Is Outdoor Voices, the fitness apparel brand all over Instagram, worth your money?
What to expect when you get something from Outdoor Voices
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Some people don’t think alI that much about what they wear to work out. All they need are sneakers, shorts, and maybe a sports bra, purchased at one time or another from a discount retailer or big-box store. For others, workout apparel matters. It matters for the workout class or activity they do, and it may matter, possibly to a greater extent, because they believe the brand and style says something about the wearer—who they are, what they do, and why they work out. If you fit into the latter category, you’re probably already aware of—and, possibly thinking of buying—Outdoor Voices.
What is Outdoor Voices?
Outdoor Voices was founded in 2013 by Tyler Haney, a Boulder native fresh out of New York City’s Parsons School of Design who thought that the athleticwear space lacked apparel for people who like to move their bodies but prioritize activity over competition. Thus, Outdoor Voices—a reference to the term “indoor voices,” which adults often tell children to use when playing inside—was born. The brand’s motto, as specified in its mission statement page, is to “get the world moving” because Outdoor Voices believes in “Doing Things.” The aesthetic it’s deemed appropriate for said activities? Mostly two-toned leggings and minimalist crop tops, in pale, muted colors. People seem to agree that this mission and style fill a void in the crowded athleisure space: Haney made an appearance on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list in 2016, and today, six years after its inception, Outdoor Voices has raised at least $57 million in funding.
I first noticed Outdoor Voices in 2016, when I lived in Brooklyn and attended a variety of workout classes in my neighborhood and in Manhattan across the river. One day it occurred to me that a distinctive style of matte earth tones were emerging out of the usual shiny spandex sea of Lululemon I’d come to expect, and in classes from yoga to spin to barre. It became clear that the source of these earth tones was almost always Outdoor Voices when I noticed a woman who looked like an extra on the HBO series Girls walking through Williamsburg with an Outdoor Voices-branded tote. And then came the Outdoor Voices ad on my Instagram feed. I clicked through to see what the story was.
How is Outdoor Voices different (or not) from other athleisure brands?
Outdoor Voices’ Instagram shows people being active, almost always outside. Perusing the account, one might assume that those who wear Outdoor Voices do nothing but scale mountains, hike in national parks, and execute sick skateboard tricks in parking lots, all with a makeup-free-yet Glossier-glowy face.
When looking through Outdoor Voices’ photos, it’s hard not to think of another athletic brand, Lululemon—the Vancouver-based yoga pants behemoth often credited with starting the ubiquitous athleisure look of today—and the message that seems to emerge from comparing them: If a brand like Lululemon is for people who exercise in chi-chi boutique exercise studios that charge $35 for a drop-in class and sell bottles of collagen-infused, activated charcoal water in their lemongrass-scented lobbies, Outdoor Voices is for people who exercise by grabbing their dog, throwing on a baseball cap, and heading out on a run. As with most branded things, this distinction is carefully curated—and a little artificial. Someone who buys Outdoor Voices’ $85 TechSweat leggings instead of Lululemon’s $98 Align Pant leggings is probably just as likely to indulge in some SoulCycle or CorePower Yoga as they are to hit up the Pacific Crest Trail, if not more so. At least, that’s true of me. Last October, after ripping a hole in the Nike leggings I’d had since high school and scrolling through the brand’s Instagram for what felt like the thousandth time, I got myself some Outdoor Voices.
What can you order from Outdoor Voices?
Outdoor Voices gives you 20 percent off your first order, so I went a little ham on mine: I bought a “kit”—a package deal that combines certain pairs of leggings and tops at a discount. For mine, I chose the TechSweat leggings ($95) and the Venus crop top ($55), the Zip Bra ($75), and a pair of Relay Shorts ($45). If purchased individually, my total cost would’ve been $270, but when purchased as a kit and with that first-time purchase discount, I paid $216 (with shipping included).
All the items arrived about five days later in a box that had clearly been reused (though still structurally sound). This is a good thing, because part of OV’s mission statement is to “minimize environmental impact,” so it was cool to see the brand acting on it.
Here’s how the items fared for me over the past year, in order of how much I love them.
TechSweat leggings: If you buy one thing from Outdoor Voices, it should be the TechSweat leggings. They are as high quality as any pair I’ve ever worn and, while certainly not cheap, at $85 (or $95 for the two-toned style), they’re on the lower end of the luxury fitness scale. These leggings seem to whisk sweat away as soon as it seeps out of my pores, so they hold up to HIIT classes and long runs. But thanks to their soft, pliable fabric, they also don’t feel like overkill for lower-impact activities like yoga and pilates. Another bonus is the unobtrusive pocket along the back of the waistband, which I use to store my phone and keys when I run.
I also get compliments on my outfit from strangers at the gym far more often when I wear my OV leggings than any other pair. Is external validation the most important part of fitness? Many would say no. But if that’s what gets you to the gym (it’s not not what gets me to the gym, personally), I won’t hold it against you.
One small caveat on the leggings: They are a lot less compressive than some other brands, though I often fall between two sizes and decided to size up when I got these, so that could be why. This isn’t a bad thing—sometimes, I want my legs to look and feel like they are encased in sausage wrappers (really, I do), but I also like having leggings with a more relaxed fit. That said, my TechSweat leggings—though by no means baggy—don’t flatten my stomach or lift my butt quite as much as some Lululemon or Athleta leggings I’ve worn. I think they’re comfy and high-performing enough to make up for it, but it is something worth considering if compression is the main thing you look for in a pair of leggings.
What’s more, one year later, my OV leggings look just like they did when I first got them—even the painted-on label on the inner portion of the waistband, which rubs against my lower back when I work out, is pristine—despite them figuring heavily into my workout apparel rotation.
Zip bra: The $75 Zip bra accomplishes something I’ve rarely found in sports bras: actual, heavy-duty support without constriction. This is because you pick your size based on your band and cup size, which makes it easy to get an accurate fit. The Zip bra also has adjustable straps, like a regular bra, so you can tighten it to your desired level of support, and a full-coverage mesh back to prevent sweat from pooling up.
The bra is lightly padded, which I don’t love. But the padding doesn’t feel obtrusive, nor does it shift around during workouts, like some padded sports bras. It also helps conceal nipple show-through that can happen when running in the cold or working out in a chilly gym, so I have no concerns about pairing it with a thin top. It also has enough coverage that I don’t feel weird working out in just the sports bra and leggings if it’s a warm day.
Relay shorts: I don’t wear these loose jogging shorts all that often, but I’m always glad I have them when I need them. They’re unbelievably lightweight and have a flattering curve around the upper thigh, plus a small zippered pocket on the outer thigh.
The main downside of the shorts is that they have a wide leg opening and don’t have a liner, so the risk of accidentally flashing someone is greater than it would be in a pair of bike shorts or regular running shorts that do have a liner. And, at $45, they’re probably more expensive than they’re worth. Outdoor Voices does sell shorts—and skorts—with liners, so I’d recommend getting a pair of those, like the Hudson Shorts, over the Relay shorts.
Venus crop top: I’m listing this last because Outdoor Voices no longer sells the Venus crop top I bought—which is too bad, because if I could recommend it, I would. It provides a medium level of support when worn on its own, looks good with most leggings in my drawer (not just the OV ones), and makes sweat seem imperceptible, so I like wearing it to hot yoga, pilates, hikes, or out running errands. (In other words, when doing all the things promised to me by OV’s branding.) As near as I can tell from the website, the Athena or TechSweat crops are your next best bet.
Is Outdoor Voices worth it?
I can say, with a wide-open, guilt-free heart, that I love Outdoor Voices. I haven’t gotten anything from the brand since my first purchase—though I have my eye on OV’s mega-popular exercise dress—and haven’t felt that I needed to, because every item still looks fresh after a year of sweaty workouts and subsequent washes. Outdoor Voices apparel is expensive, but not as expensive as some brands can be, and justifies its cost through its longevity.
No, Outdoor Voices probably won’t transform you into the kind of person who goes backpacking through the Grand Tetons every summer. If you’re OK with that—and maybe just need a good pair of leggings to get you through spin class—you’ll be happy with Outdoor Voices.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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