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Choosing Activewear: Are Premium Brands Really Worth It?

When shopping for activewear, you are bound to notice price discrepancies between various brands. Are premium brands really worth the extra cost?

Exclusive activewear brand products are becoming more expensive. For instance, you can expect to spend about ₹5,000 for a pair of leggings from brands like Under Armour or Superdry. On the other hand, brands like HRX sell leggings for just ₹1,500. This leads many consumers to question whether premium activewear items are worth the price. In this article, we will explore whether there is a considerable difference between the quality of premium and budget activewear gear, to help you if the extra cost is worth your hard earned cash.

Graph showing Cost of Womens Leggings in India

Feeling Included Into an Exclusive Community

Many consumers are inclined to purchase premium brands to feel more in tune with the fitness community. Premium activewear companies use social media, community outreach, and branding tactics to help you feel included in an exclusive community. Such brands have spent a considerable amount of time and resources to target well-defined demographics and build strong followings in specific fitness communities--for example, Nike often appeals to gym-goers. These brands help build this image using endorsements from the world's top athletes, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lebron James. Therefore, choosing to purchase activewear from a premium brand helps create a connection and a sense of belonging to a broader collective: people who buy the same activewear products share similar ways of keeping active and feel united in fitness goals.

Expensive Brands Can Be Perceived Higher Status

Premium activewear pieces carry lines that are co-designed by high-end designers and athletes, often marketed as fashion-forward. Such collaborations include Adidas with Stella McCartney, Nike with Kobe Bryant, and Under Armour with Tim Coppens. The brand recognition offered by designer items indicates social status playing into a fundamental human need to communicate who you are and how you fit into the social hierarchy. Due to some of these factors, larger brands are more attractive to many consumers. Many feel as though their socio-economic status can be perceived as better through these premium activewear. This is one of the reasons why you find many dupes of premium items on the market.

While non-premium brands also offer various stylish and creative pieces in response to market demands, they fail to provide strong brand recognition provided by their premium counterparts. Consumers less concerned with brand prestige may prefer the value non-premium brands have to offer.

The Material is Only As Good As Your Workout

Premium activewear brands do offer a feeling of inclusivity, community, and brand recognition however, in terms of the fabric composition, there is no significant difference provided from non-premium brands. Higher-end products may market tech-forward features such as "four-way stretch” and "sweat-wicking,” but have many different product blends. Additionally, non-premium brands–despite a lack of explicit marketing–also offer equivalent technologically-advanced properties such as "quick-drying". Most activewear is made with a blend of elastane and polyester. Although very few scientific studies suggest that a particular fabric blend is better, it is safe to presume that buying premium brands over non-premium options for better material quality is not a logical approach. Additionally, non-premium brands–despite a lack of explicit marketing–also offer equivalent technologically-advanced properties such as "quick-drying".

Graph showing Material Breakdown in Womens Leggings in India

Further, there is a misconception of which material is the best for all workouts. Different material compliments workouts differently. Picking the right material can increase efficiency during your workout, therefore, would be the right fit for you. For example, polyester is known as the "workhorse" of activewear, it is best for playing in the heat as it can repel UV Rays even when wet. It is great for tennis and activities along those lines. Another material used less often is wool. This is great for activities such as hiking as the material creates pockets of air and regulates heat that allows your body to stay warm. There is no material that you should try and pick from, the best material depends on the workouts you will do while wearing them.

Final Decision

While premium brands may allow you to feel a sense of belonging, boost your confidence, and signal higher status, they don’t necessarily offer extra quality or support when it comes to composition. Style and function are important when deciding on athleisure; the balance between the two helps determine whether or not the premium price is worth it for you.

If you prefer premium consider using a shopping credit cards to balance the expense. Most cards offer discounts with fashion brands and best cashback for every rupee you spend. While rewards may not fully make up for the cost difference, you'll still get to enjoy your favorite brands at a slightly lower price.

Sahmi Chowdhury

Sahmi is a Junior Research Analyst specialising in credit cards and insurance in India. He previously worked in the financial services sector at Brown Brothers Harriman and True Capital Management.