When did it become compulsory to wear technical leggings to go for a jog?

I can barely remember the last time I saw a jogger’s legs. Just about anyone who goes jogging has fancy leggings made of “technical material.”


They can cost as much as a flight to Sydney:


People are prepared to pay a giant amount for goods and services related to sports. Willingness to pay for compression leggings is enormous – never mind that the marathoners at the Olympics don’t wear them, and neither do the 100 metre runners.

The business model of companies like Skins (or Lululemon, Nike, Lorna Jane) is to align yourself with something that is or could be cheap, but which people find highly enjoyable or important.

People can run in cheap clothes, but they love running so much that if expensive and specific clothes seem to be required, the expense is minor compared to the overall enjoyment.

Hanging out with your friends can also be cheap or free. But if a cultural expectation develops that it’s only appropriate to hang out in a bar or a restaurant – not in a park or on a street corner – then people don’t blink to pay.

Businesses that sell expensive bicycles profit because they leverage both these trends. If you want to do that exercise properly, and hang out with your cycling friends, you need to have a bike that won’t embarrass you or leave you lagging behind the bunch. Or so they say.

The business model is this. Find something people love to do. Something that offers them a strong benefit at a relatively low price, and great “consumer surplus.”


Then position your product as an indispensable tool to doing that. It doesn’t matter if your product is truly important – you can capture some of that consumer surplus if you can convince people it is. It might be as simple as making the stitching on your leggings high-contrast to create the impression of science.

This will work best if the activity is undertaken in public. When it comes to public consumption goods like shoes and cars, we tend to be driven by what others are doing, while we may make our own judgments about buying goods consumed privately like electricity providers and detergent. (This terrific paper ranks goods by their conspicuousness, which runs from cigarettes and clothing, down to home insurance and underwear.)

My last example for the post is popcorn. If I was to watch a movie sitting on my own couch, I would not plan to eat popcorn. But if I am invited to someone’s home to watch a film, the odds of me buying popcorn rise dramatically. Why do popcorn and movies go together?  It’s a social construct – and  a way to capture my willingness to pay. (1)

Are there other examples that grate on you? Leave a comment below!

Published by


Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

9 thoughts on “When did it become compulsory to wear technical leggings to go for a jog?”

  1. The compression running gear is like the MAMIL thing for riders.
    Seems that lots of people don’t know that you can cycle in “regular” clothes (not so great with a dress or skirt) just as you can run in target, Kmart, or bonds.


  2. As sung by Flight of the Conchords the “Inner city pressure” is a strong coercive factor.

    You can swim in a pair of jeans and merino sweater but the social pressure makes you buy and use lycra-like technical outfit.

    Fancy or pretended technically superior running gear are now the prerequisite to start the aforementioned activity. It is actually more insidious than that. There is a gradual need for stuff. Once you bite the need of more equipment becomes stronger. GPS watch is the panacea, and yes I have one and yes now if I run without it I am not sure if I am really running.


  3. Hi,

    I love reading your articles/posts. I find them very informative and backed up with facts.

    If possible, would you please consider writing a post on the cost comparison of buying a car and selling within warranty, to then purchase again as opposed to purchasing a car and holding on to it long term (ie – regularly cycle through cars to sell whilst still holding value compared to driving a car into the ground).

    I am also interested to know if salary sacrificing vehicles is actually a good financial decision compared to buying a car through normal means (post tax $).

    Thanks in advance.

    John Tennett

    Sent from my iPhone



    1. Thanks John – I’m interested in those topics too so expect a post about them in the not too distant future!



  4. The points you make about unnecessary technical gear are of course correct, but I think you are looking at the phenomenon backwards. While there is plenty of cynicism in the world I doubt it is the prime motivator for inventing and discovering genuinely new products. I would imagine that these are most likely invented by people with a passion or perhaps an obsession with improving performance. The vultures usually get in after the things have been invented and proved successful.


    1. In the pure sense of invention, yes, I bet you are right. But I feel like Skins are ten parts marketing invention to one part technical invention.


  5. I’m going to go against the grain a little bit and say that yes, whilst there is absolutely no harm running in “normal gear”, there is absolutely no doubt that technical materials make a difference to your long term comfort when exercising.

    You may not find marathon runners or 100m sprinters running in compression gear, but you also won’t see them running in a cotton tshirt, or tracksuit pants.

    There is also a difference between buying from Skins and buying from Kmart. The fabrics, construction quality and design that go into these products all cater to different markets.

    The real question is: should you be paying THAT MUCH for performance wear, and the answer is an absolute NO. I personally think the margin is too big on these items, and will eventually come down as more and more people clue on.

    Take it from someone in the industry :)


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s