Every once in a while an “it” brand comes along with a cool factor that prompts so much buzz that each new drop sells out in days. This year, Bandit Running is to many runners’ shopping carts what Juicy Couture and Ed Hardy were to early-2000s red carpets: You’re either wearing it or wanting it.
Curious about how, in just three years, the independent activewear company has taken the running scene by such a storm, I had to try the pieces out for myself.
Meet Bandit Running
Bandit Running was founded in October 2020 by brothers Nick and Tim West with the intent of creating a community and clothing line “for runners, by runners” that truly embraced the culture and inclusivity of the underground running scene in New York City—the unsanctioned street races and runners who’d hop in any race whether they had an official bib or not. The brand’s community-centered design process brings local runners right into their offices in Brooklyn to test out and give feedback on prototypes. Though not inexpensive, the “come one, come all; running is for everybody” spirit is embodied in the brand’s performance styles.
Experts In This Article
- Ardith Singh, co-founder and chief design officer of Bandit Running
Unlike most generic “workout clothes,” performance running apparel is meant to serve a very specific purpose—to help you run faster. And Bandit has earned itself a rapidly growing and dedicated following due to the pieces’ thoughtful engineering and extensive testing.
Why I was skeptical of the Bandit Running hype
I first noticed Bandit while running (read: people watching on the go) along the West Side Highway in New York, but once I had, I started seeing the minimalist logo everywhere—on notable run-fluencers, at every race, and mentioned in all of my run group chats. Though a fan of the look, I was skeptical or a few reasons:
- Having tried out hundreds of pieces of activewear while working in wellness media, I didn’t believe that a new brand could beat out its tenured competitors who have years of R&D behind them.
- As a self-conscious, cup-filleth-over 34D who long ago resigned to the fact that I would always have to layer two sports bras or built-in bra tops to hold everything in place, I rolled my eyes at the idea that a tiny race crop could actually keep the girls secure.
- I’ve been happily running in simple, non-sport-specific athleisure for over a decade; shelling out nearly $100 for a tank top would take some serious rationalizing.
- And finally, as frustrating as it may be to admit in the year of Barbie and body neutrality, I don’t always feel like my best self in compression shorts. While I’m grateful for the strength that my body has and all that it can do, the little gremlin that pays rent in my brain still whispers that my bumps and curves don’t look like the svelte bodies of other runners, so I often opt for baggier shorts.
Having always ordered socks in multi-colored bulk packs on Amazon, I never understood why people would pay up to $30 for a pair. They go on your feet, get sweaty, get tossed in the machine, and after a few washes, one gets sent to the island of lost toys right? Wrong. Right after uttering my “I’m not a sock person” diatribe, I tried these on, and began oversharing to the tune of, “I didn’t know that my feet needed therapy before, but they have never ever felt as supported as they do in this moment, so they must have.” My friends thought that I had officially lost the plot, but I knew that I finally understood the Bandit hype.
What to look for when shopping for running apparel
Each piece in Bandit’s collection has been designed, engineered, tested, and reviewed by runners to meet runners’ needs, whether you’re training for your next track meet or your twentieth marathon. But what does that actually mean?
To dive into the form and function of the brand’s fall styles, I spoke to Bandit’s co-founder and chief design officer Ardith Singh about the five “S”s to look for when shopping for performance running gear.
It is an incontestable fact that runners sweat… a lot. This means that the clothes they wear need to be up to the challenge of keeping them dry. Each season, the Bandit team has worked with their community and customers to improve upon their signature fabrics to ensure that they are as moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and breathable as possible. This is essential, not just to keep you comfortable and cool while you’re running, but also “to ensure that the pieces are ones that you’re going to want to keep wearing when you’re done running” rather than immediately crawl out of, says Singh.
I spontaneously put the Stamina Compression Race Crop ($78) to earlier this month when I got caught in a thunderstorm after racing a sweaty New Balance 5th Avenue Mile and was pleasantly surprised that, despite feeling wet and freezing, the double layer Stamina fabric didn’t show any obvious nipple marks. Better yet: After spending a little over 30 minutes waiting for a bagel as the storm passed, I was nearly completely dry.
Stamina Compression Race Crop — $78.00
Care: Machine wash cold with like colors and tumble dry on low
- Super sweat-wicking
- The most supportive built-in bra top that I’ve worn. Because of the under-boob band, I didn’t need an additional bra
- The side pockets are so “anti-bounce” that I forgot my phone was there
Support is another key factor to keep in mind when picking out running gear. The right level of compression is essential to keep everything tucked in place and aerodynamic, but also to limit painful chafing, keep your on-the-go essentials secure, and prevent back injuries for those of us in the Not So Itty Bitty Titty Committee. Though sleek to look at, the Stamina Scoop Neck Bra ($68) packs a storage punch with two side pockets for gels and a supportive racerback pocket between your shoulder blades made specifically to store your phone for easy access.
The lightweight Stamina fabric strikes the perfect balance between support and mobility because it’s thin and features an all-way stretch, but is also doubled layered for extra protection and hold. Singh explained that the team was very deliberate about the fabric choice, opting to use a unique “black spandex” that prevents the coppery sheen you often find in activewear when it stretches, instead keeping the style matte and totally opaque as it moves with you.
To an outsider, running may seem like a “low-equipment sport.” IYKYK it’s not. Singh explains that storage is the “number one feedback point that the brand gets season after season from the community.” True to their “by runners, for runners” motto, they listen.
The classic Litewave training shorts ($88) and Fly Away split shorts ($88) both have hidden slit pockets in the briefs that are perfectly sized for the popular Maurten gels, but won’t make you feel bulky while you run. And the Stamina Compression shorts ($78) have two side pockets that are anti-bounce and engineered to perfectly grip your iPhone, as well as a zippered back pocket for your gels.
Meanwhile, the men’s half-tights ($118) (that Singh notes look “incredibly sexy and flattering” on women as well) started out having two pockets and now, after extensive consumer feedback and research, have a whopping seven.
Litewave 4″ Rush Short — $88.00
Care: Machine wash cold with like colors and lay flat to air dry
- Surprise hidden pockets for gels without feeling like you’re carrying too much
- Super soft
- Curved hem makes your legs look long
- Super lightweight
- Can pill a little bit after a few washes
- No pocket for phone
Stamina 5″ Compression Short — $78.00
Colors: 3 for the 5” and 2 for the 7”
Care: Machine wash cold with like colors and tumble dry on low
- Very lightweight and breathable
- Stays in place
- Great pocket space
- Not super compressive
- The thin fabric can show pantylines
- Because the material is so lightweight, there is a cameltoe risk
Inspired by seasonal runway trends, vintage street style, and the underground running scene, Bandit has managed to capture that ever-elusive “cool factor.” From their diverse set of quintessentially New York models and brand ambassadors to their edgy vibe captured by Joe Greer’s medium format film photography, the brand toes the line between timely and timeless.
The Bandit team comes from both the fashion world and the running world, so “every aspect of every piece is intentional, down to the color tension of the shades we pick,” Singh explains, gesturing to the new fall Micromesh Performance Long Sleeve ($78) that juxtaposes a deep cherry color with a lighter orchid shade for the text.
Finally, there’s the stickiness. There is nothing more frustrating than having to adjust your shorts mid-run, pick a wedgie at the starting line, or awkwardly tug at spandex that’s ridden up at a stoplight. After extensive testing, Bandit has solved these running woes by lining their fan-favorite compression shorts with gripper tape.
“The tape was divisive at first,” admits Singh, but it was missed when they took it away. “People were most nervous that it would tug on their skin or that it wouldn’t stick after sweating.” In response, the designers only placed the tape on the front and back of the shorts to ensure that your mobility isn’t limited in any way, but the shorts still stay in place and your thighs remain chafe-free.
After trying out a few Bandit bestsellers, I am officially a convert. But the draw goes past their cool shorts. The brand borrows the grit, edge, and tight-knit feel of the underground running scene to throw wild parties for runners across New York City, host races, make club kits, and to incentivize their membership program (which gets you socks, a gift card, 10 percent off your purchases, access to their Instagram Close Friends stories, member meetups, and other perks). They match that with a “come run with us” energy through their community polls, run club, and partnership with Fast Feet NYC, an organization dedicated to increasing equity and inclusion in athletics.
From airports to races to new run clubs, I’ve found that wearing Bandit’s signature compression short and race crop set has been an instant conversation starter when I run into someone else who’s matching. We already know that one another shares a love of running, a respect for the community around it, and dare I say… good taste.
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