“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat,” the iconic designer Karl Lagerfeld once said. “You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” But judging by current trends, the creative director at Chanel’s estimation of the classic sweat suit seems way off-base. The fact is, wherever you go these days, you’re bound to see lots of people walking around in public in their sweats.
So what exactly has changed so dramatically in our fashion sensibility that has rendered sweatpants acceptable outdoors-wear?
The answer comes down to three things: fit, price and culture.
When Lagerfeld made his comment, he was likely referring to the classic sweatpant silhouette – baggy legs, a sagging butt, maybe even the infamous ripped hem that al sweatpants seem to eventually succumb to. But the modern sweat pant is an entirely different animal, designed to fit snug on the leg and tight at the ankle. The comfort of that soft cotton feel remains, of course, but today’s sweats are designed to be seen in, not slept in.
As for Lagerfeld’s view of sweatpants as “a sign of defeat,” well, it appears defeat comes with a hefty price tag these days.
The modern sweatpant trend has attracted the attention of just about every luxury fashion house, and it’s not uncommon to see people paying somewhere in the neighbourhood of $500 for a lux pair of sweats these days. If you can afford to pay that for sweat pants, you’re probably doing just fine in life. (Either that, or your spending priorities are way out of whack.)
Still, how did we get to this weird point in our existence where wearing sweatpants out of the house is acceptable and paying through the teeth for a pair is de rigueur for the fashion conscious among us? It probably has to do with our culture’s increasing focus on health and an active lifestyle. More than ever, people are focusing (maybe obsessing is a better way to put it) over their health and body image. Wearing a sleek pair of sweats signals to the world that you’re into health – that you could break out into a jog at any minute (even if you’re not really going to).
So, is it OK to wear sweats out in public? Yes, so long as they fit well and give off a modern vibe. Otherwise, you’ll look like you’ve lost control of your life, just like Karl Lagerfeld said.