In defence of sweatpants

Photography by Jun Sato/ WireImage

On this, the most depressing day of 2016, I wish I were wearing sweatpants.

Not because I equate stretchy cotton fabric with sorrow or misery (as if), but because I wish I was always wearing sweatpants. Or specifically, I wish I were always wearing a sweatsuit, but unless you’re Al Pacino as Donnie Brasco in the film of the same name, that’s a tidbit you keep to yourself. Or of course, you’re Kim Kardashian.

Last week, the reality star-slash-businesswoman extraordinaire not only admitted how much she missed her Juicy Couture tracksuits, but revealed she still owned all of them after Vogue featured her in a piece on how they may be staging a comeback.

“When I look back at old photos, I can’t believe some of the outfits I used to wear!” she said on her app. “I was SO obsessed with those classic Juicy Couture tracksuits a few years ago, and had them in every colour. I still have all of mine, I can’t let them go! LOL.”

But why did we so maniacally shunned sweatsuits from our wardrobes (and lives) anyways? Sweatsuits are comfy. They’re soft. They’re warm. On Friday, I spent 75% of the day in a sweatsuit, proud of myself for being so cozy. And it was at that time I read Kim Kardashian’s Juicy Couture shout-out and felt a pang of approval, as if I understood her conflict; as if her inability to separate the tracksuit from the aesthetic expectations that now befall her were my conflicts, too.

That’s because we’re all familiar with the sweat/tracksuit backlash. As children, sweatsuits of the eighties and nineties offered us a zone as comfortable as the tapered pants that defined the era. They were the currency of gym class, recess, and day-to-day wear, and by the time we became brand aware and hankered for synthetic pieces that alluded to our newfound maturity, Adidas and Nike stepped up to offer tear-aways, three stripes, and pants that worked perfectly with basic cotton tank tops in the spirit of Mel “Sporty Spice” C herself.

And then, as we know, the Juicy Couture suits followed a few years later, and with them, seventies-inspired glamour re-pioneered by the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Comfort, like the naughties’ penchant for velour and an elastic waist, was cool. And everything was beautiful and nothing hurt, because if we ate too much, our pants accommodated us.

Which is what the yoga pant trend that replaced tracksuits missed the mark on. Sure, the Lululemon surge of 2008 and 2009 offered stretch, but where sweatsuits embraced the wearer, yoga pants merely showed the wearer (and the wearer’s butt) off. There was no coziness. There was no warmth. There was only the inability to wear fullback underwear and also the onus to attend a yoga class, but that was it: sweatsuits were now “sloppy” (and sweatpants by extension were a sign of giving up).

But that sentiment is wrong. (Clearly, or else stores like Roots would be selling jeans!) Upon seeing Jennifer Lawrence wearing her velour two-piece in American Hustle or even seeing myself in a selfie I took of Friday’s aforementioned sweatsuit, I don’t see sloppiness or the abandonment of one’s stylistic brand—instead, I see liberation. Liberation of fitted pieces that we all need a break from, and liberation from the self-imposed fashion police who condemn simultaneously looking and feeling comfortable.

Because that’s the only thing sweatsuits represent: comfort. And if, for a few fleeting hours, “comfort” translates into giving up, then I—and Kim K, I assume once more—have. Nobody keeps their Juicy Couture suits to make scrapbooks out of. (This isn’t that scene in Stepmom.) They’re kept to be worn, just like our mountains of hoodies and joggers. A mountain we are all proudly re-climbing, knowing comfort will always reign supreme. And Kim, you may design the flag we place upon it.