Setting The Record Straight On Why Leggings Are Pants
Everyone takes a side on some issues. Not many people shrug their shoulders and say “hey, you know—I really am indifferent to abortion.” There are some things that fundamentally divide us as human beings, and one of them is apparently leggings and their function as pants. There are Facebook groups and graphics and blog posts railing against this horrible trend of wearing leggings instead of real pants, whatever that means.
I am firmly pro-leggings, which you can tell if you ever took a look in my pants drawer. I have more leggings than jeans. (It helps that leggings are cheaper than jeans.) In fact, I’m more than pro-leggings. I’m a leggings evangelist. I’m preaching the gospel, and its message: leggings are the best kind of pants.
Some fun facts about pants:
1. The Ancient Greeks and Romans considered pants to be the mark of barbarianism. Togas and other draped clothing were the refined garments of the day. In the contemporary world, 83.8% of the usages of the word ‘toga’ are followed by ‘party’. (Note, I made that number up.) I went to a toga party once in college. My friend threw it in her dorm room. I wore a polka-dot toga and drew an airplane on my arm with eyeliner, because togas, airplanes, and shots of the cheapest rum on the planet are all hallmarks of refinement.
2. Periodically, I will be riding the NYC subway and an internet-organized flash mob of pantsless people will get on, which is disturbing to me because I have seen numerous people throw up on the trains and there are often trapped and confused birds.
3. A pair of pants is advanced mathematics! In advanced hyperbolic geometry, topologically, it’s a sphere with three holes in it.
4. Leggings are them.
Here’s the Merriam Webster definition for pants. I wanted to get the Oxford English Dictionary definition, since the OED is the supreme authority on the English language, but you have to pay to know how they define words.
an outer garment covering each leg separately and usually extending from the waist to the ankle —usually used in plural
Sorry, that sounds like leggings to me. I suppose people want to dispute the word outer, except that if I’m wearing them as pants they are my outermost layer of clothes.
Here are some bad pictures of me rocking leggings, a cute pair with buttons on the ankles that I got at my favorite store in the entire world, Joe Fresh, with an oversized white shirt from Uniqlo with lace on the sides. I was about to go meet up with a friend who was housesitting in a swank apartment in TriBeCa and I was unsure if the night would end in a bar. It did not, and I ended up falling asleep on the couch and then waking up and going to brunch at a fancy TriBeCa restaurant. (If you’re unfamiliar with NYC, TriBeCa means “triangle below Canal” and it is not actually shaped like a triangle but it is pretty fancy.) With a little readjustment of the makeup I carry with me, it was perfect!
Add in a pair of ankle boots and I’m ready for anything!
I would love to see one good justification why leggings are not pants that is not fundamentally rooted in problematic ideas. Seriously—if you have a reason that is truly not about body policing or policing what strangers wear, feel free to share in the comments. If you can prove me wrong, I might even send you a prize.
There are two general paths people can take while trying to spread anti-leggings propaganda. One: they’re basically sweatpants/yoga pants/pajamas! It looks sloppy to wear them in public if you’re not working out!
Personally, I disagree: I think leggings offer the same comfort as sweatpants/yoga pants/pajamas while looking much more polished and put-together. There’s no better outfit for a crisp fall Saturday than a big sweater, leggings, and boots. Put sweatpants or yoga pants in that same outfit and you get fabric bunching up as you tuck them into your boots and it just looks messy. Plus, yoga pants are often made of sweat-wicking technical fabric, which has a distinctive look.
But even if you think they’re pajamas at best, so what? How does that make them not pants? Pajama pants—the kinds that come printed with rubber duckies or whatever—are pants! Maybe you don’t want to wear them outside the house, but they’re still pants! Plus, I remember seeing at least two fashion magazines doing features on pajama elements incorporated into dressier outfits this season, so if wearing a pajama top with slacks and a blazer is high fashion, leave my leggings alone!
If you don’t like the way leggings look worn as pants, fine! Don’t wear them! Here are some fashion trends I do not like: peplum, cut-outs in clothes, every single thing being backless. I don’t wear them but I’m not going to start going around saying something like “Dresses that have holes cut in the side of them are not dresses!” The great thing about fashion is that it is a form of expressing yourself: it’s a way we communicate with our surroundings to show others who we are. It’s all about personal choice. I’ll keep wearing my leggings and you keep wearing a weird extra flap of fabric around your hips.
The second path is a lot more serious because it’s an emblem of the prevalence of body shaming in this society. Leggings are not pants because they are too tight and they show off the curves of the body. They do. I’m not going to disagree with that. People might be uncomfortable wearing something like that, but again, personal choice. You will often see people on this line of reasoning say things like “but only a few people can pull it off!” and what they mean is “only super-skinny people can pull it off!” These are the same people you might see talking about larger people as ‘gross’ or ‘ew’. When you say only thin women (or women you consider sexy) can wear leggings, you reduce us to sexual objects. You expect us to behave according to your evaluation of us as sexual partners. I love sex, but I don’t exist fundamentally as a tool to facilitate it. It’s body-shaming and it’s, at the very core of it, based on this misogynistic idea that women are public property, their bodies existing to give maximum visual sexual pleasure to everyone they encounter.
Barring some unusual circumstances (being presented to the King of Spain for diplomatic credentials, job interviews, uniforms, making a living in the fashion industry), the only person who needs to be pleased when you look in the mirror is you. Are you aghast and horrified because I’m walking around in something that –gasp—makes it impossible to hide that I have some adipose tissue? Don’t look at me! I’m not public property. I don’t exist to please anybody except myself and the people I choose.
There are these things. They’re called bodies. We all have one—only one though. Our bodies are freaking amazing. Just turn on the Olympics for roughly the time it takes Michael Phelps to swim 100 meters and you can see how far the human body can take us. Even we non-Olympians have truly amazing bodies. They come in different shapes and different sizes, but they all do some pretty cool stuff. The human body is a finely evolved machine that has taken us from cave-dwelling finger-painters to walking on the moon. Do me a favor–go stretch, or do some pushups, or just spin in circles with your arms flailing wildly. Close your eyes and focus your mental attention on your body. Think about all the muscles, bones, joints, tendons, nerve and brain chemicals involved in these simple motions. Bodies are awesome; they are not gross, no matter what the shape.
My body has legs on it, which have muscle and a layer of fat, and the area where my legs and my torso join has this thing on a back called a butt. My butt is responsible for me being able to walk, run, climb stairs, dance…everything! It’s also nice to sit on when I’m feeling lazy. I’m going to tell you all a secret, leggings-haters—everybody has a butt. I know, right?! We all have butts! Getting outraged because you can see the shape of someone’s butt through their clothing (which you can do in skinny jeans and anything body-con) is kind of silly when you think about how many butts there are in the world and the fact that we all have one. There are over 6 billion people alive in the world which means there are over 6 billion butts! Some of them might be sexually attractive to you, but if you are going to go through life demanding that the other billions of butts be hidden, well, I doubt that will happen.
It basically comes down to this: if you don’t like something, don’t wear it! If you think it looks ugly, fine, we can agree to disagree. If you think leggings are gross on (non-skinny) people, well, I’m so sorry that you have to share a world with horrible non-skinny people who like the way leggings look. But my body, my choice is about more than abortion, more than birth control. It’s about who I let between my legs, who I let derive sexual pleasure from me. It’s about what I pierce, tattoo or alter. It’s about what I choose to wear. Are leggings inappropriate in some situations? Absolutely! Is it my choice to decide what those are? Absolutely!
A Facebook group called “Leggings Are Not Pants” has over 300K likes, so there must be someone reading who feels this way. Share your opinions in the comments! Alternatively, talk about your favorite leggings and leggings-based outfits!