Chin tucked, breath held and face purple, I flip my head upright to free myself from one of Lululemon's many bra-top combos in a overly-lit dressing room in the Upper West Side. Getting into the stretchy, multi-strapped apparel takes strategy, much like the yoga practice it inspires. Breath control, body contorsion, and engaging your core is required, as well as spacial awareness as there is little room for the high kicks and splits that usually help you into yoga gear. Unlike many brands that target women, there is no low lighting, tilted mirror or tufted bench to make this experience anymore comfortable than expected. This is my first time in a Lululemon dressing room.
Even though I'm editor of a performance gear site and longtime fan of all and any sports apparel, I've never been drawn to this particular brand.
It wasn't the fact that their CEO has a laundry list of faults, their controversial marketing stints or even the haunting 2011 murder— it was due to the fact that I am a runner and it was my understanding that Lululemon was a brand specifically for yogis. A yogi I am not. While stretching for long periods of time to my Nicki Minaj Pandora station is crucial to aligning my version of chakras, I don't enjoy having my head upside down for long periods of time or being reminded to breath. I over-think it and stop breathing; it's all very Bridget-Jones-goes-to-yoga. Obsessed with speed and partial to endorphins, running has always had my calling card.
So when Lululemon's menswear was recently brought to my attention, I figured it was time to take a deep dive into the brand I've had no first hand experience with. I started with the basics, visiting nearby retail stores and looking into their vast online community.
The first thing I noticed after visiting more than one NYC location is the engaging nature of the sales associates. I touched an item that the brand is known for, a "Scuba Hoodie" that incorporates the brand's logo into the overall design. A woman in a matching hoodie appears jingling, "This sequel version is updated for a longer fit on the body with ribbed paneling allowing for more stretch. Let me know if you have any questions!"
She's gone, off to spread the good news to the next customer. The second thing I learned is that they do offer running apparel and occasional swimwear after all.
The average UWS consumer looks like they popped in to pick up a workout tee between their midtown job and reserved studio classes, serving as a one-stop shop for their SoulCycle and FlyBarre needs. Lululemon's online community is a different bag.
"It is frustrating to want an item, see it quickly disappear, and then instantly appear on eBay for 150-200% retail price..." Sound familiar?
Thanks to a slew of Lululemon centric blogs and forums, the brand's fan-base shares many traits with the self proclaimed "sneakerhead" community that we at Complex are so familiar with.
LuluAddicts, as they call themselves, set their alarms for midnight "uploads" (when the brand adds new products to the site) just as the truest sneakerheads stay up all night for their favorite drops. Camping out at House of Hoops or Foot Locker is a rite of passage, as is copping the latest aforementioned Scuba Hoodie before your size is gone. The most popular sizes are the first to go (4-6 for LuluAddicts, 9 - 12 for sneakerheads) and the tension between brand's biggest fans and their limited product is palpable.
Insightful Athlete, a frequent Lululemon reviewer, dedicated one post to finding solutions to the frequent lack of popular items in certain colors and sizes. "It is frustrating to want an item, see it quickly disappear, and then instantly appear on eBay for 150-200% retail price..." Sound familiar?
The brands and consumers share a language all their own. Nike has "ekins"; Lululemon has "educators." While sneakerheads have their Galaxy, Cement, and Volt colorways, Lululemon fans have their Space Dyes, Petite Fleur, and Cadet Blues. Camping out for your favorite releases or playing the online gotta-have-it game is similar, but a notable difference is the attention to fit. Men scouting for a pair of much sought-after sneakers are more willing to accommodate a larger spanse of sizes than a woman looking for her next favorite pair of yoga pants.
Similarly, a look back into the history of these brands is anything but squeaky clean. Sneaker culture has faced a vast amount of controversy in the past and reading a bit about Lulu's Founder Chip Wilson (yeah, this guy) will make you not want to buy the brand.
Despite any quality issues or controversial release decisions the brands face, their following is a loyal one. Since my initial visits to Lululemon, I plan to cave soon on an item or two for spring. The feminine fit, flattering silhouettes and like-minded, sweat-obsessed attitude has caught my attention. As my sneaker collection has recently challenged my apartment entrance as an adversary, I can only take solace in the fact that yoga pants take up far less room.
Calvy Click is the Editor-in-Chief of Sneaker Report. When she isn’t writing about performance footwear and apparel, you can find her running around Manhattan to Rick Ross anthems or hitting the tennis court. Keep up if you can on Instagram or Twitter.