How Soon Is Too Soon For Sweatpants?
by: Livia Stecker
Popular culture is overrun with references to the socially acceptable hour to begin consuming alcohol. Jimmy Buffet lends Country Legend Alan Jackson some aid in the quickly established mantra of alcoholics across the world in his ode to early drinking: It's Five O'clock Somewhere. Whether five in the evening, or the broadly established noon hour should be considered the norm for drinking commencement, it strikes me as particularly neglectful on behalf of society that we have yet to examine the equally critical issue of what time of day is appropriate for donning sweat pants. To examine this oft-ignored social question, we must first break it down into the three separate issues it creates. First: is the dilemma arising because the sweatpants in question are actually still on from the night before? Second: Are the sweatpants in question stylish/sexy and or passable for public activities? And third, but most critical, what events precipitate the necessity for early accouterment of aforementioned sweatpants?
When examining the first question raised by mid-day sweatpants wearing, we have to consider the demographic breakdown of our audience. Assuming that we are discussing neither morbidly obese redneck men, or young athletic professional men, or any men at all, other than Marky Mark or Colin
Secondly, most of this debate is quelled with the answer to one simple inquiry: What Kind Of Sweatpants? Thanks to Jessica Simpson, circa 2004, when she was almost cool for a minute, if you had cable (In Review, 2004) (this is before the catastrophic Chicken of the Sea comment...), any sweatpants made by Victoria's Secret double successfully as sexy day wear. Just ask Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Meg Ryan, and all of your other high-fashion icons - slap a PINK! on it, and you're good to go. Hard Tail knits, Juicy Couture's remix of high-end velour track suits, and more recently (as in 5 years ago), Vanessa Hudgens sporting the Gypsy 05 sweats, are also emerging fixtures in the crossover world of lounge to party. Flo Rida and T-Pain give a nod to the "baggy sweat pants" in the '07 hit, Low (FloRida, 2007), giving instant justification to millions of stay at home booty shakers. That these events transpired more than five years ago is no reason to question the viability of acceptable daytime sweats everywhere, given the right label. More recent evolutions of the yoga pant to include demon-like 5 pocket styles and narrow bootcuts like a dressy pair of slacks, are a welcome edition to the repertoire of almost-pajamas that qualify as day wear. Emergent brands like Athleta and LuLuLemon are fabulous examples of this trend. Yoga pants and the theme they present really belong to a separate classification which should be examined in a later essay.
The third and arguably most poignant question which keeps the answer to this puzzle shrouded in cloudy mystery, is that of motivation. Why are the sweatpants to be worn? What is the compelling factor in the acquirement of sweatpants early in the day? As we mentioned before, an emotional trauma such as the death of a dog, the loss of a job, the toilet overflowing, or the mechanical failure of a washing machine are all reasonable justifications for long term sweatpants wearing. But finding the appropriate rationale for day to day early sweatpants wearing can be somewhat more tricky, especially if one is expected to work or perform on a semiprofessional level at any point before traditional bed times and/or workouts. There are a few exclusionary situations that qualify for rapid sweatpant admission without question. These include but are not limited to: being on one's menstrual period, PreMS, or PostMS, recent unplanned weight gain and/or having a child any time within the last ten years. Other unforeseen factors, such as relationship ebbs and flows, misbehaving children, and general bad moods can easily be translated into solid justification with little to no argument, depending on the value one's spouse/parent/living partner puts on his/her own life.
In conclusion, it is my personal experience that there are very few, if any, hours in the day that are exclusive of acceptable sweatpants wearing. Social settings, emotional events and demographic information notwithstanding, there is a reasonable argument for the propriety of sweatpants in most situations. How long a pair of sweatpants is worn acceptably is based entirely upon the surrounding circumstances and appropriateness of intimate support and/or antagonism from those closest to the wearer. The style, brand and appearance of sweatpants, with the advent of fashion forward lounge wear, becomes less of an issue than the Hanes Her Way quandary of the late 90s (I'm Sorry, 1995), when sweatpants in a nightclub would have been social suicide. And at the bottom of it all, the directing motivation for the wearing of sweatpants at questionable hours of the day is really the deciding factor in whether it is "OK" or if denim should actually be considered. Sweatpants have come a long way from the draw string gym pants of the 1950s (Steve McQueen, 19RAD )that some brilliant housewife thought to steal from her jock husband. The evolution socially, fashionably, and functionally of sweatpants cannot be understated for the frustrated woman who can only get her jeans zipped on six days of an average month. There is a time, and a place, for sweatpants, and the for daughters of this millennium, that time is all the time, and that place is everywhere.