including foundation dresses made from TENCEL fabric, denim with a touch of spandex, 100% cotton button down shirts for guys, and outdoor Stretch Zion pants for women made with a woven fabric blend of nylon and spandex with a water repellent (DWR) finish. (I really like the look of prAna’s corduroy pants for men.)
PrAna’s clothing varies between 100% cotton, recycled polyester, and stretchy and quick dry performance fabrics made from blends of hemp, polyester, and cotton.
(Last year the PrAna hosted a great sale during Amazon Prime Day. You can try to hold out for discounts of 25-30% during Prana’s occasional sales.)
Living in DC, I feel like Marine Layer is everywhere. The California-cool clothing brand maintains several stores in the area, including Bethesda and Georgetown, and I love that I regularly receive snail mail catalogs from Marine Layer.
Founders Mike Natenshon and Adam Lynch started out with the goal of making the perfect shirt. Today Marine Layer makes a variety of athleisure apparel for men and women, from stretchy yoga shorts and joggers in heathered gray for men to leggings in a deep cabaret red for women, made from performance materials including nylon, spandex, elastine and environmentally-friendly recycled PET.
They also stock everything from outwear, sweaters and boxer-briefs for men to dresses, skirts, sleepwear and intimates for women — as well as a great selection of laid-back t-shirts.
Zella by Nordstrom
Zella, one of Nordstrom’s in-house brands, was “created with comfort innovation and performance technology for women, men and kids.”
Nordstrom’s Zella line is heavy on long sleeve performance t shirts, slim jogger pants, leggings, tank tops and sports bras, woven dresses and exercise dresses for women, and performance t-shirts and woven pants for men. Look for spectacular discounts off of Zella during Nordstrom’s anniversary sale.
Nordstom is one my all-time favorite retailers because of their superlative customer service, speedy delivery, free returns, terrific website and seamless integration of online and in-person retail experiences.
Athleta, Hill City and Gap
Scott Kerslake founded Athleta in 1998, the same year that lululemon was born. Athleta offers a range of simple, functional and attractive apparel for women only for activities from running to hiking to yoga to travel to sports like tennis, golf and swimming. While Scott sold Athleta to the Gap in 2008, the brand continues its focus on sustainability, and is now a Certified B corp.
Inspired by the success of Athleta for women, Gap launched Hill City, a performance athletic brand for men in 2018 as a certified B corp. Hill City carries a range of athletic outerwear, tees, sweatshirts, pants and more made from performance fabrics. However, buffeted by the COVID-19 slowdown in retail, Gap announced it would shutter the Hill City brand as of January 2021.
As of this writing take 40% off Hill City automatically at check out. I was told that Gap is poised to take some of what they learned from Hill City to inspire Banana Republic.
Confusingly, the Gap also carries their own line of workout wear, including leggings and tops for women and joggers and performance shirts for men.
Athleta’s Salutation stash pocket tights for women cost $89 and Hill City’s mid-weight training pants (aka joggers) for men cost $108. The Gap also carries a range of joggers for men from about $50-70, and leggings and joggers for women from about $50-80 (and much less during their frequent sales).
Care Of by PUMA (Amazon exclusive brand)
In 2019, PUMA and Amazon launched an exclusive-to-Amazon brand of athleisure clothing and shoes for women and men christened Care Of. PUMA’s Care Of brand clocks in at one of the cheapest athleisure options on this list.
Check out Care Of for leggings, joggers, terry crew sweatshirts, jogging and cycling shorts, running trainers and activewear t-shirts, long-sleeve fleece zip hoodies and low top leather sneakers and jogging trainers for women and men.
Tom Patterson and partner Erin Fujimoto founded Tommy John in 2008. They began their journey hawking undershirts out of their San Diego apartment, and have grown Tommy John into a multimillion dollar business.
Tommy John specializes in underwear and basics made from stretchy performance fabrics, making it a great alternative to lululemon.
For women, Tommy John carries everything from bralettes and bras to leggings, quick-dry joggers and terry shorts.
For men, think silky-soft boxer briefs and undershirts, workoutwear and polos, socks and button downs. Tommy John is also a great option for performance fabric dress shirts for men, and crafts their shirts with a ComfortStrength thread fabric of 72% Cotton, 23% Nylon, and 5% Spandex.
Tommy John also carriers well-regarded longjohns and loungewear for women and men.
Tom told me in an interview that, “more than ever, our customers are looking for a little extra comfort right now and our products are the perfect work from home uniform.” (He added that Tommy John’s clothing is “life changing — It’s the kind of comfort you need to feel to believe.”)
Get a 15% coupon off Tommy John by signing up for emails on their website.
Ministry of Supply
In 2011, MIT students Aman Advani and Gihan Amarasiriwardena helped craft a business plan to re-engineer professional attire using technical fabrics for added comfort.
Their plans resulted in Ministry of Supply, which sells performance professional and business casual clothing for women and men with a dual focus on comfort and style. Their stretchy fabric shirts, suits, slacks, dresses, blouses, tees, tanks and outerwear are perfect for the home office, making them a great upscale alternative to lululemon for technical fabric clothing.
What should you try first? co-founder and CEO Aman Advani told me that,
“Our signature Apollo dress shirt is the place to start. Made with NASA phase change materials, the breathable, wrinkle-resistant shirt is 19 times more breathable than traditional cotton and regulates your core temperature in real-time.”Ministry of Supply CEO Aman Advani’s Advice on Buying Performance Professional Clothing
Alternatives to lululemon for women
Below are additional options for brands like lululemon for women.
Started by wife-and-husband co-founders Ellie and Quang Dinh, Washington State-headquartered Girlfriend Collective sells “ethically-made activewear.”
The brand puts a huge focus on sustainability, making their leggings, joggers, t-shirts and tanks from recycled polyester (aka RPET), nylon, post-consumer bottles, fishing nets (yes, recycled fishing nets) and other waste. They produce t-shirts and tanks from 100% cupro fabric, which is constructed from wastes the cotton industry leaves behind.
Girlfriend Collective maintains a long list of comfy, athleisure basics from track jackets, sweatshirts, bras and sweatsuits to leggings, skorts, unitards, trackpants, sweatpants and a line of maternity activewear. The company also models its clothing on women representing a variety of shapes, sizes and backgrounds.
Girlfriend Collective’s compressive high-rise leggings for women cost $68.
With its signature stripes, K-DEER specializes in attractive, affordable-luxury leggings and other activewear for yoga, cycling, barre and athleisure.
Entrepreneur Kristine Deer, a certified Barkan hot yoga teacher, founded K-DEER in 2012 to meet a need in her practice. “The ‘aha’ came from frustration and absolutely hating what I had to wear for hot yoga class,” Kristine told the PowHER Network.
K-DEER’s lines of leggings, skorts, bum-bum shorts, outerwear, sports bras, tee shirts and more are Made in the USA at factories in New Jersey and New York City’s Garment Center.
A friend of mine raves about K-DEER’s brightly-colored, striped leggings, which were recommended by her Pilates instructor who was sporting some of the company’s signature patterns.
Here’s her micro-review of K-DEER leggings:
They are not tight on my knees (good stretch!) and the waistband is comfortable and doesn’t fall down. I also like that they sell stripes and other fun patterns in bright colors. I don’t like how expensive they are, but they really are worth it given the quality.
K-DEER high-waisted striped leggings cost $98.
Tamara Hill-Norton founded Sweaty Betty out of London in 1998 after seeing an opportunity to transform the “dark and drab” activewear market for women.
The name is intended to make it chic to sweat. Today, Sweaty Betty has grown into a global brand that offers a versatile selection of active and athleisure clothing for women including leggings, pants, shorts, skorts, dresses, unitards, long-sleeve jumpsuits, recycled-cotton hoodies, track jackets, sports bras, underwear, sports socks and ski and snowboard base layers.
Sweaty Betty also offers a line of online workout videos, fitness advice, podcasts, daily challenges and recipes. In addition to purchasing direct from Sweaty Betty’s website, you can find Sweaty Betty via Nordstrom, Selfridges and Harrods.
Sweaty Betty Power Workout Leggings cost $100.
Colleen Winter and Debra Cannon founded Lulu’s Fashion Lounge in Chico, California in 1996. The brand evolved into Lulu’s, an online-only destination for items like cute ruffled mini and bodycon dresses, rompers, swimwear, loungewear, shoes and bridalwear.
Like lululemon, many of Lulu’s clothing selections incorporate stretchy performance fabrics like lycra.
Lulu’s carries a solid selection of activewear including high-waisted leggings, tank-tops, racerback tops, shorts, joggers, and sweats. You can also find select Lulu’s labels in Nordstrom, which is one of my favorite shopping destinations.
Lulu’s fit-for-life leggings for women cost $52.
Reformation, also known as “Ref,” was founded in 2009 by Yael Aflalo as a side-hustle focused on sustainable and environmentally-conscious fashion. Yael has dramatically expanded the brand into everything from dresses to denim jackets to cute COVID-19 face masks.
Ref doesn’t carry the same wide variety of athletic clothing as some other brands on this list, but it peppers athleisure performance fabrics lines like “Eco Rib,” a stretchy-soft ribbed fabric made of 88% Tencel and 12% spandex, throughout its leggings and workleisure dresses, pants, and tops.
Ref’s Court high-rise leggings for women cost $58.
Yummie (formerly Yummie Tummie)
Founded by Real Housewives of New York City participant Heather Thomson in 2008, Yummie seeks to inspire self-confidence and embrace a variety of body shapes. (In its origin story, the brand says, “we embrace your curves, we embody your shape… We take pride in celebrating your silhouette. We’re here to boost your confidence.”)
Originally known as Yummie Tummie, the company rebranded in 2017 as Yummie following Heather stepping away from the brand. Yummie carries a range of affordable full length, ankle length and capri leggings, as well as shorts, bodysuits, and a range of shaping tanks, camis, shorts and underwear.
Try Yummie’s Gloria ankle-length cotton stretch shaping leggings for $49.50.
Alternatives to lululemon for men
Here are even more options for stores like lululemon for men. For even more options for performance clothing made from technical fabrics, see my essential guide to performance fabric clothing.
Miles specializes in performance fabric athleisure and activewear that supports a range of activities from golf, surfing, and jogging to working from, and lounging around, the house. Try Miles for lightweight performance workout shirts, running shorts and compression pants for men, thermal henleys, and polo shirts.
Myles Apparel’s weekend joggers for men cost $98.
Digital menswear retailer Huckberry is one of my favorite online stores for men’s clothing. It’s a unique place to find striped t-shirts, modern chinos and clothing gifts for guys, because their founders do an incredible job of curating innovative and fresh menswear brands alongside house-brands like Flint and Tinder.
Huckberry turns out to be a phenomenal one-stop-shop for premium men’s athleisure labels (including many on this list) like Faherty Brand, Free Fly Apparel, Foehn, Fourlaps, Hill City, Houdini, Janji, lululemon, Marine Layer, Myles Apparel, On, Proof, Relwen, Reigning Champ, Taylor Stitch, Ten Thousand, Tracksmith and Vuori Clothing.
Founders Andy Forch and Richard Greiner have been committed since the beginning of their journey to telling stories behind the brands. I love how their product scrolls feature mini-reviews of select items.
Check out their joggers and shorts, mde from a water-repellant all-over-stretch weave of 88% nylon and 12% spandex; short and long sleeve t-shirts and henleys constructed from temperature-regulating 100% merino wool active jersey; comfy “passage pants” made from a proprietary blend of Cordura Nylon and Lycra and other workout essentials made from fabrics like french terry, ripstop nylon, and pique cotton tech.
Olivers also makes a “best in class” workout t-shirt treated with moisture-pulling hydrophilic and anti-odor microban finishes.
Oliver’s Bradbury joggers for men cost $128.
Founded by Keith Nowak and Eugenio Labadi, Ten Thousand makes premium workout essentials for everyday athletes. Their workout wear is “functional, not flashy,” and I love that they don’t overwhelm with endless products and colors.
Ten Thousand sells the basics that you need for workouts and sports, including foundation shorts, interval pants, versatile shirts, lightweight tanks, compression shorts, tights, no-show socks. Their gear is made from performance fabrics like nylon and spandex and feature a permanent silver ion treatment to combat odor.
Ten Thousand’s interval pants for men cost $98.
Founded by entrepreneurs Nate Checketts, Kyle McClure, Carras Holmstead and Casey Edgar in 2014, men’s workout clothing startup Rhone utilizes high-quality technical fabrics to create high-end activewear and athleisure clothing for men.
Rhone has an extensive product line for men that includes everything from workout gear like joggers, sweatpants, tights, athletic shorts and performance tees to performance business casualwear including button downs, henleys, polos and stretchy commuter dress shirts.
Rhone’s commuter joggers for men cost $128.
Mizzen and Main
Along with Ministry of Supply, Mizzen and Main is one of the deans of professional performance fabric clothing for men. Kevin Lavelle founded Mizzen and Main in 2012, and well-known for selling dress shirts with stretchy, proprietary-blend performance fabrics for the office (and home office).
Mizzen and Main doesn’t sell joggers or casual workout wear. Try their performance Baron Chinos for men, which cost $98.
Are lululemon and Athleta owned by the same company?
Lululemon Athletica and Athleta are two completely different companies with different founders and ownership structures.
Lululemon was founded by Canadian businessman Chip Wilson in 1998. Today, it is publicly-traded company domiciled in Delaware with a headquarters in Vancouver, Canada. Athleta was founded by Scott Kerslake in 1998. Athleta is now owned by the Gap, a separate publicly-traded company.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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