Sweatpants: the traditional uniform of slackers and frat boys, purpose-built for spending NFL Sunday on the couch, or at best, running to the laundromat in white socks and flip-flops. But things change, and just as a suit and tie is now only required at the most stuffy, SEC-regulated workplaces, so has the lowly sweatpant been elevated by fashion designers and cultural icons to a fascinating pedestal. The new generation of tailored, luxurious sweats are meant to be worn absolutely everywhere, not just the man cave. Gentlemen, this is a joyous thing.
As with most sartorial trends, the genealogy of this is vague and far-reaching. The influx of streetwear and hip-hop into quotidian style surely has to do with it: after all, if the club's going up on a Tuesday, plainly you're not dressing to the nines for it. In other ways, it is a nod to the 21st-century economy, full of ultra-casual startups, hoodie adorned CEOS, and freelancing café dwellers: freeform occupations where the modus operandi is to feel and look as comfortable as possible, and so the well-off skip all the old symbols of wealth and dump their disposable income into loungewear. The couture sweatpant, then, is a reflection of being young and rich and free, all at the same time.
It's not some high-difficulty peacock display, either: rocking sweats is an eminently accessible and universally flattering move — and one that quickly grows on you. What would it take, at this point, to make me don a belt on a Saturday? Opera tickets? A wake? I haven't come across that scenario, and hope to never find out. These days, sweatpants are a stylish and socially acceptable choice in virtually any off-duty scenario. For example:
We can't speak for your social circle, but some days it's enough just to show up in last night's T-shirt while drinking from a Camelbak for rehydration. The first meal of the day, especially if it's in the late afternoon, is the ideal scenario for your new fancy sweatpants, comfortable to coddle you and your hangover, but with enough tailored put-togetherness to suggest that your world isn't in complete shambles after last night — even if it is.
The brutal irony is that if anything, your new fancy sweatpants are too fancy to be worn at home. You want to keep them neat and clean, after all, and their streamlined silhouette is flattering no one while they're getting soup spilled on them, or being stretched out by restless legs in bed. Keep plenty of baggy old Champion sweats around for this purpose; but now the upshot is, working up the courage to venture into the bright, scary outdoors requires no tradeoff in comfort whatsoever.
Treat the coffee shop like an extension of your home. Or, more accurately, your friend's home. You're there to drink some coffee, grab a bagel or croissant, read, chat with friends, and exploit the free wifi. These are all things you can proudly do in sweatpants.
You'd think this is where formality (and belts) would be at their highest premium, but most modern-day restaurants are too dark and candle-lit for anyone to tell what the hell you're wearing anyway. Besides, if you're seated the whole time they aren't likely to refuse your service. Certainly, there are some restaurants for which you should probably don some pants — namely ones with more Michelin stars than you have legs — but if no one offers to treat you to one, feel free to keep your sweats on.
Out on the Town
If your favored establishment has a dress code that prohibits sweatpants, you should go to a different club, one with fewer bouncers and less Jersey hair gel. And since the fit is so snug, there’s no chance of rummaging around your pockets for something and accidentally pulling a Plaxico Burress. (You’ll likely be unable to fit a handgun in modern sweatpants at all, for better or worse.) Be advised, however, that no volume of elastic and string will hold your pants up as well as a proper belt. Depending on your body and the rise of your waist, couture plumber's crack is a potential hazard on the dance floor, so move accordingly.
Go forth and breathe easy, friends. The weekend is now the total dominion of leisure and comfort, pants included. Now, if only your boss would loosen up a bit, we'd be set.