All modern fashion is athleisure
November 7, 2018 7:24 AM   Subscribe

The theme of the past century of Western fashion is this: We take clothes designed for activity, and we adapt them for inactivity. And that’s true beyond the world of sports. For decades, Levi Strauss jeans were worn mostly by men working in factories and farms; today, denim is for loungers. Wristwatches were pioneered in World War I to keep soldiers punctual; today, we embrace them as peacetime jewelry.
Single link The Atlantic
Although the popularity of tennis has been declining for decades, today almost all of the best-selling shoes in America are sneakers. Like yoga pants, tennis shoes are sportswear that have transcended their sport.
Around the same time as the invention of the rubber sole, intramural sports took off at American universities, Clemente told me. That meant more young men playing tennis, golf, polo, and croquet. But lacking the means or inclination to fill their wardrobe with non-sports clothes, many of these men simply kept their athletic attire on for class. Athleisure dropped the prefix and became, simply, leisure.
Let’s look at a couple of specific examples beyond tennis shoes: sport coats, polo shirts, and shorts. For each item, the influence of athletics sticks out like a popped collar.
[...]
“Females who don track shorts and jerseys and run and jump in track meets are just wasting their time, and ours,” one Esquire columnist wrote in 1936. “They weren’t built for that sort of costume.” Nevertheless, in the past 80 years, shorts have gotten shorter and tighter, as advances in synthetic fibers have made them more elastic and more flexible.
posted by jeather (65 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
This seems like a good place to shout out Articles of Interest, a recent series hosted on the podcast 99% Invisible. It's a very historically informed look at clothing and fashion, and their show on blue jeans covered some similar ground - but they're all amazing, so if you like fashion history you'll probably like it.
posted by Miko at 7:28 AM on November 7 [19 favorites]


Another example of the athletic->leisure transition was covered by 99% Invisible: high heels were originally (men's) riding wear.
posted by Jpfed at 7:35 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


There was a recent FPP about that podcast mini-series too! I'm just now listening to the last episode. It's all fascinating, and I am not sure how much less I thought I could care about punk fashion and yet I am compelled.
posted by jeather at 7:36 AM on November 7


Funny that these trends are what lead us to finally adopt the futurist styles of the 50s and 60s. All those time travel and sci-fi shows showing us in tight, colorful onesies.

I'd love to see a Star Trek episode where Kirk visits Earth and everyone is wearing suits and skirts and all the stuffy federation folks be like, "Ugh, you Trekkers just go to work in gym clothes, huh? I worry about the next generation!"
posted by es_de_bah at 7:38 AM on November 7 [9 favorites]


It goes well beyond the past century. For example, in the early 19th century in Europe women's fashion was influenced by men's military uniforms.

In the medieval era, the doublet evolved from a practical piece of military equipment (a padded jacket that protected the wearer and served as a mounting harness for pieces of armor) into a purely ornamental article.
posted by jedicus at 7:40 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Could it be viewed as (except for high heels) a movement towards more comfortable clothing?

A theory: People almost never have new ideas about clothing, so sources of new ideas (marginalized subcultures, other cultures which took centuries or millennia to develop their clothing styles, sports) get grabbed onto.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 7:48 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


posted by jeather

Eponysterical! "You've heard of pleather and faux leather but have you seen ISKO JEATHER™? Denim meets leather; a fabric that guarantees a genuine leather look and feel."
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 7:54 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


I mean, I think the idea with the yoga pants thing is that we don't really want to--I use "we" very deliberately here, this is self-inclusive--really think of ourselves as inactive. But actual activity is hard to manage. Athleisure as a sort of trend is like... the people who are active also wear these same sorts of clothes, it's not like yoga pants aren't actually good for yoga or something. But the reason they sell them as yoga pants to everybody is the suggestion that at some point, you are totally going to start doing yoga, and you will want your comfy pants to be able to make that transition with you, which the flannel lounge pants might not.

I find nothing "incongruous", to use the article's word, about Lululemon being popular among teenagers who don't actually participate in sports. It's still not okay to be fat. We have a culture that's very performative about health. Teenagers in particular have a lot of social need to signal that they're doing all the requisite things to be attractive. Everybody wants comfy pants, but certain groups in particular--young people, women--have more need to act like those comfy pants are going to go into the yoga studio or onto the treadmill any moment now.
posted by Sequence at 7:58 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


We're cosplaying people who exercise.
posted by fings at 8:00 AM on November 7 [37 favorites]


I had not seen ISKO JEATHER™! Thank you?
posted by jeather at 8:08 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


A theory: People almost never have new ideas about clothing

If you look at a fashion show, I think you’ll see a lot of strange new ideas about clothing. I wonder if it has to do with the fact that any new ideas about clothing tend to feel uncanny and wrong until you get used to them because they’ve been around, being used for function for a few decades.
posted by little onion at 8:14 AM on November 7 [9 favorites]


Kid pants/leggings are like yoga pants. My kids still don't own jeans (going on 3rd grade) because kid pants are more comfortable. Jeans as the stand-in for pants is done (my 20 year bet!).

And wristwatches may have been pioneered in World War I to keep soldiers punctual, but I wear it today for the exact same reason. It's not performative wearing, like the insinuation that yoga pants are. But there are lots of yoga studios in the US; I don't think yoga pants wearing is wholly performative. At worst it's like 25/75.

I find nothing "incongruous", to use the article's word, about Lululemon being popular among teenagers who don't actually participate in sports Nor do I as, the ' American youth sports participation' rate (which is in decline) is not the same as the number of kids who regularly exercise. I'm pretty sure that teen yoga (for example) is not included in that rate.

It's also posted in the article as kind of transgressive for this trend to have occurred, but in my opinion it's more insane that in ye olden days people were required to ride horses or play sports wearing the equivalent of tuxedos (I'm exaggerating, but just a bit) . My teachers in high school had to wear jeans to play women's basketball (and could only play half-court) when they were in high school. Insane.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:29 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


All this beanplating about Why in the article (and here) is a little weird to me. Why does there need to be some super complicated reason why people like to wear very comfortable, practical and reasonably attractive clothing??

I mean, I wear yoga pants and other "athleisure" clothes fairly often, and it's 100% because they're way more comfortable than other socially-acceptable clothing alternatives (if I could get away with PJs in public I would). It's really weird that the article only mentions comfy once, because I don't think I'm alone at all in this.

It's really, really not because I want to give a "high-status" image (my yoga pants are not lululemon and are much cheaper than jeans) or because I want to pretend I'm someone who does exercise (I do actually, though not nearly as much as I should, and I really don't care how active random strangers think I am). Both suggestions are incredibly insulting and condescending, honestly.
posted by randomnity at 8:34 AM on November 7 [20 favorites]


Jacobin Magazine: Twenty-First Century Victorians: The nineteenth-century bourgeoisie used morality to assert class dominance — something elites still do today.

While we don’t often see men in top hats and women in petticoats parading their children on Sundays, parks remain a place to display virtue and discipline: contemporary fitness culture perfectly embodies the nineteenth-century ethos of improvement and discipline.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:39 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


There's an H&M beside my building and I swear, one of the outfits in the front window is pajamas. But it's not pajamas! Do clothes get more comfy in scary times?
posted by wellred at 8:39 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Jeans as the stand-in for pants is done (my 20 year bet!).

That's what grumpybearbride says, and she's a fashion professional, so I begrudgingly believe her. I like jeans because of their durability and the way they hang, particularly with boot cut jeans. The trend towards everything being form-fitting and stretchy is, to me, horrible, because I don't want to broadcast every topographical feature of my body.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:40 AM on November 7 [7 favorites]


I guess this should be in ask but how do I convince the SO that the bike chain grease smears and various rips are high fashion and totally the in-thing?
posted by sammyo at 8:43 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


And wristwatches may have been pioneered in World War I to keep soldiers punctual, but I wear it today for the exact same reason. It's not performative wearing, like the insinuation that yoga pants are.

Wristwatches may be preferred by some folks, but I've had a mobile phone that functioned as a pocket watch for 15 years now. A watch would just be jewelry for me. It's redundant.
posted by explosion at 8:51 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I just came in here to say...

HEALTH GOTH WILL NEVER DIE!!

okay carry on everyone
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:51 AM on November 7 [19 favorites]


HEALTH GOTH WILL NEVER DIE!! thank you RNTP

so sometimes things are really hectic and you are having a hard time squeezing in the most basic exercise, so yeah, you put on yoga pants for the day, in the hope you might have a little downtime to spend taking care of your body. like, thats one less hurdle to clear towards that goal. I have a desk job and when I dont exercise my body starts to fall apart and hurt, so anything anything I can do to make it easier to get some movement in...sign me up!
posted by supermedusa at 9:25 AM on November 7


All this beanplating about Why in the article (and here) is a little weird to me. Why does there need to be some super complicated reason why people like to wear very comfortable, practical and reasonably attractive clothing??

I haven't read all the article yet, so I don't know if they address this, but there is a big difference between looking at fashion choices as an individual and thinking of them as part of a larger culture. Most of us dress within some normalized range of options that vary by situation. Knowledge of social expectation, even if not something we focus on directly, determines most of what we think of as "appropriate" for a given occasion or activity.

These norms are set by the culture and while we often have some opportunity for individual expression or choice within those norms, our awareness of social demands or wants usually acts as a limit and guide to those choices, making some clothes acceptable and some not. Athletic wear certainly hasn't always been acceptable wear in regular public outings other than those that the wear was designed for. That changed and the why of that is what's being addressed.

Yoga pants, for example, like jeans sometime before, weren't always seen as acceptable social wear and since most of us want to fit in rather than challenge social norms we adopt the styles that allow us to do just that.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:33 AM on November 7 [8 favorites]


I've had a mobile phone that functioned as a pocket watch for 15 years now.

There's a reason that wristwatches supplanted pocket watches, and it's not because one of them isn't jewelry. They both are. It's the same reason cellphones aren't completely supplanting wristwatches. I have all three, and for timekeeping, wristwatches are by far the most convenient.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:40 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


I sense more pearl-clutching about how Americans don’t dress up any more. Nothing new to see here, really.

Why should people have different clothes for going out in the streets, eating dinner, and whatever else people had special outfits for 100 years ago? I thought it was supposed to be bad to have too many clothes- it wrecks the environment, exploits third world workers, and makes your house cluttered. Isn’t using the same clothes for more occasions an example of reuse? More casual clothes are also less likely to require dry cleaning, which is not good for the environment or for the health of people who work with dry cleaning solvents.

Why should people not wear comfortable clothes? Why so many formal clothes are so uncomfortable is something I’ve been wondering about for pretty much my entire life. Seriously, if you know the answer I’d like to hear it.
posted by Anne Neville at 9:45 AM on November 7


A well fitting suit is pretty comfortable actually. But it's way more expensive than athleisure.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:48 AM on November 7 [12 favorites]


I sense more pearl-clutching about how Americans don’t dress up any more.

That really wasn't what I got, mostly it says that what was clothing for [some sport] eventually, after some horrified takes, turns into everyday clothes and we forget the history and call those regular wear and get horrified about the clothes for [some other sport] being turned into everyday wear instead. It's a description of the cycle, not pearl clutching about people wearing yoga pants.

I wear leggings a lot! They're comfortable, and great under skirts.
posted by jeather at 9:54 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


Could it be viewed as (except for high heels) a movement towards more comfortable clothing?

There seems to be a general trend towards more comfort, at least in the sense that a fashion trend is unlikely to catch on if it's dramatically less comfortable than whatever people are used to wearing. But there are a lot of exceptions, to the point where I don't think it's necessarily driving new trends.

There's a lot of sample bias here, but sneakers as everyday shoes for men seem to be losing ground in favor of more traditional leather shoes, or sometimes low boots. And it's not like Chelsea boots are uncomfortable, but it's hard to argue that they're more comfortable than sneakers.

A look at most of the mid-market brands (H&M, Banana Republic, etc.) shows that jeans are out for men, and comparatively closely-tailored, flat-front pants are in. Again, not really uncomfortable, but after the baggy jeans and cargos that dominated the 90s into the early 00s, they're not an obvious move for comfort. There's definitely other forces at work. But I can't put my finger on exactly what they are. (Trends in what physical characteristics are viewed as attractive for men are certainly part of it.)

There definitely did seem to be a trend away from formal clothing and towards easy-wear/easy-wash stuff in the 20th century. Khakis become popular after WWII, presumably when returning servicemen decided they weren't interested in re-adopting prewar men's fashions (most of which involved wool), instead preferring a civilianized version of the Army's "Class C" chinos. But it took the military forcibly putting a big chunk of the male population into those clothes to get people wearing them; I'm not sure it would have happened otherwise.

Mulling it over a bit more... I think laundry is an overlooked force in fashion. When in-home washing machines became common, and domestic servants became rare, clothes changed and simplified. Early synthetics were limited in popularity as a base yarn because they were a pain to clean and wrinkled (or melted), but as the article notes, there have been significant changes in synthetics in the past decades which have made clothing like yoga pants both durable and easy to care for.

I sense more pearl-clutching about how Americans don’t dress up any more.

I didn't get that sense from the article very much at all. It's more trying to pinpoint where trends in clothing come from. And it seems to be that they come from areas where clothing is developed for specific activities, and then it trickles back into the mainstream, becoming less specialized and more suited to everyday wear along the way.

It's interesting to consider what that might mean for the future: what niche activities of today are going to have their specialized apparel trickle out into the mainstream tomorrow?
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:55 AM on November 7 [8 favorites]


The real future of comfort wear!
posted by sammyo at 10:00 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I have had sort of the opposite experience from what this article is saying about athleisure clothing.

I prefer clothes that can stand up to biking and walking in whatever weather I'm out in. I was so excited earlier this year to find 100% wool pants that fit me at the surplus store for $5. These are the sorts of pants you can wear in the rain! You can do high kicks in them! They don't get stinky after 15 minutes of use! They are designed to be used, and I use them. It's great. They look like "grandpa pants" but that's probably because grandparents needed to be able to move around and DO things while wearing their clothes.
posted by aniola at 10:04 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


If anyone is interested in someone making an interesting case against the trend towards casual wear, here's an article from First Things Magazine I found intriguing, though open to plenty of further questioning. Almost made an FPP about it, but never got around to actually doing it.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:09 AM on November 7


In the past five minutes I just walked past
* a young couple in clean jogging clothes, and
* a middle aged man in a black three piece suit.
This in the middle of the day. Sure, it's comfy, but it's also a huge class signifier.
posted by phooky at 10:11 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


what niche activities of today are going to have their specialized apparel trickle out into the mainstream tomorrow?

I've been very gratified to see the niche athleisure wear trend of 5 years or so ago, tbe Vibram Five Fingers, has decidedly not swept the everyday-wear world, despite its adherents swearing up and down they were the most comfortable futuristic thing ever and we would soon all be wearing them all the time.
posted by Miko at 10:14 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


Ever since I started working from home a few years ago, leggings and yoga pants have become my go-to bottoms. (Used to be jeans, which I still wear when I'm doing social things or have to look like an adult person)

It's just so much more comfortable to wear stretchy clothes! And for when I go out to run errands or whatever, the silhouette is flattering and more stylish that the super-baggy sweatpants I have that are also pretty comfortable. So it's partly style but mostly comfort.

I find all these thinkpieces about athleisure worn by people who are not currently engaging in the sport to be so tiresome. This one is a bit better because of the historical context, but it's still kind of pearl-clutching and really: who fucking cares? Why do we need to police women (because it's almost always about women) for every single sartorial choice we make?
posted by lunasol at 10:22 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


I've been very gratified to see the niche athleisure wear trend of 5 years or so ago, tbe Vibram Five Fingers, has decidedly not swept the everyday-wear world, despite its adherents swearing up and down they were the most comfortable futuristic thing ever and we would soon all be wearing them all the time.

I knew somebody would have to bring those up. I liked them at the time. It didn't matter if some people thought they looked weird and unfashionable, because my whole body is weird and unfashionable no matter what.

I stopped wearing them because they were, ironically, not that great for walking on hard surfaces. And the second pair I had, the "KSO" version, looked nicer but was also harder to put on.

But I wanted to keep wearing them just to annoy people who hated them so much.
posted by Foosnark at 10:38 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


I liked Five Fingers except that I always got grass stuck between my toes. Now I am old and I need more arch support.

I believe you can annoy many of the same people by wearing crocs, which are becoming fashionable among some of The Teens.
posted by Emmy Rae at 10:47 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I started wear a wrist watch again because I can tell time without having to use my phone, which can be considered rude in meetings, etc.

As for athleisure wear, it fits my long running desire to dress like a toddler. Once I started raising my kids, I realized everything they wore was soft and stretchy, and can be washed easily after they're covered in food stains. Perfect combination!
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 11:01 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


There's an H&M beside my building and I swear, one of the outfits in the front window is pajamas. But it's not pajamas

all clothing can be pajamas, you just have to believe in yourself
posted by poffin boffin at 11:06 AM on November 7 [14 favorites]


modern jeans have so much stretchy stuff in them they are pretty damn comfy. I nap in my regularly.
posted by supermedusa at 11:07 AM on November 7


Interesting read. As folks above pointed out, though, I was surprised not to see more about the issue of laundry. Athletic clothes by their nature are designed to be quickly and unfussily cleaned and to stand up to repeated washings. Very few people outsource their laundry or have someone working full-time in the home these days compared to previous eras. The fact that jeans and t-shirts can be thrown into a washer and dryer on almost any setting and don't need to be ironed is the main appeal for me. The time I spend caring for my work clothes is non-negligible, and the clothes themselves are more expensive and only have so many washes in them. I don't want to be taking on more work or spending more money so that I can lounge in smarter clothes on evenings and weekends.
posted by haruspicina at 11:19 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


So I polled my coworkers (techie office folks) as to what they thought the emerging trends in casualwear were, just out of curiosity, and the response that I found interesting was quickdry and stuff made from "technical fabrics". I didn't even think about it, but I'm wearing a bunch of it as I sit here, and it's clearly following the same specialized-to-mainstream path, mostly having originated with expensive mountaineering gear in the 90s.

You can get a gingham dress shirt with "patented hydrophobic nanotechnology", or chinos made from "100% technical, breathable polyester", or more casual jeans-patterned pants made by a yoga-clothing company "designed with performance 4-way stretch, quick dry technology, and a water repellent finish".

Most of the claimed advantages fall into one of three categories: (1) more comfortable for a given silhouette, e.g. slim-fit pants that aren't restrictive to move in; (2) environmental resistance, like water repellency or stain resistance; (3) ease of laundering, with no special care required to avoid wrinkles or mess up the fabric's other advantages.

Personally I would like to just cut to the chase and all wear flightsuits, all the time, but I think we've still got a ways to go before they're quite acceptable. (I have heard of some offices that have "onesie days", which is a step up from casual Fridays, I admit.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:28 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


poffin boffin: Or none at all. It's these if you're curious.
posted by wellred at 11:28 AM on November 7


Someone more plugged in can explain better, but uniqlo have a pretty hard push currently on men's trou that look more or less like jeans but are very soft and stretchy, which is... not for me. I like the feeling of a tougher fabric and the closest I have to a personal style is cosplaying in tougher work shirts etc for my job at the most practical end of a very non-practical industry.

The bit of athleisure I've been fascinated by and not known enough about is the very high end stuff worn by London Fashion Gays, which looks amazing, and if I emulated on my budget would look dreadful. A couple of these dudes are friends of friends but I don't know them quite well enough to gushingly grill them on the aesthetic like I want to. But they're the first guys here wearing backwards baseball caps in decades, for ex.

Fashion endlessly fascinates me, I'm just terrible at it.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:39 AM on November 7


Health Goth I find super appealing theoretically but it's a double whammy of athleisure which looks awful if you cheap out and all black which looks awful if you cheap out. Still, I can dream.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:41 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Speaking of yoga pants, hopefully this is not a dumb question: Where can I get men's yoga pants that are like women's yoga pants? I hear women talking about how comfortable yoga pants are, but when I search for men's yoga pants online I find a completely different kind super loose-fitting pants. I'd just buy a pair of women's yoga pants, but given how tight they are there may be some anatomical problems with that plan.

Is this what people mean by compression pants?
posted by JDHarper at 11:52 AM on November 7


A well fitting suit is pretty comfortable actually. But it's way more expensive than athleisure.

...and expensive and finicky to clean and maintain. If you can make a suit that's wash and wear, has stretch, and doesn't look like trash, then you'd have a winner.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:59 AM on November 7


These norms are set by the culture and while we often have some opportunity for individual expression or choice within those norms, our awareness of social demands or wants usually acts as a limit and guide to those choices, making some clothes acceptable and some not.

I see lots of people recently making these arguments about 'culture' or more like 'conforming to the dominant culture' determining all sorts of things (not just clothing), but in my case and many others, the dress code we have to adhere to is pretty explicit, ie it's determined by someone who has an HR job explicitly choosing what clothes are acceptable and what are not, which fine in many cases is determined by 'generic culture' but in many cases it's blatant personal bias.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:02 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Where can I get men's yoga pants that are like women's yoga pants?

Closest I've ever seen is the Underarmor baselayer stuff, some of which are meant for wear under other clothes, but some of which are not and seem close to modern womens yoga pants. Nike Running also has similar stuff.

I have a pair for winter running and I wouldn't say they are so comfortable that I'd want to hang around in them all day, but to each their own obviously.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:21 PM on November 7


Speaking of yoga pants, hopefully this is not a dumb question: Where can I get men's yoga pants that are like women's yoga pants? I hear women talking about how comfortable yoga pants are, but when I search for men's yoga pants online I find a completely different kind super loose-fitting pants. I'd just buy a pair of women's yoga pants, but given how tight they are there may be some anatomical problems with that plan.

Is this what people mean by compression pants?


Yep. Any running store or REI will have them. You could also just buy a thicker base layer and wear that. No pockets, but yoga pants don't have those either.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:26 PM on November 7


Most of the claimed advantages fall into one of three categories: (1) more comfortable for a given silhouette, e.g. slim-fit pants that aren't restrictive to move in; (2) environmental resistance, like water repellency or stain resistance; (3) ease of laundering, with no special care required to avoid wrinkles or mess up the fabric's other advantages.

You forgot wicking. Any undergarments that don't have wicking are just asking for trouble.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:28 PM on November 7


Ever since I started working from home a few years ago, leggings and yoga pants have become my go-to bottoms.

Seconded. It also means that when my day wraps up and it's time for the gym, I'm already basically ready. Being able to just throw my wallet and phone into a gym bag and head out the door makes me easily 80% more likely to exercise. But that means that I'll be wearing my gym clothes if I go out for a coffee or drop something off at the post office at lunch, and I'm sure some people conclude that I am wearing those clothes purely aspirationally.

But just because someone wearing athleisure gear isn't *at that immediate moment* on their way to a gym doesn't mean their clothing choice isn't influenced by their exercise patterns.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:51 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


A well fitting suit is pretty comfortable actually. But it's way more expensive than athleisure.

Eh. I find a suit uncomfortable to drive in, a tie inconvenient to deal with in the restroom, and suit insanely uncomfortable if the temperature or humidity is even moderately high. And James Bond movies or not, it's hard to run in a suit. Other than that, they are ok.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:51 PM on November 7


If you can make a suit that's wash and wear, has stretch, and doesn't look like trash, then you'd have a winner.

You'd think so, and yet Levi's discontinued Action Slacks which were pretty much exactly that, for dress pants.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:40 PM on November 7


If you can make a suit that's wash and wear, has stretch, and doesn't look like trash, then you'd have a winner.

These people seem to be trying for that. It's basically the same thing that Prana has done, making jeans-cut pants out of technical fabric, except they're making a suit out of it. No idea how it actually looks or feels.

Men's suits are absolutely a status-signaling / conspicuous consumption item, in that the better ones are astronomically expensive compared to cheap ones, and are designed to signal that expense in subtle ways that other people (who are in the right social class and primed to know what to look for) can notice. Even if you fit perfectly into an off-the-rack suit by virtue of being totally average in every dimension, there are details that you can add to a custom/bespoke suit purely for the purpose of signaling to people that it's bespoke.

So any suit that isn't astonishingly expensive will, by definition, not be as good as an expensive one, because to some extent the expense is the point. So I'm not sure how successful their product will be, unless they intentionally make it expensive.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:51 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Speaking of yoga pants, hopefully this is not a dumb question: Where can I get men's yoga pants that are like women's yoga pants? I hear women talking about how comfortable yoga pants are, but when I search for men's yoga pants online I find a completely different kind super loose-fitting pants. I'd just buy a pair of women's yoga pants, but given how tight they are there may be some anatomical problems with that plan.

I see guys with leggings (excuse me, "compression pants") under basketball shorts every day now. Men's tights or leggings (e.g. Under Armour) tend to look more like underwear than pants, even if they're ostensibly designed to be worn without shorts over them, so I think the shorts thing is a bit self-reinforcing. If you're planning to wear shorts over them, just buy yourself some Under Armour or Nike Pro, available wherever athletic apparel is sold these days. I honestly just buy women's leggings for exercise, and they're fine. I went looking for workout tights in tall sizes and found a much better selection at Athleta and the Gap than I was finding being marketed to men. If I want tights that come to my ankles and don't look like long underwear I pretty much have to buy them in a women's tall, and it turns out the pockets in good workout tights for women are glorious.

Also, if I'm just going out for exercise I skip the shorts. If I know I'm going to have to run an errand or possibly be seen standing still for longer than it takes me to cross a busy street I'll wear shorts, but I'm actually less comfortable that way. Shorts bunch up while I'd rather be worrying more about my pace and my heart rate, and anything I put in the pockets bounces around. I am over being embarrassed about it. I don't feel like I'm calling attention to a bulge or anything, and after a year of daily exercise I do have to say my butt looks pretty good.
posted by fedward at 5:33 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


believing that women who wear yoga pants are trying to look like they habitually go to an exercise event is like believing that women who wear jeans are desperate for you to believe they just got here from Nîmes
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:15 PM on November 7 [7 favorites]


I've been very gratified to see the niche athleisure wear trend of 5 years or so ago, tbe Vibram Five Fingers, has decidedly not swept the everyday-wear world, despite its adherents swearing up and down they were the most comfortable futuristic thing ever and we would soon all be wearing them all the time.

I found those to be the most comfortable footwear I've ever had, but the negative reactions from people got really old, really fast. It was to the point that I stopped wearing them, and I have a pretty thick skin about not caring about other people's opinions on my clothes. I'm still not really sure what makes them such intense focuses of dislike, but you are far from alone in your feelings.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:03 PM on November 7


Why should people have different clothes for going out in the streets, eating dinner, and whatever else people had special outfits for 100 years ago? I thought it was supposed to be bad to have too many clothes- it wrecks the environment, exploits third world workers, and makes your house cluttered. Isn’t using the same clothes for more occasions an example of reuse?

Do people have fewer outfits now than they did 100 years ago? That seems unlikely. A major missing piece to reconcile these observations is in the thread, though, which is that the outfits people wore 100 years ago likely required a different - and more labor-intensive - kind of upkeep to remain wearable.
posted by atoxyl at 11:56 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Echoing what someone said above: modern fabrics are amazingly soft, especially the pajama & exercise kind, and it's way easier to get away with wearing the latter in public (unless of course you're an undergraduate student in a lecture hall before 3 PM.)

I used to wear joggers to work (they have pockets!), change into my way less comfortable barre leggings for barre class, back into the joggers to walk home, then once I got there it was yoga pants for the rest of the night. The nerve endings on my leg skin were truly living their best lives.
posted by taquito sunrise at 12:23 AM on November 8


Oh yeah forgot to mention, I looked like a total schlub & I would never have been offered a promotion, but, soft pants.
posted by taquito sunrise at 12:24 AM on November 8


If anyone is interested in someone making an interesting case against the trend towards casual wear, here's an article from First Things Magazine I found intriguing, though open to plenty of further questioning. Almost made an FPP about it, but never got around to actually doing it.
G. Bruce Boyer was included as part of a "symposium" on "Dressing up in a Dress-down World" that was held in New York last month and talks about the same loss of a "sense of occasion" (from about 15 to 25 minutes in, I think).

Derek Guy, who also writes for MeFi's own Jesse Thorn's Put This On, has had some interesting pieces on modern fashion on his blog over the past few months or so, from a far more "lowercase l" liberal viewpoint than is standard for the field:

Today is the Best Time in Fashion

Menswear's Last Big Moment

The Suit Died, but for Good Reasons
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 2:33 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


This article made a lot of sense to me, especially as I considered my own choices in work wear. I used to wear jeans, but at some point it occurred to me that I didn't find them very comfortable: hot in the summer, not that warm in the winter, tending to wear out in the crotch faster than anywhere else, etc. I started asking myself why I was wearing pants that were designed for mid-nineteenth-century miners. So, I started wearing slacks, specifically Dockers, which, I presume (because of the name and also their nautical logo) were either designed for or meant to evoke sailing. Dockers are kind of the clothing cliche for business casual. I also wear Rockport Pro Walkers, which are, while not fancy, at least not obviously athletic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:26 AM on November 8


If you want leggings with a sort of old-fashioned, formal work-wear feel, may I suggest these?

"I started wear a wrist watch again because I can tell time without having to use my phone, which can be considered rude in meetings, etc."

Ditto except I went back to the watch when my phone starting to have an overwhelming number of notifications. I'd want to just glance at the time and be confronted with little notification icons telling me I had 15 new e-mails in two accounts, some breaking news, was due to practice Spanish, there were new houses on the market, my pocket trains required my attention -- and this started to stress me out. PLUS solar-powered watches finally got small enough for a small and light women's watch (I have narrow wrists), so you don't even have to faff around with winding or batteries. When I'm having a slow day, I just carry my phone, but if I have a lot going on, I wear a watch. And kind-of a nice watch, that I can wear with suits, so I look a little silly in my dressy watch and yoga pants but LONG LIVE YOGA PANTS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:30 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


The First Things article does come across as a bit pearl-clutchy to me, in a way that TFA (from The Atlantic) doesn't, and it's interesting to compare the two. I think it's because the Atlantic article isn't as obviously judgemental about modern clothing.

Personally, I take issue with the "people don't dress for the occasion" anymore. People don't dress for occasions in the same exact way that they used to, but I think it's untrue that people don't make considered, occasion-specific sartorial choices for various events. If the author doesn't see that, perhaps they're not the target audience for the signals that are being sent by those choices. I mean, I know people who wear jeans basically 100% of the time, but they're not the same jeans. The ones they're wearing on a first date are not the ones they wore to mow the lawn a few hours before. (Whether their dates appreciate the difference, I can't say, but one assumes.)

It may not be a hard social requirement for men to wear a jacket and tie while dining at a nice restaurant—all but the stuffiest restaurants have dropped dress codes, and even calculatedly formal ones like Le Bernardin don't require ties, just jackets, anymore—but that's not to say that people don't think about what they're wearing.

Though there has been a tradeoff: the relaxation of formal dress codes is actually a reversion to the ancien régime norm, where social rules were unwritten, but still important and cause for potential embarrassment. The rigorously-defined rules of the 19th and 20th century were created by a rising bourgeoisie, lacking an aristocratic upbringing to give them an ingrained sense of propriety, who wanted clear guidelines for what was correct. Stultifying, perhaps, but also safe. While on one hand it's nice that you can now choose to wear or not wear a tie and still get a table at the local crumb-scraper, it also creates more opportunities for faux pas. (While the opportunities for social self-harm at a restaurant may be limited, consider the demise of formal business dress codes in favor of the mushy catchall "business casual", which can mean dramatically different things depending on context.) OTOH... this seems to have evened the playing field with womens clothes somewhat, which always seemed (to me, as a guy) to lack the clear rules and safe choices of traditional menswear.

So, double-edged sword, land of contrasts, &c.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:37 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


I'm of a divided mind in some ways over the First Things article, which is why I liked it so much. I didn't take it as pearl clutching as much as offering an alternative view that points to some cultural changes that may have accompanied changes in wardrobe. The focus on self over emphasis on signalling respect for other, in some small way, does perhaps speak to something of the moment, for both good and ill. It does seem to fit with the greatly diminished respect for authority that has happened, which is largely to the good for better understanding of the abuse authority so often inflicted, but by the same token, that respect wasn't really put anywhere more useful, just removed, which informs some of the many problems we have today.

That isn't of course caused by fashion choices, on choosing comfort by itself, or something that would miraculously be fixed by the re-adoption of formal attire alone, but more just another piece of a larger puzzle to figure out that is of some considerable importance. Like suggested by the Atlantic article, fashion often suggests things or comes from someplace that we aren't necessarily conscious of in our day to day choices of clothing, so taking a closer look at it and why we ended up dressing as we do, is useful, just as examining any number of other actions or things we mostly take for granted can be.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:11 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


I think it's untrue that people don't make considered, occasion-specific sartorial choices for various events.

For this reason my uncles stand out at weddings as the only men wearing shorts and Hawaiian shirts. On less formal occasions the shirts are not necessarily buttoned, or on at all.
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:17 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


As far as leggings for men, I just purchase women's leggings. They are super comfortable with the added bonus of fun prints, rather than boring black.
posted by Dalton Luceria at 10:27 AM on November 8


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