A case for sweatpants—and their cousin, the jogger pant

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I’m pretty sure that that the Seinfeld bit in which Jerry lets George know that by wearing sweatpants, “You’re telling the world, `I give up. I can’t compete in normal society'” scarred me, because ever since, I’ve only worn sweats for exercise, or lounging within the confines of my home, alone. But I admire women who can pull off sweatpants as streetwear, and it’s a look I’m seeing more and more. This faux leather pair is calling my name at an increasingly high volume (it’s also pretty cute in the —very 80s new wave—red, and here’s a similar but cheaper black pair).

I’m always a sucker for a pant with a stripe (or three) down the side, and I especially dig it when the color combination is so lively and unexpected.

These are less sweatpants than what are referred to as joggers: usually that means pants in a non-sweatshirty material, but that share some design characteristic with sweatpants—in this case the elasticized ankle.

I’d dress this slinky leopard number way down, with a slouchy white tee or, if it was colder, a big old crewneck.

These say “gym” to me—what with the sportif side zippers—but they also say “street,” because they’ve got a nice sleek cut, and I could see swearing them with a half-tucked button-down and chore jacket.

These have a slightly cargo pants-ish feel, and come in a pretty good khaki too.

The off-kilter patch pockets here lend these a quirky (but not too quirky) touch.

And I like the uneven hem on this otherwise quite streamlined pair.

These are on the slinkier side, and I think you could dress them way up.

Wool trousers from Philip Lim that are practically office-worthy.

This cotton-cashmere blend looks cozy as all get out.

The snap front here makes these come off ever so trouser-ish.

A perfectly clean-lined pair made especially for travel.

These are silk and ever-so Genie-looking, but quite dramatic at the same time.

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Comments

26 Thoughts on A case for sweatpants—and their cousin, the jogger pant
    Francine
    23 Sep 2019
    12:59pm

    I’ll be honest and say that this is where I draw a thick, hard line. Hell NO. Just NO.

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    kimberly
    23 Sep 2019
    1:34pm

    Well everyone and their mother wears leggings all day everyday everywhere which I think is worse.
    I’m sick of seeing everyone’s crotches and asses all the time

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      Francine
      24 Sep 2019
      2:26pm

      Trust me, I detest the athleisure wardrobes I see all day. I’ve worked from my home office for 15 years and buttons/zippers are a must. I like feeling put together. (I also do my hair and put some make-up on everyday. I love fashion and beauty so I don’t view getting dressed as an effort.)

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        Mindy
        26 Sep 2019
        10:35am

        I agree. I work both from home and from a small office I rent. I also “get dressed” for work. I’m not in a suit or anything, but “business casual” is the norm. It helps get and keep me in the mindset of working.

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    Maryse
    23 Sep 2019
    1:39pm

    I work from home and wear leggings a lot. But I’ve already purchased a couple of pairs of joggers. Confortable with pockets (so already a win) sporty enough for the gym and I don’t have to worry about exposing my ass and crotch to everyone.

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    Ramonaquimby
    24 Sep 2019
    1:03am

    Interesting! I was just looking for a pair of joggers but less pant like and more sweatpant adjacent. Some of these cane up in my search. Still looking as I can’t find a pair (why oh why do they all have pockets) I like though!

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    Sherry Mulhall
    23 Sep 2019
    12:18pm

    Love this post, Kim! Excellent choices…

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    Jenn
    23 Sep 2019
    12:24pm

    I miss your more inclusive size posts! I wear 8-10, but I loved seeing bigger models and clothes I could recommend to friends in your posts.

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      Maryse
      23 Sep 2019
      1:47pm

      I wear a size 18-20 and found mine at jcrew

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      Kim France
      24 Sep 2019
      3:40pm

      I have been badly remiss in that respect, Jenn. Will improve!

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    c.w.
    23 Sep 2019
    12:01pm

    Lordy, I may have to order everything on this list. “joggers” or “sweatpants” or whatever you want to call them are my happy place. However, like you Kim, I have been intimidated by the Senifield George episode so I feel I can NOT wear them out of the house! Some of these you show may change my mind. Also, my daughter just gifted me a crewneck and pants in Mawbee by Project Social T. Although I’ve been bad mouthing polyester for about a million years I cannot take these items off (they are a polyester blend)! Most comfortable garments I’ve ever worn EVER! (and, yes, I am prone to exaggerate 😉 )

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      Candy
      23 Sep 2019
      1:29pm

      Thanks for this tip! They look very comfy, and they have a longer-than-normal inseam, which is good news for me.

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        Mamavalveeta03
        25 Sep 2019
        12:47am

        I might be the exception, but I see joggers as just another form of pants – perfectly acceptable to wear out and about. Our lifestyles have shifted strongly toward the casual in recent decades, with so many of us working from home & yes, comfort is big. I like to “fancy-up” my joggers with a cute sweater, earrings and lipstick, and I might wear leopard or suede slip-on shoes – I’m not married to sneakers with my sweats. Given the plethora of stylish pants, such as harem/drop crotch or Nili Lotan elastic ankle chinos, I’d challenge anyone to explain to me the ideological difference between those and the cool options Kim has featured above!

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    pamb
    23 Sep 2019
    5:21pm

    I agree with Seinfeld: the traditional sweatpants, especially 80s style (big, baggy, thick material) say ‘I’ve given up’.

    I say: ‘sweatpants, but make it fashion!’ Slim fit, a bit of style, paired with non workout tops and shoes make for a relaxed, but not sloppy, look. Most of the ones you’ve selected fit that bill. Slinky leopard brings the drama and the Phillip Lim are basically a work pant.

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    valerie
    23 Sep 2019
    7:04pm

    OMG, thank you for this post! I have a couple of pairs of pants like this (one black, one camo) and they are the best. Slimming, stylish, comfortable but polished enough for work. I was just thinking I need more pants like this, and you delivered, as always!

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    RebeccaNYC
    24 Sep 2019
    8:02am

    Scrolling through, I came to a hard stop at the Cloth & Stone Utility Joggers. Not because of the pants, but because of the sandals they made the poor model wear. At least two sizes too big.

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      Mamavalveeta03
      25 Sep 2019
      12:51am

      That’s so funny!

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    Moi
    24 Sep 2019
    8:31am

    I’m not quite on board with joggers, but a few seasons ago I bought the Joie Mariners and think they’re really versatile. I have dressed them up for dinner with strappy heels, a silk camisole, and tuxedo jacket. Great dress alternative, especially since I just can’t seem to find a good going-out dress.

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    Mindy
    24 Sep 2019
    9:27am

    The only ones that caught my eye are the Anthropologie ones just because they are cargo pants with an elasticized ankle. I save my sweats for my house. I’m also not a fan of tie waist pants, as they force a tuck otherwise you end up with lumps under your shirt.

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    Viajera
    24 Sep 2019
    10:18am

    I don’t think these pants will fool anyone – you are still going around in sweatpants. Fancy though they may be. I agree though that they do beat the TMI of most leggings. But then so do regular pants, which are no more difficult to put on. So I can’t say that I understand the need … but perhaps some people just like to have more fashion novelty. I don’t think it’s a sin.

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      D.Morgendorffer
      24 Sep 2019
      11:03am

      I’ve been thinking about this and think I have an answer for you on the why not just do regular pants question. Regular pants are made with total disregard to the female abdomen experiencing any kind of hormonal brouhaha. If I worked in an office in a USDA hardiness zone cold enough to grow lilacs (my definition of relative northerly coldness) and my period struck on Monday morning, those wool Philip Lim drawstring pants might look pretty appealing. I myself tend to reserve something with a flowy skirt for those situations, but I do think it would be nice if regular pants were nicer to us all the time.

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        Viajera
        25 Sep 2019
        11:08am

        That is a good point. And it’s true that it’s hard to find regular pants these days anyhow, whereas these ones here are … right here.

        Still … these make me fondly recall the velour tracksuit craze, which I was reminded of by LisaR – Lisa, that first heart was me! – you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone … wahwahwah Yes I am at least halfkidding… but now that I think about it …

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          Viajera
          25 Sep 2019
          11:11am

          Ha, well, this is how you know you are OLD! hurray! … I can remember when the Gap sold sweats in all the rainbow colors. Really it was quite practical. I still think they gave up on Forth & Town too soon. Great dressing rooms.

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    Joannawnyc
    24 Sep 2019
    11:12am

    LOVE!!!!

    but then I am a rebel hahaha

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    LisaR
    24 Sep 2019
    4:42pm

    The green side-striped pair remind me of some beloved sweats I had in high school in the late 80’s.  They were green with bright blue side stripes (with matching sweatshirt!) and I bought them at the Benetton store where I worked after school. These days I wouldn’t wear sweatpants outside of the house but I do admire when others can make a fashionable outfit from them.

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    Tara
    25 Sep 2019
    4:13pm

    Kim, I am feeling the siren’s song/pull of the first faux leather version you led off with. I think they would be really versatile–cute for every day but really nice dressed up, too. Did you buy them? How were they in real life? Thanks!

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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