The slippery slope of sweatpants

Calgary Herald, March 9, 2014–I once worked with a woman who, after a long night on her feet wearing high heels, a short skirt and a fitted jacket went off to change to catch an overnight flight. She came back from the loo wearing a different pair of high heels, short skirt and jacket. Dressed for success, she waved us all goodbye and hopped in a cab to get the red eye to Toronto.

I took that same flight recently. In runners, loose pants and a long black t-shirt. I’m all about the comfort.  And so, it seems, are many of you.

Just look at how much comfortable, casual clothing we’re buying. Activewear, which used to mean grey gym shorts, white t-shirts and black sports bras has exploded to include everything from stylish hiking pants to casual cashmere blend cardigans.

While sales of jeans decrease, activewear is seeing huge year after year increases. In 2014, comfort-loving customers in the U.S. spent $33.7 billion on activewear. It makes up a 16 per cent of the total apparel market in the U.S.

The sweats are out of the gym bag.

A recent survey by industry analysts NPD Group found that nearly 60 per cent of people feel “very comfortable” wearing their activewear for “everyday and casual use.” (I think that’s the point).  One in four said they’d wear it out to dinner.

It can be a slippery slope from wearing those cute hiking pants to climb a mountain of errands to heading out the door in your Sunday-afternoon-lie-on-the- couch-slob-sweats. Let’s face it, all that comfort can seduce your judgment.

At least I think that’s what happened recently, when I thought about wearing brand new navy blue Roots sweats out to grab a quick bite at a noisy, neighbourhood joint. My daughter, the sensible woman in the house, snapped me out of my comfy-coma by repeating a warning a wise friend gave her: “Roots sweat pants are a gateway drug.”

Which makes yoga pants heroin.

Catherine Nelson Reid is clearly hooked. She’s worn yoga pants to work every day for years. Granted, she co-owns a yoga studio and her colleagues at Bodhi Tree in Calgary get quite concerned when she shows up all gussied up, in jeans. “Yoga pants mean freedom,” she says. “They give you permission to move, to walk faster, to run.”

Nelson Reid can’t imagine having to wear regular lady clothes like pantyhose and pumps to work. In fact she’s so used to dressing for comfort that she couldn’t even pull off a pair of “beautiful shoes” on a recent night out. “I couldn’t walk. I was like, ‘I am not doing this to myself,’ so I put on fancy flip flops instead.”  Namaste tootsies.

But not everyone is cool with all that cosy.

Take Veronica Partridge, a self-described “Christian blogger” from Oregon. Not long ago she asked the blogosphere: “Is it possible that the thin, form-fitting yoga pants or leggings could make a married (or single) man look at a woman in a way he should only look at his wife?”

After discussing the matter with her husband, Partridge “took a vow” to stop wearing said form-fitting pants, although she confesses that means it “may be difficult to find an outfit at times.” Before you could say clickbait, the photogenic Partridge and her equally photogenic husband, Dale, were on Good Morning America talking about yoga pants, lustful thoughts and what not.

Dale Partridge, incidentally, also has a blog where he sells a video series entitled Best Sex Life Now. “While this course is led by Christians, it’s EXTREMELY applicable to anyone,” he promises on his blog. Stay tuned for the missus’ musings on sports bras and the subsequent bump in sales of God-sanctioned sexy-time vids.

A Republican law maker in Montana also made the news for talking about yoga pants. David Moore suggested to a reporter: “Yoga pants should be illegal in public anyway.”  He had just introduced a bill in the state legislature that would have expanded the meaning of indecent exposure to include any “costume or covering” that hinted at the existence of our nether regions. The bill was thrown out. And Moore? He swears he was joking about the yoga pants.

The reality is, most people aren’t that bothered—or hot and bothered—by people wearing yoga pants to pick up their dry cleaning. NPD Group found half of the people they asked thought yoga pants were “sometimes” appropriate for everyday use.  As for wearing them “all the time,” a third of the men and 29 per cent of the women thought that was OK too.

Still, some, like my friend Michele, insist wearing yoga pants outside the yoga studio is just plain lazy. “Show some effort,” she says. “At least put on some leggings.”

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