Sweatpants have become the new jeans: A brief fashion lesson on everyone’s favorite article of clothing

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Karl Lagerfeld famously once said, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” If the late designer was around today, would he be quarantined in his Paris atelier wearing his signature black suiting, or would he accept defeat and opt for a pair of tweed Chanel joggers?

Despite what Lagerfeld believed, the debate over sweatpants etiquette has quickly resolved itself given the world’s current circumstance. In 2020, sweatpants have become about embracing an article of clothing that was once considered unkempt and lazy, and transitioning it into a form of personal style.

Wearing sweatpants in the modern era no longer comes with shame. Just last year, Anna Wintour told Vogue she would never wear sweatpants. Cut to a few months later amid a global pandemic, and the Vogue Editor-In-Chief has taken to the magazine’s 26.9 million Instagram followers to show off her red joggers — but of course paired with a cashmere drop-shoulder sweater.

The birth of sweatpants hailed all the way from France in the 1920s by Le Coq Sportif founder Émile Camuset. Leave it to the French to always be ahead of the times. Initially introduced in a jersey grey hue and intended for athletes, the comfortable casual trouser has evolved over the past century.

With differences in the cut, silhouette, waistband, color and even the brand, choosing a pair of sweats is more complex than one might realize. We’ve seen bright-pink distressed joggers on Chanel’s Fall 2014 runway and a revival of the track pant in Chloé’s Spring 2016 collection. And with streetwear culture dominating the mainstream industry, generational newcomers like Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and Pyer Moss by Kerby Jean-Raymond have revolutionized the art of sophisticated sweatpants. These fashion pieces now appear in the office, at the fanciest restaurants and sometimes, even on the red carpet.

In March, Women’s Wear Daily published an article titled, “Are Sweatpants the Only Fashion Trend in America Right Now?,” which explains how the widespread of sweatpants has not been this relevant since the late ’90s and early 2000s’ Juicy Couture era. “Net-a-Porter said the site experienced a 40 percent uptick in general sweatpant sales in the first week of COVID-19 lockdown,” the WWD article states. Additionally, searches for “sweatpants” saw an 85 percent spike, while the term “sweats” saw a 50 percent increase in searches on Moda Operandi.

Jeans, the denim pant that was once considered casual and relaxed, has become black tie in the era of the coronavirus pandemic. I mean if you’re wearing jeans at home, what are you trying to prove?

Ahead, I’ve rounded up a slew of sweatpants from some of my favorite brands on the market. These are the “dressed-up” sweats that are versatile for both lounging around the house and running errands in public. From need-to-know brands like Entireworld, Les Tien and LESET, elevate your casual wardrobe below. You’ll thank me later.

Shop: Champion LIFE Reverse Weave Jogger, $34.86

Shop: ARX Lab Tie-Dye Jogger Sweatpants, $49.97 (Orig. $108)

Shop: BCBG Side-Striped Jogger Pants, $49.99 (Orig. $88)

Shop: Les Tien Fleece-backed cotton track pants, $187

Shop: Adidas Logo Appliqué Sweatpants, $35 (Orig. $70)

Shop: Entireworld Loop Back Sweatpants, $88

Shop: Nike Sportswear Essential Fleece Jogger Pants, $49

Shop: Monrow Bandana Joggers, $180

Shop: Eberjey Heather Pants, $69

Shop: Alo Yoga Unwind Sweatpants, $98

Shop: Champion Logo Jogger, $19.38

Shop: Kenzo Black Sport Lounge Pants, $250

Shop: John Galt Rosa Sweatpants, $28

Shop: Ragdoll LA Joggers, $135

Shop: Stateside French Terry Knit Joggers, $39.97 (Orig. $112)

Shop: LESET Pointelle Knit Cotton Set, $170

If you liked this story, you might like to read about loungewear brand Lett.

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