Athletes Collective is all about a minimalistic vibe. So much so that Athletes Collective’s brand is not to brand their apparel. That’s right, zero identifying logos, save for the tiny “AC” printed on the inside collar next to the shirt’s size.
As a company with an “unbrand,” Athletes Collective is aiming to attract customers with a high quality product rather than the visibility of a recognizable logo. With such a risky and refreshing approach, we expected this made-in-Canada company to adopt the Lululemon financial model and be crazy expensive. But in line with this minimal aesthetic is stripped-down pricing. Their products are ridiculously affordable, particularly now that it’s trendy to wear workout clothes as streetwear and prices have skyrocketed.
The Toronto-based company was founded in 2014 by Adam Mintz and Charlie Friedmann. These days it’s a one-person operation, with Mintz having taken full control of the company. All products are made in Canada at a facility in Etobicoke, just west of Toronto and Mintz is personally involved in getting customers what they need, even mailing out apparel himself.
Athletes Collective is able to sell its apparel while continuing to manufacture high quality products because it sells exclusively online. You can get two of their short sleeve Folkerson T-shirts for pretty much the price of one popular-branded shirt. Both have comparable quality, minus appearing like “a walking billboard,” as the company describes it.
Mintz was motivated to go the unbranded route after showing up for a workout head-to-toe in Nike without even realizing it. He did some research to find apparel that got the job done at a low price, only to realize that the alternative was non-existent. So he saw an opportunity.
OK, so their apparel is crazy affordable, looks sharp and understated, fits, washes and wears well. But what about performance? Mintz tested many different athletic fabrics and settled on one that delivers exceptional wicking and breathing capabilities. We took the Folkerson T to Florida and ran in it for a week in 30 C heat and some days of high humidity to see how it performed. We were happy to discover that, although it does hold sweat in the usual spots (neck, pits, back), it doesn’t get excessively heavy. Our tester also rolled the dice and ran without any anti-chafing protection, just to see how well the fabric could perform (and because they forgot to put it on). Luckily, the Folkerson’s material is extremely forgiving, causing zero irritation even after a 30K long run that finished on a scorching Sunday morning.
We also put the long-sleeve Lyon through several late winter runs. It’s designed to fit closer to the body, like a base layer, but not so much that it couldn’t be warn on its own during a spring or fall run. While it’s not designed to be super warm, it worked nicely in tandem with an outer layer and pulled away sweat, keeping our testers comfy and dry.
Short sleeve (Folkerson and Rally) – $25: The short sleeve is a great option for runners. It fits true to size. Even after extensive cycles through the washer and drier (confession: we didn’t hang dry the items), the shirts haven’t shrunk to an awkward size. In fact, the shirt has maintained its out-of-the-package feel and fit. As runners know, laundry piles up quickly and we’re not conservative of washing clothes an above-average amount.
Even better, there are no highlight strips to fray and no branding that will ultimately fade. The shirt comes in six distinct colours, for those conservative days and for the times when you want to brighten the workout up a bit.
Canadian Running’s recommendation: Heather purple, laser blue.
Sleeveless (Joey) – $22.50: Just in time for summer. Zero chafing issues around the armpits and the crew neck fits nicely, so you don’t get that bounce that looser singlets develop, especially after gathering some weight due to sweat. Getting the sleeveless may entice slender runners to incorporate strength training into their routine to fill out the shirt a bit more. That can only be a good thing too.
Canadian Running’s recommendation: Heather grey.
Long sleeve (Lyon) – $30: The Lyon is a great warmup shirt and a solid hybrid option when temperatures fall between too warm and that confusing 5-10 C range when it’s tough to decide between a tee and a long sleeve.
Canadian Running’s recommendation: Midnight blue.
Vamos wristbands – $5: A nice little add-on item with a retro vibe. Not essential, but surprisingly effective if you’re a big sweater.
The company will also be introducing shorts this spring and summer. The new release will feature two side pockets, a side slit for added comfort and will be just the right length for either running or wearing between workouts. Now you won’t get strange looks for wearing excessively short-shorts when stopping for a coffee or adding a routine in at the gym following a run.
When the product arrives, it’s not just simply the short sleeve, long sleeve, or sleeveless shirt. Included in your inaugural order is Athletes Collective’s “welcome pack”: a drawstring bag, great for the gym, a water bottle, and a deck of old school hockey cards, reminding you that being fit and active is supposed to be fun.
Right now, Athletes Collective is a men’s only line because the company was started by two men who wanted to make a product they were familiar with. Mintz hopes to launch a women’s line in 2017.