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Is It Okay to Wear Sweatpants Outside the House?

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Four Racked editors debate if this can, indeed, be done with dignity.

A woman wearing orange sweatpants, typing on a laptop on her couch Photo: Ryan McVay/Getty Images

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If there's ever been a time to gird yourself against the outside world, it's now. It's understandable, for example, that you'd want to leave the house in a full sweatsuit, bringing the comforts of home with you wherever you go. But does that make it okay?

This week, for our latest roundtable, we gathered to discuss the politics of sweats outside the home. Can this be done with dignity? Is it okay to wear sweatpants to a bar? Below, Racked editor-in-chief Britt Aboutaleb, menswear editor Cam Wolf, and shopping editor Cory Baldwin hash it out, moderated by senior editor Meredith Haggerty.


Meredith: Welcome to Racked's discussion of: Are sweatpants acceptable? We're going to start with our pro argument from Cory Baldwin. Cory, would you like to give us an opening statement about why sweatpants are or are not acceptable?

Cory: What we're talking about here is, are sweatpants acceptable outside of the home? I think there's a time and a place. I'm not wearing sweatpants to a job interview. I generally don't wear them to the office. I have before, sorry Britt.

Britt: Inappropriate.

Cam: Objection.

Cory: I wear them to the grocery store, running errands. Wearing them on the subway, I feel worse about that. But I'm generally live and let live with your sweatpants. I do think the new trend of fancy sweatpants is a little lame, but it's trickled down to some affordable versions that are pretty decent-looking and I find them acceptable.

Meredith: Cory, I'd like to follow up with two questions for you. The first question is, you listed a number of places you found that would be unacceptable. How would you feel about wearing them to a bar?

Cory: Is this like an alone time, sad bar visit, where I'm drinking by myself? Or am I on the prowl?

Meredith: This is like a hangout, cool girl, going-to-meet-a-person bar visit.

Cory: Would I wear sweatpants to a first date? Absolutely not.

Cam: But to a bar with your friends?

Cory: Yes, maybe, depending on how I felt during that day.

Meredith: Is there a difference there with fancy and non-fancy sweatpants?

Cory: I'm not wearing my college branded-down-the-leg, XXXL sweatpants that I stole from a boy I hooked up with in college. I'm probably wearing skinny-fit black joggers — is that what they're called?

Cam: Okay, no.

Cory: Maybe with a sweater.

Meredith: Cam, be moderated. Next is our con, Britt. Britt, would you like to give us your opening statement about sweatpants? Sweatpants in public.

Britt: I'd love to. I'm going to preface this by saying, wear whatever you want, be happy, be comfortable, but also don't wear sweatpants at the office. It's inappropriate. I think the leisure wear, whether we're talking track pants or sweatpants or leggings, should be worn for the activity for which they were manufactured. I didn't even realize that people wore sweatpants out of the home until I went to college, and everyone was wearing Juicy Couture sweatpants with "Juicy" bedazzled across the butt. I just think it shows a general sense of laziness.

Meredith: Okay Cameron Wolf, menswear editor, you're undecided.

Britt: Wait, can I say just one other thing really quickly? I wear a lot of big, loose, baggy pants that are arguably more comfortable than sweatpants. You can still have that level of comfort without actually wearing Champion sweatpants! Although, those are really cool, just not in the office.

Cam: Really strong point. I'm in the middle on this because I feel like, on the whole, there's this huge thing in menswear right now where the tailored sweatpants are supposed to be cool and acceptable. I've written stories about cool, tailored sweatpants, and you see all those posts that are like "Look at how you can style them so you can wear them to the office and to the bar!" But also, I just think I would never wear them, and you look like a schmuck if you do it.

Meredith: Cam, would you like to fall into this trap I just set up for you, in saying that sweatpants are acceptable for men and not for women?

Britt: Oh.

Cory: Don't do it.

Cam: I don't think they're acceptable for either.

Meredith: Good job.

Cam: But I’m on the fence still? And can I say, I think Cory is coming in so weak for the pro argument. You said that, like, yes, they are acceptable, but, like, only when running errands on a Sunday when you don't need to be acceptable! I wear garbage to run errands on a Sunday.

Cory: I guess what I'm talking about is what I'll personally wear and where. When I see someone in sweatpants, I don't get any anger toward them for wearing sweats outside the house. I think that's totally fine for them.

Britt: I don't feel anger toward them either, but I'm curious, what makes you feel like it's okay to wear sweatpants to the office? What's the thought process that goes into getting ready that morning?

Cory: Okay, so this is where I have a weak pro argument, because I also think it's not acceptable to wear really schlubby, gross-looking home clothes to the office. I would never do that and I agree it's a little disrespectful, but I think that there are some options that fall in the sweatpants category that can be styled so that they look office-appropriate. I don't think any of you noticed that time I wore sweatpants to the office.

Britt: Tell us about those sweatpants. What'd they look like?

Cory: They're running pants from Athleta. They're black. They have fleece on the inside and they're a little baggy, but they're tapered at the ankle. They're sort of stretchy and shiny-ish. I have no idea what they're made out of.

Meredith: Okay, it can't be avoided that athleisure is currently the trend. If we're all in here saying that sweatpants are unacceptable for the office, where are we supposed to wear our athleisure?

Britt: Oh, I have an answer. Working out, obviously.

Meredith: But that's not leisure, Britt.

Britt: Oh.

Meredith: That's just ath.

Britt: Oh.

Cam: Which I'm not interested in.

Meredith: Yeah, not interested in the ath.

Britt: After all this, there is one place that I will wear my Everlane cashmere sweatpants, and that's on an airplane.

Cam: Gosh, what a brag. Flying in cashmere sweatpants.

Cory: I have a lot of feels about airplane outfits, and I used to be kind of snobby about them. I would be like, "Look at those people wearing their tracksuits on the airplane, like they don't even know how to dress."

Cam: I still am. This isn't a Tallahassee strip club.

Britt: Is that where you wore your tracksuit, Cam?

Meredith: That is, of course, a 30 Rock joke.

Britt: Oh.

Cory: For a long time, I would try to look nice when going on an airplane.

Britt: Yeah, you never know who you're going to meet!

Cam: Or if your luggage is going to get lost, which is what happened to me, and why I'll never wear sweatpants on an airplane.

Cory: I remember seeing some picture of Selena Gomez wearing Vetements sweatpants, the fake Champion sweatsuit, coming out of an airport. It wasn’t necessarily a pivotal moment, but then all of the sudden it became more acceptable.

Britt: A pivotal moment in sweatwear.

Cam: In a good way or a bad way?

Cory: It became more acceptable. This isn't how I view it, but this is how the fashion media viewed it. Sweatpants became more acceptable once people started wearing those fancy sweatpants out and about.

Meredith: Are there variations when it comes to color, material? Does that change things at all for the fancy sweatpants?

Britt: I wear all black and navy blue.

Cory: I wear all black mostly. I am — this is going to sound weird — the owner of a bright orange Champion sweatsuit that actually was a gift, a very strange gift, but I cherish it. I haven't actually worn that out of the house, but maybe I should take it for a spin this weekend and report back.

Meredith: I mean, at this point though, if you're out in public in that sweatsuit, don't you look more Vetements?

Cory: I might look way cool.

Britt: You know, I might come around to the other side by the end of this conversation, because there are some people on my team who are just so chic that they would show up in sweatpants, and I would be like, "Oh, I wish I could wear that."

Cam: Am I one of those people?

Britt: No, you’re not one of those people. I guess if you feel really amazing in it, and you so look pulled together otherwise, you should be able to wear whatever you want.

Cam: You've come all the way around.

Britt: I don't know. I would not recommend that you, dear reader, show up to the office in sweatpants. In general, if most people on my team showed up in sweatpants, I would kind of be concerned.

Meredith: Would you say something?

Britt: It depends on the total overall appearance. If somebody showed up to work in sweatpants and looked unshowered and like they generally had a rough go of it, out of pure concern for their wellbeing, I certainly would, or I would ask their manager if everything was okay.

Meredith: This is making me come around in a weird way, too, where it feels like there's a tyranny of hot people where they can wear anything. The problem with sweatpants is the same problem, despite not being distressed clothing, as distressed clothing.

Cory: The appropriation of schlubby home clothes?

Meredith: Yeah, the appropriation of schlubby home clothes. Like, how dare you take that from my sad imaginary Aunt Karen. She worked for those pants.

Britt: Blame Vetements.