What Kevin Hart (And Fabletics) Needs To Understand About Men’s Activewear

Maybe it’s a consequence of starring in those Jumanji movies, but Kevin Hart appears to be approaching the launch of Fabletics Men as though the streetwear industry is treating us like prey.

Late last week El Segundo, Calif.-based Fabletics — which launched via Techstyle Fashion Group seven years ago with actress Kate Hudson among its founders — announced Hart as the face of its new activewear label, which it described as being on a mission to “cater to guys that the older performance brands have left behind.”

Hart, who whose promotional photo shows him in a fairly nondescript-looking black hoodie and navy shorts that don’t go particularly well together, drove this point home in the press release:

“The activewear space wants to intimidate. To get you to spend way too much cash on complicated tech you don’t need,” Hart’s quote said. “On overpriced labels. On streetwear that tries too hard to be cool. But at Fabletics Men? We’re going to give you exactly what you want at a price that won’t scare the hell out of you.”

This could be a reaction, in other words, to high-end designers like Moncler’s decision to recently enter the streetwear scene. Or the rise of newer labels, like Lost Daze, which charges $1,500 for a single fleece garment.

Fabletics might also be sensing a moment of opportunity to position itself as a challenger brand for Everymen that breaks the traditional barrier between a brand and their customers.

Rather than simply making design decisions from on high and imposing them on the world, for example, Fabletics is developing an online community known as “The Crew,” whose imput will help inform what Fabletics sells online and (eventually) in its retail stores.

This is in contrast to, say, someone like Virgil Abloh, one of the reigning stars of both men’s activewear and streetwear thanks to his work on Off White and, more recently, his role as creative director at LVMH.

Despite his success, Abloh raised eyebrows when he suggested streetwear is dying, without really offering any suggestions on what might replace it. After all, streetwear is really just activewear that’s typically worn to look good, rather than work out.

Given that most of us have a limited ability to walk the streets at the moment, this is a curious time to bring out a activewear collection. At this point, streetwear and activewear are all relegated into ‘athleisure’ until COVID-19 is contained.

When men are buying activewear, though, I’m not sure they’re really scared of the existing brands. There’s nothing very innovative about the four pillars — form, fit, function and style — that the collection is being built around. And it’s not really clear how this collection will differ from FL2, the menswear line Fabletics launched five years ago with Hudson’s less-famous brother, Oliver.

There also wasn’t a lot of detail about “The Crew” told Fabletics men really want out of activewear, besides affordability. Instead, when I visited the website I was reminded of what most guys hate when they shop for activewear: not being able to easily find what they’re looking for, or, even worse, having to wait.

I’m not sure how, if this is a new collection, the first “drop” sold out. I guess I could come back in six days to see it, but I probably won’t. And if there’s a way to join “The Crew” (other than signing up to pay for a monthly subscription service) I didn’t see it.

“Every man is going to want to put our ‘F’ on his chest,” Hart said towards the end of the press release. “Because it’s going to stand for the best damn activewear – period. But that ‘F’ will also stand for something bigger. That ‘F’ says that someone has got your back.”

What would having our backs mean, exactly? I’d suggest what I want — and what I think most men want out of activewear — is something versatile enough to be used both at the gym, on the street or while working (for extended periods) from home. For clothes that make us look more active than we really are. For less visible logos and more easy-to-wash and longer-lasting garments.

What we want from activewear, in other words, are the same elements that represent the best in all fashion — another big “F” that’s instantly recognizable, whether it’s emblazoned on your chest or not.

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