Actively Black (brand overview)

Ever since I crossed over to fitness and wellness, I’ve been putting athletic and athleisure companies through the paces. I’m pretty hard on my work(out) clothes, and it’s important that they be able to withstand vigorous exercise and regular cleaning without falling apart (or holding a foul odor) over a long period of time. I have requirements for fit as well as function, and price is not an issue as long as the items hold up and do what they are supposed to do.

I discovered the brand Actively Black in a way that will probably make them justify their marketing budget: on my social media feeds. They kept popping up throughout 2022. At first I ignored them (because I’d recently dumped the brand BLVCK), so I thought it was the algorithm’s way of trying to find me a replacement (even though I wasn’t looking for one). Eventually I clicked on the company link and decided to do a little research.

Actively Black is owned by former pro basketball player Lanny Smith. This is relevant because as a person in the fitness space, it’s my hope that former athletes understand the specific needs of those who move in athletic apparel. We care less about whether it has a cute pattern, and more that it won’t ride up or ride down in all the wrong places. So I poked around and bought my first couple of pieces. They tout themselves as a ‘luxury’ brand, and as a business-person who understands that this word is overused and often abused, I was curious to see if they lived up to their own hype.

Favorite print

The first pieces I purchased were the black camo zip hoodie and performance joggers. The hoodie is thick and lined, and the construction is solid. The camo print on the joggers doesn’t match (made from a different fabric) so that’s something to note. The smallest size they have is a small, so if you’re petite like me, know that these are going to be long, and may be baggier than you’d like. I did get the performance joggers in another style in extra small, and they are perfect. Next, I ordered the long sleeve top in black camo (what? I love the print), and the sports bra. Both of them are EXCELLENT. The sleeves on the camo top are long enough to actually justify thumb holes (I’m looking at you Violate the Dress Code), and the bra is among the best I’ve ever tried. It’s longer than a traditional sports bra, so it looks more like a crop tank. I’m here for that. It also hugs and holds the girls without giving me a uniboob or falling short in the support department. You can do high impact exercises in this thing and it’ll rise to the challenge.

This is perfect. Buy it . Then buy another one.

Riding high on the success of my initial purchases, I went back and got two more things: The women’s leggings and the yoga mat. Both were an epic fail. The leggings are particularly disappointing because I can tell that no real-time research went into this style. Who are these leggings for? The mid-rise is made with that annoying center seam that horizontally cuts your butt cheeks in half and itches like hell, thanks to the thick stitching. They are 7/8 (an annoyance not mentioned in the description)… a length that should be banished with capri pants and culottes. The combination of this horrid rise and horrid length accomplishes the one thing that a vertically-challenged human like me despises: it makes me look short and lumpy. Who authorized this? Seriously, what human (especially one with more than a pancake for a backside) put these tights on and said “Yes! This is the perfect cut.” Ugh. Honestly, I can get this kind of ill-fitting grief from Lululemon. At least they know who their customer is.

Onto the yoga mat, which was clearly designed by people who don’t practice yoga. Super light (so light that it slides across the floor when you step on it)… this mat is what you choose when you have no idea what to buy as you stumble into your first yoga class and pray for the safety of your knees. You can do better (for less money) at Target. Seriously AB, unless your team can step up to Manduka or Yoga Design Lab in terms of quality and durability, sit this one out. Y’all are not ready.

Overall, the athleisure part of this brand is solid. If you want quality clothing that holds up as you lounge about and do things that don’t cause you to break too much of a sweat, these are your people. The athletic part could use some work. The men’s tanks are a bit long and bigger than the size they’re listed. I’m not sure if this is a case of vanity sizing gone wrong, but the large tank that I bought for my husband looked more like an XL on him… plus it was oddly long. The women’s long sleeve top and bra are fantastic, and worth a repeat purchase (what serious fitness person do you know who only has one of anything?). The leggings need to go straight to hell, and the yoga mat should just be abandoned altogether. The brand would have to charge more for a mat that could actually compete, and there are too many other brands to choose from for all that.

I love that it’s Black-owned, and I’m always down to support. You can be moderately active if you rock with them. But with the exception of a few items, I’d refrain from being fully active in most of it.

Published by Shahada Karim

Aryuvedic Nutritionist - Movement Therapist - Chef - Author

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