The Upside's Sam Elsom is making men's activewear acceptable outside the gym

Whether you're the sporty type or not doesn't really matter to active wear label The Upside. Its menswear line is designed to get you from an F45 class or breakfast first date without a costume change.

The Sydney label is riding retail's activewear boom and focusing on the Zen and now. This is the land of relaxed fits where activewear borrows from Japanese tailoring as much as it does from a 1970s surfing scene. It keeps its muted palette suitable to blokes who prefer earthy over primary colour overload.

Under the guidance of its new creative director Sam Elsom (he had his own label in the early 2000s called Elsom), The Upside is now making its debut in the US and bringing a beach-meets-yoga pose to a bloke's fitting room near you.

Natural talent

Melbourne-born, Noosa-raised and now Sydney based Sam Elsom is a dedicated surfer and modern-day dream catcher keen to try his luck raising the profile of the already hip brand.

With three collections to deliver each year, he's all about bringing back the 100 per cent cotton board short (because he hates synthetics flooding the market), inspired by surf legend Gerry Lopez, to honour a Hawaiian vintage way of life.

Elsom is big on texture and fabrics. At his own eponymous label he bridged a mindful gap using Indian cottons and Italian mills to create garments that merged his sustainable vision of East-meets-Western ideology.

Old-school active

"No one else on the market is combining performance wear with vintage aesthetics," says Elsom, who is currently living in LA with his stylist wife Sheree Commerford and their two kids (Sugar 7 and Captain 5) for the next eight weeks while The Upside makes its debut in the US marketplace.

"There's beat-up silhouettes, pre-loved cottons and a vintage feel to what we do," he adds.

"Our approach at The Upside is born out of Jodhi's love for yoga and the philosophy behind that is also true to men – it's a lifestyle choice. But rather than look like you're doing sport, it's something that can fit a lifestyle or activity –it's the whole package in one."


Home on the beach

The 30-something year old is one of five children born in Mt Eliza on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria and spent his youth at the beach, lighting bonfires and hanging at friend's holiday homes. At the age of eight his family relocated to Noosa where he learned how to surf. It's a lifestyle habit he's stuck with ever since.

Outside of the office, Elsom makes sure that he dedicates an equal amount of time to the sharing of parenting for his two children, which also includes homeschooling.

Just how Elsom manages to find the time to do all this and still regularly surf is anyone's guess, but he says he's up for the modern day parenting challenge. "We home school in the morning and then do our business work in the afternoon," he says. "It's a huge task but Sheree and I are pretty committed to it."

"The ocean is so important to me," says Elsom. "It's important to have any kind of break from your regular day to day routine. If I've pulled an all-nighter or been under intense pressure at work, the ocean gives me a sense of freedom and an escape. That feeling of stillness under the water is my happy place. It's better than therapy," he says.

An unintended career

While he never planned a career in fashion, he quickly found himself the golden boy of brand development. After Elsom came collaborations with Quicksilver, One Teaspoon and the General Pants Group. When the opportunity to join The Upside presented itself, Elsom says it felt like a natural fit.

"Jodhi and I spent a lot of time talking on the phone. We're on the same wavelength and this new chapter in my life is where I want to be," he says.

"I'm all about helping a guy find a way to mix activewear with the jeans that are already in his wardrobe. This collection is about being versatile and knowing how to mix it with what you've already got at home."