Fight the Power: A Defense of Sweats & Dressing Down

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i love sweatpants

yes, boo, do you.

THE TRADITIONAL UNIFORM of elementary school gym teachers or anyone going through a breakup, sweatpants send a clear message: I don’t give a f**k about how shapeless my ass looks in these pants. I don’t care how I look right now, because I’m here to do a job. That job is to be comfortable. As. F**k. Though sweatpants have long been thought as the anti-fashion, the pants of anyone who couldn’t bother to assemble an “outfit” and doesn’t care if you can tell, sweatpants and sweatpant variations (yoga pants, jogger pants, etc.) have come a long way since starting out as the baggy-in-the-butt, tapered-at-the-bottom, drawstring monstrosities your grandpa wears. They’re cute now, and they’ve become socially acceptable to wear outside the house. Sweatpants aren’t even really “sweatpants” anymore; they’re fashion. Just look at all the monikers that are being used to convince us that sweatpants are no longer just for soaking up the sweat from our nether regions: Performance wear. Streetwear. Athleisure. As The Cut’s Veronique Hyland writes, “At some point, a phenomenon like this stops becoming a remarked-upon trend and simply becomes status quo. Plus, with Chanel flip-flops and Dior sneakers parading down couture runways of late, to try to halt this athleisure avalanche would be like trying to cram an unwilling genie back into its bottle.” Comfort is in, and it isn’t going anywhere.

Still, sweatpants don’t get nearly enough respect. They’ve also been roundly criticized as ugly, dirty-looking, and the telltale mark of a lazy dresser, as in this scathing(ly funnty) opinion piece by a university professor who sees too many of his students attending class in said article of clothing. Echoing the public outcry against sweatpants from “huffy op-eds” fearing a nation brought to its knees by activewear, Hyland continues, “Why doesn’t anyone dress up anymore? Why are we schlumping it out at the airport? Why do our teens refuse to forswear their beloved leggings? Are sweatpants eroding the strong foundations of American marriages? Are people who wear pajamas in public the biggest threat to our cities?” The merits of sweatpants have been blogged and debated to death, which is entirely missing the point of sweatpants: looking pretty dece while not giving a f**k. With headlines like “It’s OK to Wear Sweatpants…Sometimes”, “Are Sweatpants Ever OK?”, and “Why My Husband Told Me To Stop Wearing Sweatpants” (GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE), it seems the Internet can’t decide if sweatpants in public are occasionally in poor taste or 100% PURE EVIL. One blogger who is weirdly and passionately invested in the War Against Wearing Sweatpants In Public writes, “The elastic waist will make you think it is okay to go eat half a dozen doughnuts or an entire packet of Mrs. Fields cookies. Life is not an all-you-can-eat buffet.” I’m not entirely sure what kind of sicko objects to comfortable loungewear or DELICIOUS FOODS and purposely wears jeans to the airport, but they MUST BE STOPPED.

More problematic than the panicked op-eds is that “much of the criticism around casual dress is gendered,” Hyland points out. “Mark Zuckerberg gets gentle joshing, at most, for his sartorial quirks, but could [president and CEO of Yahoo!] Marissa Mayer get away with a hoodie and shower shoes? […] And notice how often the “casual dressing at school” panic is inevitably centered around girls?” Hyland argues that wearing sweatpants can become a form of protest against the pressure women face to forgo comfort in favor of looking “presentable” at all times: “There’s a reason that women dressing casually threatens the status quo — it’s subversive and the ultimate sign of not caring. It’s the quintessential ‘I’m going to dress for myself’ statement.” There’s power in refusing to look pretty.

Living and working in loungewear isn’t usually considered an acceptable choice for a day at the typical office, and some people might not like to wear sweatpants because it’s just not their steez. But if sweatpants are, in fact, your steez, hold them close and wear them WITH PRIDE. Haters can suck it. If sweatpants are good enough for Beyoncé, they’re good enough for me.

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