03 December 2010

Sweatpants-Free Zone:

I own one pair of sweatpants. They were my mother’s University of Oklahoma sweats from circa 1975. I don’t own any other pair, and wouldn’t dream of wearing them more often than once each month, any where other my kitchen.

“Chicago Mail Order,” 1921

When I started college, I noticed that many of my fellow young scholars wore sweatpants to class. Instead of taking pride in their appearance, they schlepped around in flip-flops, grey sweats and some kind of t-shirt, completing the ensemble with hair that may or may not have seen a brush in the past 3 days.

“Butterick Fashion,” 1934

When I began to fly about once per month back in 2001, I noticed sweatpants on airplanes. No longer did people don their Sunday best to ride about the world with others; rather, I saw people of all ages in sweats lugging around bed pillows (which kind of grosses me out).

1940s Airline Advertisement

I’ve seen sweats in houses of worship, in office settings, out at bars… and I wonder where on earth these people found the information saying that this is acceptable public attire?

When I’ve asked for the opinions of others, I get one of two answers:

· Sweats are comfortable, and I dress for comfort.

· I hate that people can’t respect themselves enough to at least put on a pair of jeans.

“Vicara Fibers,” 1956

This is a very “me/now-centric” society. Rather than care about how we are perceived by others, we care only for and about ourselves at the present moment in time. Who cares if in 2 years I’ll want my professor to write a letter of recommendation? I only care about my comfort level in this 8am class.

“Arrow Shirts,” 1961

We don’t care about other people because other people don’t matter. So why stop at wearing sweatpants out to places formerly reserved for resort or business casual? Let’s wear those holey, sagging things to funerals. I mean, we’re so distraught at a funeral, so we might as well be comfortable.

Next, let’s wear our “leggings of shame” to weddings (but not white sweats, because you might compete with the bride).

The President should give his next State-of-the-Union in them.

“Levi’s Sportswear,” 1978

Or, you know, we could relegate sweatpants back to where they were intended, where they belong: The gym. Hence the name “sweat” pants. There’s nothing wrong with respecting yourself, and dressing to impress those around you.

As Jerry Seinfeld famously said in an episode of his show, “You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweat pants? You're telling the world: "I give up. I can't compete in normal society. I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable."


  1. Also, they make your butt look bigger than it really is. Who wants that? Not me. :) I don't own a pair, nor will I ever. When I work out, I wear yoga capris...super comfy. Also, jeans are comfortable.

  2. Comfort is key in all things. Wear whatever pants make you feel comfortable. There's no need to hang on to the 19th century standard that clothing should hurt the wearer.

    I like that the article you quoted on thefrisky is a response to an article from The Daily Beast.

  3. Whoa - I never advocated for a return of the corset! :)
    I know you wear scrubs. Scrubs, not having gathered bottoms and usually being worn by professionals for a reason, do not count.

  4. I agree there is a place for sweats, but it ain't in public. Maybe it's a sign of our collective self-esteem?

  5. I will admit I have worn "comfy" pants(not sweat pants, but still a little too casual) on a plane before, but it was an overnight flight where I was excepted to be well rested and only in need of a shower when landed. If I fly during normal hours, even if I am to arrive at night, I dress to impress. What gets me is that there are forms of "comfy" clothing that don't look like sweats. It is all about taking the time to shop properly.

  6. Elizabeth - I couldn't agree more. There are many comfortable wrinkle-free pants out there (specifically made for traveling women), and there are the fitted "yogo" pants which don't look bad when paired with a sweater.

    Gancio - Do you think we have too high a self-esteem and can get away with anything in our minds, or too low?

  7. I swore I commented on this earlier....but maybe it was just an intention.

    I don't even wear sweatpants at home. Clothes like that make me look bigger than I am. When I look bigger, I feel bigger, then I eat bigger. Plus, no matter how old I am or will be, I always want to try. Confidence trumps comfort (which can fully be achieved in jeans, by the way).

  8. I like the pictures that you used to pepper this post.

  9. To look fascinating and fit, you have to work out on every day basis but if you are not working out properly then the benefits will not be that good. A good gear is going to help you perform nicely. I am so happy that I was able to get sweatpants and tank tops at very low cost but the quality is absolutely amazing.