"Athleisure" is a relatively new term to the American lexicon, a portmanteau used to describe athletic clothing used for leisure purposes. Recent studies show a disconnect between consumers' desire to purchase athletic attire and the percentage of Americans considered "active to a healthy level and beyond." While athletic wear sales skyrocket, reported levels of inactivity have slowly increased in recent years. These trends indicate a phenomenon in which consumers prioritize ownership of athletic wear over athletics. In this research, I set out to answer the following research questions: How do university students interpret and understand the purchase and wearing of athletic clothes, in the absence of athletic activity; and is a student's decision to wear athletic clothing for nonathletic activity associated with a symbolic performance of a healthy lifestyle? In order to answer these questions, I focused on a set of UCF students between 18 and 24 years of age who wore athletic attire as leisure attire and exercised less than three times a week. My data collection included participant observation, literature review, semi-structured interviews, and a focus group. I conducted semi-structured interviews with 18 UCF students who fit my inclusion criteria. Based on recurring narratives, I invited interview participants back to hold a focus group in which three students ultimately participated. In analyzing these data, I found that college students consider athletic attire suitable for a variety of casual situations, and therefore did not conflate wearing athletic attire with participating in athletic activity or the appearance of a healthy lifestyle. Further, research participants used age- and gender-based stereotypes when making judgments about their peers' habits regarding athletic activity and wearing athletic attire.These findings are important because they demonstrate how the boundary between public and private attire can change over time, how discourses of consumption outweigh discourses of personal responsibility, and how dress is a gendered experience.
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Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Sciences
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Athleisure; Athletic attire; Cultural anthropology; Dress studies; Exercise; Gender studies; Gym attire; Neoliberalism; Performativity; Yoga pants
Length of Campus-only Access
Honors in the Major Thesis
Payne, Shannon, "The Performance of Health? Motivations Behind University Students' Decisions to Wear Athletic Attire" (2015). HIM 1990-2015. 615.