Men's Athleisure for Work? Hollywood Execs Embrace Casual Trend

ADOBE STOCK; COURTESY OF BRANDS

Can elevated track pants and hoodies perform in C-suites, too? Quibi's Jim Toth and director Reginald  Hudlin say yes: It's "the culmination of a century of change toward comfort."

While athleisure pieces comprise the wardrobe foundation of many Americans — pants and leggings alone drove a $1 billion business in 2018 — the concept of workout-wear-meets-business-casual has not penetrated Hollywood as an acceptable executive staple. Until now. Unsurprisingly, it's the men who are bringing the laid-back look into C-suites, forgoing tailored suits and button-downs for sleek track pants and fitted hoodies to take them from power lunches to sporting events.

The brand that swayed Jim Toth, head of content and talent acquisitions at Quibi; Michael Rotenberg, founder of 3 Arts; Richard Weitz, WME partner and co-head of scripted TV; producer and director Reginald Hudlin; and Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi to cross over to the (much more) casual side is Willy California. The recently launched line of men's athleisure clothing was created by L.A. co-founder of cupcake chain Sprinkles and beloved Pizzana eateries Charles Nelson. Think pants cut like jeans but made from a nylon and bamboo stretch fabric, a quarter zip pullover that reads much nicer than a sweatshirt and workout shorts that the brand describes on its website as having a "socially acceptable inseam."

Nelson says the aim is to deliver a professional guy's uniform, giving him options to wear all day long, from work to play. "For the past 100 years, men have been sloughing off formal wardrobe elements — things that need to be ironed or dry-cleaned, things that restrain their bodies or require a belt," says fashion academic and historian Deirdre Clemente at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. "Athleisure for men is the obvious culmination of a century of change [toward] embracing comfort and practicality."

For Toth, athleisure makes sense on frenetic days. "Managing multiple businesses, constant travel, three kids and a serious golf habit, I have to keep it simple, comfortable and classic," he says. Adds Weitz, "Not only do I love the brand for myself, but I am a big fan of it for my clients." Hudlin says he wears it on set, in the editing room, on cross-country flights, at his children's after-school events and during workouts. It's yet to be seen if sweat-wicking T-shirts will replace a shirt and tie in high-powered meetings, but one thing is clear: Hollywood men's infatuation with athleisure has begun. Says Rotenberg: "Willy clothes are always so comfortable with their great fabrics and fit. I love that the colors and branding are low-key and are made right here in California."

This story first appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.