For years, distressed denim has been a huge deal in fashion—from boyfriend jeans to cut-off shorts—and now, the ripped and ravaged look has officially made its way into athleisure. (Can’t say we’re surprised—leggings are the new skinny jeans, after all.)
But shredded activewear tends to be a bit more refined than its down-and-dirty blue-jean counterparts; the rips on a pair of leggings or cropped workout top are generally cut with serious precision, and fabrics are usually solid black, white, or some other muted color. Even so, it’s definitely an edgy (and, perhaps, intimidating) look to pull off—so there are a few things to keep in mind when putting together a distressed look for the gym.
“Ripped activewear is such a statement,” says Ashley Chmelka, the style and fitness Instagrammer behind SincerelyAMC. “Whenever I wear a piece that’s deconstructed, I view it as my statement piece, so I keep the rest of my outfit really simple.”
But there is definitely some function to this skin-baring form, according to Yoga Glow and SLT instructor Sunina Young. “Thanks to the design of the laser-cut styling, most ripped activewear is seamless and stretchy, so you can really wear it for any type of activity,” she explains. “I especially love [ripped leggings] for HIIT—they don’t restrict or put tension on your knees when jumping or lunging.” (There goes your excuse, 30 seconds into jump squats.)
And don’t worry about the rips stretching out. Young heavily rotates her favorite pair of shredded Solow leggings into her weekly teaching ensembles and notes that she’s never had any issues with tearing or fraying. “I’ve washed them so much and they still look completely brand new,” she promises.
While Chmelka stresses not overdoing it with more than one ripped piece—you don’t want to get a call from the ’90s asking for its signature look back—she thinks of these styles as the cooler younger sister to the more traditional black legging. “These go with everything, but the rips add a little trendy edge,” she explains. “They go from street to studio, and then back to street, super easily.”
Since double-distressing is out, Young has a few recommendations for what to pair your ripped piece: “I love to wear crop tops with these leggings—gotta show them off!” she says. “Sport some boxer braids, throw on a denim vest, and you’ve got the perfect cool-girl street look.”
What are you waiting for? Rock one of these cool, ripped activewear pieces at your next class (or, hey, brunch works too).
Need a refresher on how to perfect the boxer braid? Here’s a crash course in the super cool hairstyle. And now that you’re ready to get your sweat on, try this ab-busting swing workout from another SLT instructor, Bethany Meyers.