Sweatpants Trend to Give Those Who ‘Get It’ Feelings of Superiority

Designer sweatpants hit the runways of Alexander Wang and Isabel Marant a couple of years ago. They’ve since appeared on the runways of Bottega Veneta ($290 to $360), Michael Kors ($995, but they’re cashmere), and rag & bone ($255), and made a strong showing for both the spring and fall 2010 seasons. The Wall Street Journal, which has just gotten wind of this trend, is dubious, asking, “Sweatpants with stilettos?” Yes, sweatpants with stilettos.

It’s not a perfect trend, but so few are in their incarnation. One trend analyst pointed to leggings. When they came out, everyone thought only fashion riffraff would wear those, and then they became absolutely huge, and prices easily soared to four figures for the best buttery-leather pairs. In the past five years, the paper might have asked: “Leggings with mesh panels?” “Booties with open toes?” “Florals for fall?” Now we can definitively say yes, yes, and yes.

However, the problem with sweatpants is that not everyone gets them. Leggings, open-toed booties, and florals in the snow may look odd at first, but not necessarily inappropriate and ill-mannered.

“You should be aware people perceive sweatpants as workout gear,” cautions Daniel Post Senning, moderator of the question-and-answer blog of etiquette experts Emily Post Institute. “Sweatpants will communicate workout wear to the vast majority of people.”

This is something we personally experienced the first time we wore sweatpants and heels out almost a year ago. The pants, we later learned, were deemed rude by one or two of our dining companions. Shows what they know! we thought. Just wait till next spring when everyone’s wearing them!

Intrigued after seeing a model wearing the Rag & Bone version, Loren Ridinger, a senior vice president for an Internet marketing company in Miami, purchased a few pairs of Alexander Wang sweatpants in December. “It’s all about the heels,” she says, saying she paired her black sweats with a form-fitting white sweater and black high-heeled ankle booties. “It takes it to a whole new level.”

Her husband, James, initially wasn’t as sure. “Where are you going with this? You’re going to change, right?” he asked when he spied his wife donning her new $265 army-green sweatpants to meet friends at a restaurant. (Mr. Ridinger says he likes the look now.) Ms. Ridinger, who has since taken her new look to other dinners, parties and work, confesses that people sometimes ask her if she’s really wearing sweatpants. While some friends and strangers have offered compliments, “I wonder if [others] think it looks weird,” she says.

They do, but that’s the beauty of the sweatpant: Those who “get it” know they strut on the forefront of style, while those who don’t are so behind. A fashionable person loves nothing more than knowing this is what separates them from the masses. And that is why sweats are here to stay.

The $1,000 Sweatpants [WSJ]

Sweatpants Trend to Give Those Who ‘Get It’ Feelings of Superiority