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A decade of leggings controversy, explained

The years-long debate over whether women should wear leggings in public — and when — is somehow still raging.

As reported by the Washington Post, Maryann White, a woman who identified herself as a Catholic mother of four sons, caused a stir on the University of Notre Dame campus by writing a letter to the editor of the student newspaper. The letter, titled “The legging problem,” expresses her dismay at seeing college students in leggings at Mass on campus last fall. It has many incredible turns of phrase, such as, “I wonder why no one thinks it’s strange that the fashion industry has caused women to voluntarily expose their nether regions in this way,” and, “I thought of all the other men around and behind us who couldn’t help but see their behinds.”

The letter also refers to leggings as “a problem only girls can solve,” and describes the women who wear them as exhibitionists forcing young boys to confront their “blackly naked rear ends.” In advocating that Notre Dame students lead the anti-leggings revolution, White asks, “Could you think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead?”

In response, students at Notre Dame organized a super-casual protest: About one thousand students RSVP-ed to a Facebook event celebrating Leggings Day and agreed to wear leggings to class on Tuesday. PhD student Dani Green told the Washington Post that it was “difficult to tell” who was participating in the protest and who was just wearing leggings because they were wearing leggings. Some students also shared photos of their outfits on Twitter. (This one is actually bike shorts, but point communicated!)

If it all sounds familiar, that’s because the debate about athleisure as pants has popped up dozens and dozens of times. Leggings are never just leggings. Girls and women can never just wear them in peace, and complaints about them can never just be ignored — the extremely old, extremely prolonged conversation about what’s appropriate to wear and what’s appropriate to say about what other people are wearing always seems to become a national news story.

Most fashion bloggers will tell you that leggings first evoked opinions and commentary when they became one of actress and “it girl” Edie Sedgwick’s signature sartorial choices, most notoriously in a Vogue photo shoot in 1965. The quibble there was not that Edie shouldn’t be showing off the shape of her butt, but that she was far too rich and glamorous for sportswear. The 1970s saw a glitzier leggings fad, spearheaded by Olivia Newton-John’s Grease costume and adopted by disco. Then came the 1980s technicolor fitness obsession, and Olivia Newton-John yet again. Leggings never really took a hiatus; they shape-shifted to fit fashion trends throughout the 90s and early aughts. Histories of leggings regularly overlook the role played by mall culture circa 2006 to 2010. Wet Seal leggings were sometimes, like, three for $10? And you wore them under denim skirts or boys’ hoodies. So as to look terrible! This brief phase of super-cheap, often inadvertently see-through leggings was a gold mine for tabloid bloggers, and coincided unfortunately with the brief heyday of “belted dresses on top of jeans.”

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Missing my babies!!!!! P.S. mom shammers it’s not a pacifier, he’s eating candy!

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on Oct 15, 2018 at 5:25pm PDT

But it wasn’t until the rise of athleisure in the United States that there was a true backlash against leggings. Jump-started by the rise of conspicuous exercise and bonkers popularity of high-end yoga brand Lululemon, spurred by the high-fashionization of streetwear and sneaker cults, and solidified by the participation of approximately one in four working celebrities, it’s become the most popular and most lucrative mode of dressing — particularly in the last five years or so. Kate Hudson’s Lululemon competitor Fabletics debuted in 2013, Beyoncé launched her activewear line in 2016, Reebok signed Gigi Hadid last year, just after Adidas stole Kylie Jenner from Puma. This week, Lululemon reported a record quarter, with earnings rising 39 percent year over year, and recent estimates say leggings alone are a $1 billion industry in the US. The first mainstream burst of wearing workout clothes around as non-workout staples, though, was among college-age women, which was a problem for a lot of people.

In 2008, a mysterious group of women started the website Tights Are Not Pants, published free-to-print posters espousing their cause, and wrote an open letter in Glamour addressed to Lindsey Lohan, who had recently worn a pair of sheer tights under a long dress shirt and leather jacket. When they’d started Tights Are Not Pants, the anonymous author wrote, they had been talking about leggings and exaggerating for effect. “Back then, a legging-clad crotch was still appalling. … Those were the salad days.” Nylon ran a print feature about the Tights Are Not Pants movement that spring (sadly no longer available online), and it became regular fare for fashion bloggers. It was also promoted in the Atlantic by Vox’s Matt Yglesias, who now says via Slack that he “disavows those views.”

Around this time, the phrase “Leggings are not pants” started showing up on mass-produced t-shirts and dedicated Facebook groups and rudimentary memes. In 2010, the Huffington Post published a (rather racist) blog post titled “Leggings Are Not Pants,” which advised young black women to think like Michelle Obama instead of Tyra Banks, and to think twice before dressing like an “urban ballerina.” But the first major battleground for the war on leggings was, of course, middle schools and high schools — where adults imbued the workaday fashion choices of pre-teens with sexual significance.

In 2012, Jezebel documented the first few leggings bannings in Canada and Minnesota with its trademark sigh-and-eyeroll: “Ladies, we knew this day would come, we just didn’t know it would take so damn long. Girls are finally getting in trouble for flaunting their curves in … leggings?” In 2013, California junior high principal Emily Dunnagan called an assembly of 450 girls between the ages of 12 and 14 and stressed to them that they were not allowed to wear leggings without a dress or skirt over them. She later told ABC News, “When girls bend in leggings the threads spread and that’s really when it becomes a problem.”

A similar policy was enacted in a middle school in Evanston, Illinois, in 2014, which was brought to national attention after one of the affected students’ mothers wrote an open letter to the principal on Facebook, arguing that dwelling on and picking apart a girl’s clothing choices contributes to rape culture. This was followed by a particularly ridiculous situation in a North Dakota high school: There, an assistant principal illustrated his anti-leggings presentation with clips from Pretty Woman, arguing that leggings are a common uniform for sex workers, and that’s why they should be avoided.

Not every school administrator banned leggings — some demanded that they be worn with a knee-length skirt over them — but all of them seemed to miss the fact that the debate was sexualizing young girls as much as a pair of super-tight leggings does, if not more.

In 2015, a school in Cape Cod banned leggings because it wanted to teach its students to dress professionally (they’re children!), and yet another dress code went viral on Facebook after a Texas high school sent a girl in leggings home for the day. David Moore, a Republican state representative from Montana, made headlines for arguing that “Yoga pants should be illegal in public,” and attempting to redo his states indecent exposure laws to prohibit any clothing that “gives the appearance or simulates” butts, genitals, pelvic areas (?), or women’s nipples.

This was around the same time that a Christian blogger in Oregon went on Good Morning America to talk about her choice to remove “lustful” leggings from her wardrobe — a measure she was taking to protect herself from the ogling of men. It was just before Fox & Friends hosted an “esteemed panel of fathers to determine whether they would let their daughters wear leggings to school.” To his credit, Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson said he is fine with it. Not to his credit, he still participated in the subsequent impromptu on-air game-show, in which women in different styles of gym leggings paraded past the panel and were evaluated on how “appropriate” they looked. The men debated, quite heatedly, which legging fabrics were the worst and which were fine.

Anyway! The semantic debate over whether leggings are pants may never be resolved, but the debate over whether women should make clothing choices while considering the supposedly uncontrollable urges of men really should be by now.

In 2016, a Rhode Island man wrote a letter to his local newspaper about how women over 20 should not wear leggings because they are not flattering. (His letter includes the exclamation “Yuck!” which I actually think is kind of funny.) His neighbors supposedly planned to parade past his house in leggings, but I was unable to find a follow-up story about this event. Even that man was not as annoying as this other man: a South Carolina high school principal who said that only students who were a size 2 or smaller should consider wearing leggings.

All this, of course, is leading to the big one: the Airplane Leggings Incident of 2017.

In March 2017, United Airlines barred two young girls from getting onto an airplane because they were wearing leggings — supposedly in violation of a dress code that the airline wrote specifically for its employees and their children, applicable whenever they’re flying for free under company benefits. This was a whole ordeal. There were dozens of thinkpieces. There were morning show segments. There were attempts by competing airlines to come off as chill and fun by contrast. According to NBC News, the internet “erupted.”

United did not back down, and spokesperson Jonathan Guerin told the New York Times, “We want people to be comfortable when they travel as long as it’s neat and in good taste for that environment.” Midriff shirts and flip-flops are also unacceptable, he said. Activist Shannon Watts live-tweeted United’s treatment of the two girls, which she happened to witness, and pointed out to no avail that the adult man traveling with them was wearing shorts that hit two or three inches above his knee, “and there was no issue with that.”

Flying Delta means comfort. (That means you can wear your leggings. )

— Delta (@Delta) March 27, 2017

In the past few years, teenagers have started to rebel successfully — including at the formerly anti-leggings high school in Evanston — against unfair dress codes, arguing that they are not just sexist but unevenly enforced. In 2018, Monique Morris, author of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, told Vox, “Many dress codes provide the opportunity for adults to police the bodies of Black girls,” adding that administrators lean on racist stereotypes about black girls being more sexual and less feminine than girls of other races. A Georgetown Law study conducted in 2017 also found that dress codes often included subjective language like “revealing” or “tight,” which could be interpreted in a way that over-punishes girls with curvier bodies.

Still, the debate has not died. Every time leggings or yoga pants come up, there appears a need to explain, yet again, that the existence of a woman’s body is not, in and of itself, offensive. This is one of the overlooked burdens of combating misogyny: It is extremely boring, and very repetitive.

By 2018, defending-leggings fatigue was fairly widespread. After a deeply idiotic opinion column about the crime of yoga pants was published in the New York Times that February, Jezebel published a response titled “Hell Yeah, We’re Fighting About Leggings Again,” which opened with, “At least once a year, the Internet erupts into a wild argument about whether or not it’s okay for women to wear leggings. Heads roll, teeth gnash, and Twitter runs blue with mentions.” The NYT op-ed — seemingly written by reporter Flora Zhang under the pseudonym Honor Jones — was titled “Why Yoga Pants Are Bad for Women,” and the Jezebel piece suggested it be retitled “Why Yoga Pants Are Bad For Honor Jones But This Article Is Good For Traffic.”

It’s a conversation we’ve had, at this point, far too many times. And rarely with a wink of acknowledgment that leggings … aren’t even sexy.

serenely reading the NYT yoga pants take, completely unbothered bc my ass looks bad in all sorts of pants

— Brandy Jensen (@BrandyLJensen) February 18, 2018

In a recent history of athleisure, the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson spoke to University of Nevada fashion historian Deirdre Clemente, who told him that leggings as pants are not just about the rise of synthetic fibers or the trend of performative wellness culture, but a century-long journey toward a culture of casual: “One hundred years ago, you would have day clothes for the street, dinner clothes for the restaurant, theater clothes, and so many genres of dress. Those barriers have come down. Athleisure is the ultimate breaking down of barriers.”

Where you stand on leggings may not have anything to do with how you feel about whether women ought to constantly protect men from visual stimulation or whether you personally think they are flattering on others. It may have more to do with how obsessed you are with general propriety.

For the record: I do think wearing leggings to church is slightly rude, just as I thought it was slightly rude when I wore leggings to the Guggenheim last month, and when I met the CEO of the company I work for while wearing a pair of slippers. However, it is much more rude, in almost any situation, to have an extreme emotional reaction to the manner in which someone chooses to cover their butt, and particularly to then express it. This is what inconsequential private thoughts should be: respectfully shrouded. Please, have a modicum of modesty.

Correction: A previously version of this article included a typo that led to misquoting Emily Dunnagan.

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Why Everyone Needs to Stop Saying Leggings Aren’t Pants

I was belly-up on my couch, minding my own business, scrolling through Facebook-engagement announcements, Spring Break pictures, etc.-when I saw a ranty status posted by a friend. In this particular day and age, I’ve gotten pretty used to taking some ~deep breaths~ and clicking away, ignoring whatever said person happens to be bitching about. But this particular one caught my eye. It was blatantly hating on one of my most favorite things: leggings. (If you agree, you’ll love these reasons leggings are the best thing ever invented.)

“Dear New Yorkers…Leggings are not pants,” the post read. “You are outside of your house and you are not wearing pants.”

*Screeching tire sounds.* Legging hater say what?

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I know the parents and grandparents of the world aren’t exactly keen on skin-tight fabric showing the exact outline of their child’s lower body. (Flashback to high school–age me, being told by my mother that, no, I couldn’t go to school in leggings with my butt out for everyone to see. Hi, mom!) But the person who wrote the post-a young guy residing in New York City? I thought he’d be super chill with the whole spandex-counts-as-clothing stuff.

This sent me into a sort of apparel crisis-I thought that, being in the unofficial Age of Athleisure, everyone had silently agreed that leggings are now cool. (Except Kellyanne Conway, of course, who’s not on board.) After all, sneakers and tights are almost as welcome on the street, in the bar, and at the office (depending on the industry, obv) as they are at the gym. As of October 2016, leggings sales were basically overtaking denim sales, and athleisure is even in the freaking dictionary. Are we still debating the State of Leggings the same way we used to debate the whether the world is round or Taylor Swift’s relationship status?

Even the #ShapeSquad-perhaps the most leggings-friendly group of coworkers you’ll ever find-had a smattering of opinions across the Legging Acceptance Scale. Some squad members insisted that butts be covered, others insisted that they’re always a solid choice, and some said they’d never wear them to the office on purpose.

To my shock (and a little dismay, considering leggings are pretty much the only thing I put on my lower body without a fight) I had to accept the fact that the great legging debate is far from over. Thus, I embarked on possibly the most important research ever done in journalism: asking people what they think about stretchy pants.

“The only bad thing I can say about leggings is nothing.”

I went straight to the belly of the beast (Facebook) to get people’s uncensored opinions. A call out to my 2K “friends” found that most millennials are strongly in favor: “The only bad thing I can say about leggings is nothing because leggings are superior to all other pants,” says MacKenzie Baker, a 24-year-old from Pittsburgh. But most millennials agreed that they’re not welcome in the office (understandable). Some endorsed the long shirt + leggings = outfit, while others said even that’s a no-go at work. Nearly all leggings aficionados agree that attention to fabric is key (you know, like the squat test), ensuring that they’re thick, cover everything they should, and are far from see-through. All in all, very fair.

However, anyone older than millennial age was slightly less spandex-friendly; my high school Lit teacher agrees that leggings are the bomb, but only qualify as pants with a long shirt covering the ~goods~, while another mysterious mom I’m friends with (seriously, no mutual friends… not sure how she found my post), says that leggings are, “Very cute . . . on little girls eight years old and under. Not pants. NOT.” Even my cool aunt says “not pants,” and that she supports that finger-length-top rule for pairing with stretchy pants. (You know, like in high school when they measure to see if your skirt or shorts are long enough.) The one exception? My badass, nearly-90-year-old Italian grandma who says, “whatever is comfortable” (and, yes, she knows how to use Facebook).

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My mother (also on team Not Pants) had some valid points about the older generation’s side of the athleisure aisle; she argues that women (including herself) worked hard to gain respect from men in the workplace, and to avoid being seen in a sexualized or objectified light. Maintaining that position includes dressing professionally and modestly, she says. In her opinion, traipsing around in skin-tight mesh-paneled pants is essentially sending women’s social progress backward.

All right, ma-I hear that. But what about the flip side? Women should be able to wear whatever they please and not have to worry about guys being total animals about it, right? Just because men can’t keep their eyeballs in their heads for five seconds doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice our comfort. That’s like saying no one should wear shirts with a pizza picture on it because it’ll make other people hungry. (And there’s more where that came from; the nuance of the feminist + legging argument could be discussed for literal days. Just ask these hundreds of women who recently protested one man’s sexist anti-legging comments in Rhode Island.)

Then I polled the male population, and they confirmed that they are indeed visual creatures and might benefit from leggings more than the wearers themselves: “Nothing like a nice butt in a pair of leggings,” says Ex-Boyfriend Number One. (Because, yes, all great investigative journalism requires talking to your exes and current love interests.)

But hey, we broke up for a reason, so I asked my current love interest the same Q: “The vast majority of girls that wear them are at least in decent or great shape,” he says. “So you have the most desirable girls in society wearing pants that leave little to the imagination.”

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Le sigh. Come on, guys-you had the chance to not be creeps for like one sec. (So, yes, Mom, you’re kind of right. Per usual.) But if dudes love checking out girls’ butts in leggings so much, how do they feel about their girlfriends, wives, or daughters wearing them? If they’re such animalistic beings, does it stoke some protective instinct to not want “their girl” (gag) showing off their bodies for other guys to see?

“I wouldn’t ever think (to myself or out loud) that she should change out of them,” says Ex-Boyfriend Number Two, about the legging-wearing habits of his current GF.

And then he took it one step further, saying, “What would you think if your brother and I wore skin-tight long underwear-type things as pants?” *Squirms uncomfortably in chair.* All right, point taken. But can I add that we also house our reproductive organs inside our bodies, so we’re comparing apples and oranges-er, grapes?-here.

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“Some girls probably shouldn’t wear them.” (Ugh.)

That’s right-there’s a body confidence angle to this, and it’s not just coming from guys; I was just with a female friend who took one look at a curvy woman in plain black leggings and whispered, “Ugh, I hate when people wear leggings as pants.” I looked down at my own Lululemon-covered legs and said, “Um, I’m wearing leggings, and you didn’t say anything.” Her response: “Oh, but they’re fine on you.” Ex-squeeze me?

While I’m totally on the “I work hard for this body so I can show it off if I want to” team, I’m also on the “everyone should feel comfortable wearing whatever they damn well want” team. Maybe this lady isn’t a profesh fitness model, but she’s totally entitled to wear leggings to run errands on a Monday night if she feels like it. What makes any one person more or less worthy of wearing stretchy pants that feel like permanent hugs wrapped around your legs? This is where the leggings debate ends and the body-positivity movement begins-so Imma let #LoveMyShape takeover from here.

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So while there’s a lot in-play here, the consensus of my social network-and the overall takeaway-is that, if you’re concerned with being widely socially acceptable, 1) wearing full-on athletic clothes, 2) a top that covers your butt and lady parts, or 3) making sure your leggings are high quality, are your best bets. But if you want to wear leggings? No one’s stopping you (and plenty support you). If you don’t want to? No worries. There are plenty of other things you can use to cover your lower body.

But let’s bring it back to the core question here: Are leggings pants?

I pressed my mother for more of an argument: “What about wearing them to work out? If you pair them with sneakers, does that magically make it okay?” Her answer: “If all the clothes look like athletic, it seems okay to me.” And my dad agreed, “Unless we are talking a workout scenario, I don’t think they are pants.” But the last time I checked, leggings look the exact same on my body whether I’m at the gym or walking through the grocery store. Flawed logic, people.

Thankfully, Merriam-Webster has the *official* answer: Pants are defined as “an outer garment covering each leg separately and usually extending from the waist to the ankle.”

So, yeah, haters-they’re freakin’ pants.

  • By Lauren Mazzo @lauren_mazzo

“Leggings Aren’t Pants”: A Rant

Okay, I have to bitch about something that has been on my mind lately especially, since it’s winter and I hate wearing jeans: the common refrain among many people (mostly women in my experience) that “leggings aren’t pants.” The takeaway being, if you wear leggings by themselves, without a dress or a shirt long enough to cover them, you are being trashy and committing a major fashion faux pas.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that when it comes to what people are allowed to wear in public, my opinions are really lax. I wouldn’t mind if people walked around totally nude. But that’s another argument for another time, so I’ll just focus on what’s already legally/socially acceptable in this case.

Alright, so humans are not legally (in most places in the U.S.) allowed to show their genitals in public (including breasts). Fine. But how do leggings violate that rule? Unless the people who say leggings aren’t pants and I have two completely different definitions of leggings, I don’t get it. I have multiple pairs of leggings, and none of them are see-through. They’re opaque.

So it can’t be that, right? So what is it then? Is it that they’re tight? I understand that leggings are very tight and not very thick and therefore can sometimes show the (gasp!) outline of a butt, but yoga pants really aren’t much different in that regard, and they’re considered pants. Hell, it’s right in the name. Nobody goes around telling people to wear a dress over their yoga pants.

Is it just that people don’t want to see other people in tight pants in public? Because the “I don’t want to see that” argument is one of the worst and most annoying arguments I’ve ever heard. I see lots of things I don’t want to see while going through life. Dead animals in the streets. Horrible tacky billboards. People in public who appear to be sick. Yet I don’t go around making rules that all dead animals must be removed from the streets immediately and all sick people must stay home until they’re completely better. I accept the fact that, as a person venturing out of my house, I’m bound to see things I’d rather not and that’s just a part of life.

So why don’t we stop making arbitrary rules on what people can wear in public (as long as it doesn’t break some sort of health code) on the grounds that certain looks might make us uncomfortable or grossed out. You don’t like a certain fashion/style/look? Fine. You’d never wear it yourself? Fine. You silently judge people who do wear it? Fine. Just don’t try to turn your opinion into an obligatory social rule by stating it loudly in public or repeatedly in social media, and keep your judgements to yourself. And let the rest of us wear our leggings with our long sleeved t-shirts and be done with it.

edit: okay, so there seems to be a discrepancy regarding the quality of the leggings a person is wearing. Based on a number of comments, some leggings are thin and show a lot of genitals. I haven’t noticed that, but it seems to be common enough. Now I personally don’t care if people show camel toe, butt crack, whatever, but again, that’s a different argument. So first of all, can we acknowledge that some leggings (like fleece lined leggings, for example) really DON’T actually show any genitals (besides butt silhouette), and if so, can someone explain to me what is wrong with wearing leggings like that? Maybe we just need to make a distinction between the different types of leggings…because where I’m standing, leggings are just like tight pants, not like tights or stockings.

edit 2: I’m honestly surprised at a lot of the responses on here. I’m taken aback by the fact that the same subreddit that makes a strong stand against slut and body shaming and defends a woman’s right to have sex w/ anyone she wants and as many people as she wants would turn around and condemn other women’s fashion choices. It seems incongruous to me.

10 Reasons Why Anyone Who Says Leggings Aren’t Pants Is Wrong…

The picture above is the first picture that comes up on Google if you search for, “leggings.” For some reason, in the fashion world there’s currently a battle royale on if they are pants or not and I’d like to tell you that by definition, they are in fact pants.

Pants, noun, a piece of clothing that covers the lower part of the body from the waist to the feet, consisting of two cylinder-shaped parts, one for each leg, that are joined at the top.

Don’t get me wrong, there are people who abuse the system. They live among us. They proudly push their muffin tops and loaf bodies out the door and into the public’s eyes, and that may make many people cringe at the thought of leggings, but there’s another side to the legging world, the backside, if you will, and it’s wonderful.

We’ve all seen young men wear pants around their knees, but they’re still pants (but seriously, pull them up, you look like an idiot), are they not? We’ve all seen the too-tight-for-your-own-good t-shirts, but… it’s still a shirt. So, with leggings, are they really doing anything outside the ordinary? Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

#1 I once saw an ass in leggings stop a war. Are you against leggings or pro-war?

#2 Skinny jeans. I mean, who are we kidding? At this point, skinny jeans have taken over the world for guys AND girls, what’s the big difference between the two? I mean, I don’t agree with guys wearing skinny jeans, for any reason, but I’ll fight to the death for their right to wear them!

#3 You’ve seen an ass in leggings that made you want to be a better person, admit it.

#4 Audrey Hepburn. She wore leggings way before you thought you were doing something new and exciting. Are you seriously going to argue with an icon?!?!? Who do you think you are, Kanye West?

Aubrey Hepburn… you can’t argue with that.

#5 Have you ever heard anyone say anything good about sweatpants? Specifically, an ass in sweatpants? Let me answer that for you, no. Sweatpants are made for home, behind closed doors, where no one will judge you, leggings are made for everywhere else.

#6 In 1989 a pair of leggings helped bring down the Berlin Wall… So, you’re arguments against them are no longer valid.

Leggings helped take down the Berlin Wall in 1989.

#7 There are ass men and there are breast men. Leggings are the reason ass men wake up in the morning, the reason we, yes we, take the long way to work in the morning, and the reason we get prescription glasses.

#8 Truth be told, I have no idea who the people below are, but the Internet told me that they’re famous, which means, leggings are okay for regular people. I don’t care who you are, that’s science.

Famous people do it, so it’s okay.

#9 I believe that fashion is all about going against the norm and making something exciting, so… when you have groups of upwards of 350,000 on Facebook saying something isn’t okay… you’re probably on the cusp of something amazing.

Leggings are NOT pants: Jealousy Society

#10 Most arguments are born from jealousy, am I right? If you think you should wear leggings, it’s probably because you can. This is America, you have the right to wear whatever you want. Hell, in New York, women can go topless. No, seriously… Why shouldn’t you wear some leggings in public?

So, as we’ve discussed here, we’ve found that leggings have stopped wars, took down walls, were cool far before you put them on, and men love them. Don’t listen to the jealous girls who tell you they’re not pants. You keep wearing them leggings and continue turning heads, wherever you go!



The age-old question that every girl struggles with at some point in her life: are leggings pants? According to Merriam-Webster, pants can be defined as “an outer garment covering each leg separately and usually extending from the waist to the ankle.” Hmm…sounds like leggings fit that description to me, so can we end this debate now? Leggings are clearly here to stay!

However, I should make it clear that if these leggings are see-through, although they may still meet the definition of pants, they should not be worn as pants, come on now, use some common sense. And tan leggings…cuz those are just weird.

2. At least when people bend over in leggings, you don’t run the risk of seeing everything exposed like you could in jeans.

4. Jeans are almost impossible to move in, how can they be qualified as pants?

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Leggings @fashionnova The colour of my soul ? • • • • • #novababe #novababes #blackonblack #allblackoutfit #lycra #lycraleggings #leggingsarepants #legginglove #blackleggings #comfortcolors #comfortiskey #comfyclothes #casualoutfit #casualoutfits #casualfashion

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5. The definition of “pants” does not specify that they have to be a certain fabric, therefore, leggings count.

7. Like, you can wear nice leggings to work or when you go out…but you definitely could not wear sweatpants.

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A post shared by Katelyn Ribero (@thekatelync) on Jan 22, 2019 at 12:54pm PST

9. You can wear them to the gym and they count as pants there…

12. Besides, if you get distracted by how fitted leggings are, you should probably reevaluate your life.

13. Leggings don’t cause camel toe because they’re not pants; they cause camel toe because you’re not wearing underwear.

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17. Like, leggings are pants with built in spanks.

19. Audrey Hepburn wore them.

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How to Wear Leggings: Are They Pants…or Not?

Source: Fabulous After 40

It’s a classic debate, hotly contested for what seems like forever (or at least since the 80s): Are leggings pants? Many women who have slipped on stretchy, skin-hugging, oh-so-comfortable leggings would love to tell you they are, but just as many others will declare it a cardinal fashion sin.

Need some more fashion advice to keep on top of the trends? Here’s how to wear jogger pants, 8 ways to wear white even after Labor Day, and our denim styling tips. Just remember, comfort and confidence are key!

If you’re on the fence about the great leggings debate, here are some occasions where it’s 100 percent appropriate to swap out sturdier fabrics like denim or wool for a pair of formfitting leggings:

  • Any type of physical activity
  • Lounging around the house
  • Traveling (comfort is key!)

On the flip side, here are some situations where leggings can be a serious fashion faux pas:

  • Professional settings
  • With a too-short top
  • Too-clingy or nearly see-through material
  • When they aren’t able to keep everything where it should be

That being said, there are exceptions to these rules! Here’s how to wear leggings and look fabulously fashionable doing it!

Leggings at work? You bet!

Lyssé Faux Leather Leggings from Nordstrom: $108

Leggings can be worn in a professional setting if they’re styled correctly. A long-length tunic, sweater, or dress shirt layered over leggings can easily portray a chic, polished vibe. A more luxe fabric like the faux leather of these leggings from Nordstrom can help up the style factor.

Score a great deal on these leggings and other fab finds with Nordstrom coupon codes!

As one happy customer noted, “They actually don’t seem like leggings at all; they are more like pants which is exactly why they’re amazing — especially since I’m not a leggings fan!” Just keep in mind that leggings are much more clingy than your typical work pants, so cover up from at least the mid-thigh to preserve your decency.

Leggings that look like pants

Mixit Corduroy Leggings from JCPenney: $23.80

If you’re not a fan of the legging/long shirt combo, leggings can be worn with shorter tops – provided they’re the right kind of legging. Many leggings actually have pant-like features, like corduroy leggings from JCPenney, which feature a faux fly and pockets but still offer all the comfort of your favorite stretchy pants.

Stay on top of the best clothing sales with JCPenney coupons.

Leggings with pant-like details also make leggings more appropriate for all ages, as this customer commented: “Love these pants. Very comfortable and warm for winter. The thicker corduroy fabric helps make wearing a legging type pant feel more appropriate for a middle age woman.”

Invest in durable legging fabrics

Michael Kors Pull-On Leggings from Macy’s: $69.50

Because of their stretchy fabric and formfitting silhouette, leggings tend to wear out more quickly than other pants. If you spot a hole or notice the fabric is thinning, kiss those leggings goodbye.

Grab this pair of leggings (and maybe a few more) and save with Macy’s coupon codes.

Another option is to invest in a more durable pair of leggings, like this pair from Macy’s. Made from a thick cotton, polyester, and elastane blend, they’ll provide full coverage (and no Visible Panty Line or “VPL”) for many a wear.

Leggings come with “control tops”

Apt. 9 Tummy-Control Ponte Leggings from Kohl’s: $19.99

Finally, leggings have often been cited for lacking the structure of say, a pair of jeans. But designers have responded by releasing more “control top” styles of leggings for everything from fitness to work wear to jeggings (or “jean leggings”).

Save on your next purchase with Kohl’s promo codes!

These fabulously priced leggings from Kohl’s are made from ponte, a rayon, polyester, and spandex blend that’s a popular pick for leggings for its comfort and stretch. Tightly woven, this durable fabric is perfect for cooler weather and can help hold you in where you need it most — look for an extra wide waistband for a bit more tummy control.

The proof is in the reviews: “I love the way they feel as they are not thin like some other leggings. Love the tummy control as the waist is nice and high which you can’t see when wearing a long top with them.”

It would appear then, that leggings can be worn as pants, provided you pick the right style and fabric for your body type and situation. With hundreds of colors, patterns, fabrics, and cuts to choose from, there’s sure to be a pair of leggings that belongs in your wardrobe out there!

When I started college four years ago, my closet was full of awesome dresses, leather flats, and blazers. I wanted my look to be a Bacall-meets-Annie-Hall hybrid, complete with femininity and gumption.

After a few short weeks, though, I felt that slipping away. The modern college girl uniform of yoga pants, Nikes, and oversize T-shirts was cementing itself in my wardrobe. Suddenly, I found myself reaching for my brother’s old soccer sweatshirt a few times a week while my tailored skirts collected dust.

Athleisure—the trend of wearing pieces usually reserved for the gym as everyday clothes—is everywhere now. Last year, after avoiding the growing trend for many seasons, J.Crew caved and introduced a New Balance collaboration into its stores. Lululemon, a popular brand amongst coeds, sells workout leggings for upward of $100 per pair, yet the company continues to report impressive sales growth and the ability to raise prices despite competition. London-based Sweaty Betty only just opened its first brick-and-mortar stateside in 2013 but plans to continue adding eight to ten stores per year to meet U.S. demand. Nike announced last week that it will now sell directly through Amazon, marking a big milestone for both companies. Morgan Stanley predicts that athleisure sales will double by 2020, making it the fastest-growing market in apparel.

From moms to young professionals, the typical wardrobe has changed. But nowhere is this trend so popular and immortalized as on the college campus. I could blame it on the 8 a.m. classes and the essay-writing all-nighters, but the truth is that athletic wear dominates the college scene not purely because of laziness, as one might think, but because, like any trend, it’s part of the culture. Even I, someone who prided herself on personal style, found myself falling into the mindset that I thought I left behind in high school: Everyone’s doing it, so I should, too.

The clothes are easy to toss on and can—literally—double as pajamas. I barely had to think about what I was putting on. I had no concern over wrinkles or coordinating a look. Yoga pants and T-shirts don’t require much forethought. The challenges to mix patterns and textures were no longer applicable.

One day I looked in the mirror, and I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I remember looking out at a crowd of girls and seeing that we all looked the same: black leggings, hair in a messy bun, Starbucks coffee in hand. What had happened to me?

I felt a little ashamed. My style had always been an intentional reflection of my personality. What happened to my days of wearing custom-made pants from a 1920s pattern or silk wrap skirts made in India? As I looked at my wardrobe full of yoga pants and hoodies, I made the decision then and there to never wear them or any athletic wear items out in public again—unless I was actually going to work out. No more looking like a clone. No more dressing a certain way just because. I had fallen into my new unkempt look far too easily, and I was determined to come out of it just the same.

At first, it was hard to commit to a more intentional approach to dressing, and it required me to get up earlier in the morning or prepare my outfits ahead of time. As I adjusted to the change, though, I started rediscovering all the things I loved about my unique style. Statement flats; tailored, feminine menswear; gold accessories; sleek dresses—I was reclaiming my identity that had been momentarily lost in a sea of spandex.

My style journey made me realize the powerful connection between the external and internal. As I got dressed every day with intention, I felt more energized throughout the day. When I wore an outfit that didn’t include anything with the word “sweat” in it, I felt awake and alert for longer periods of time. I sat up straighter and was less likely to notice my eyes fluttering or head nodding during work and school hours. Most importantly, I began to feel more confident in my abilities to pursue a career. Fellow students and professors began to take me more seriously in the classroom. I was quite literally embodying who I wanted to be with my clothes, allowing me to confidently pursue my dreams. When I pictured myself achieving my career goals, I didn’t envision myself in leggings—I saw myself as a modern Lois Lane, in a sleek 1940s-inspired pencil dress and pumps.

While I don’t fault anyone for wearing athleisure, I would love to see us return to the art of getting dressed. Sure, athletic wear is comfy, but it has also become a cop-out. It takes the fun out of getting dressed and doesn’t allow for an exploration of how personal style can positively impact your life. As Deirdre Clemente, preeminent twentieth-century American culture historian and fashion scholar at UNLV, told the Washington Post, “On sort of the world stage, where American culture is so prominent, many countries emulate the way people in the United States dress, and that’s almost inevitably more casually than the way people dress in those places. The version of casual elsewhere, in Europe especially, it just never gets as down and dirty as the American version.” While the athleisure trend is supposedly here to stay, maybe it’s time to reevaluate just how much we partake.

So don’t toss your sweatpants and comfy T-shirts just yet; keep them, but perhaps mix in pieces that will make you feel truly beautiful in a way poly-blend joggers and zip-ups usually don’t. Spend a little time getting dressed, and watch how much it changes your day. My personal journey away from everyday athletic wear has resulted in more freedom of self-expression. I am not beholden to the trendy norm; instead I am able to share who I am with others through the unique outfits I wear.

Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle

from short trips to traveling the world & living abroad

A few days ago a Facebook friend shared an interesting article:

“Leggings are NOT pants: Qatar puts its foot down with dress code as it launches advertising campaign reminding female tourists what not to wear”
Read full article here >>

Qatar is a strict Islamic country and the fact that it, with many Qatari women covered head-to-toe, now asks for some modesty from its foreign visitors comes as no surprise to me.

But, I have lived in a strict Islamic country myself. I spent most of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 in the Maldives.

Living in the Maldives as a Non-Muslim Expat

“The Maldives? A strict Islamic country?” you may well wonder but yes, it is. They use Sharia law (also referred to as Islamic law) and the constitution demands every citizen to be a Muslim.

In the Maldives, similar to Qatar, foreigners are not forced by law (yet) to cover themselves. The only thing you aren’t allowed to wear on inhabited islands in the Maldives, which is very clearly indicated on some of the beaches, is a bikini. That alone I found annoying enough though; swimming with your clothes on, not being allowed to change into something dry afterwards… but you are a guest in their country so you have to follow their rules. Resort islands count as uninhabited islands by the way (even though a large part of the staff actually lives there permanently) and therefore none of the Maldivian rules apply… thankfully.

Women in capital city Malé would always dress modestly but not all would wear a headscarf and only a few would wear a niqab. I normally made sure I’d wear something that covered my knees and shoulders and show no cleavage.

Since I’m not one for wearing mini-skirts anyway it wasn’t hard to find appropriate outfits. But, being a stubborn Westerner and with temperatures of normally over 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), I would sometimes just feel like wearing shorts or a slightly more airy shirt. And since I didn’t have to cover my knees and shoulders by law… why wouldn’t I wear what I felt like? Because it makes life harder. I soon found that out.

As a pale, blond foreigner I was stared at and had to deal with occasional comments anyway ranging from an overly friendly ‘hello beautiful’ to a not so friendly ‘hey sexy bitch’. But when I decided to wear shorts (simple, sporty, definitely not too short shorts) it seemed to get worse. Everywhere I had to walk felt twice as far away. The constant staring, comments, men looking at me as if I was the scum of the earth… I know I should be able to ignore it (I have traveled enough, try men in Latin America, they can be annoying and a lot more aggressive at it!) but I couldn’t ignore it. And so I’d cover up again.

Choosing your wardrobe is not the only thorny issue in the Maldives though. Away from the resorts, the sale and consumption of alcohol is forbidden, as are pork products so forget about that bacon sandwich idea. While I was living there it became illegal to dance with someone of the opposite sex and if you are thinking of bringing your pooch, forget it… dogs are also illegal!

The Maldives are some of the most amazingly beautiful islands on Earth. Living in the Maldives, however, will quickly show you it’s not quite life in paradise… Combine that with the aftermaths of a coup when I was there and you have a truly interesting travel experience!

The aforementioned article also shows a leaflet issued as part of this campaign in Qatar stating:

“Whoever makes any gesture, recites songs, utters indecent phrases, or does any obscene act by any means in or near any public place shall be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, and with a fine not exceeding three thousand Riyals or with any of these penalties.”

So does that mean kissing your boyfriend will get you sent to jail? I guess it might…

Thankfully nothing like that happened when I was living in the Maldives. That is, to us expats that didn’t happen. I do remember that while I was there the court sentenced a 17 year-old boy to four months in prison after he kissed his 16 year-old girlfriend in a court waiting room… Is that insane? Should we judge? Can we judge? Or should we just respect the law and the court of the country we are in even if we don’t agree with it? I don’t know…

But I do know one thing: we are free to choose the countries we travel to and the countries we decide to work in as an expat. And maybe a country where something as innocent as kissing your partner could send you to jail is one of those countries that won’t offer an ideal lifestyle.

I’m thankful that I get to choose and walk away from countries whose systems I don’t believe in… Too bad it’s a completely different story for most of its citizens.

I sat in the backseat of my parents Honda—age six—offended by the argument my nine-year-old sister had written out for my parents:

“Why I Should Be Able to Wear Pants to Synagogue: An essay by Sara Friedlander.” It was perfectly executed. “First, they’re not jeans, but made from velvet,” she began, “therefore they are fancy.” She wanted to wear a pair of deep purple, elastic waist leggings to shul instead of our usual knee length black dresses. “Second, it’s 1993 and women and men should be equal. My dad, Lee Friedlander, wears pants to synagogue so I should be able to as well.” It was a work of elementary-age egalitarian advocacy, and I could not for the life of me understand it. I lived for my patent leather mary jane flats, faux pearl necklace (hey, I was six!), and fancy dress. Leggings? Not. Chic.

Years later, when I was accepted to boarding school, I was thrilled to learn I had a dress code: collared shirts and no jeans. “We must go to Ralph Lauren immediately, mom!” My mother was excited I had gotten into a respectable high school with a strong academic curriculum; my excitement stemmed from the fact that I was headed for a school that did not allow pajamas to be worn to class. At my last school, my peers wore baggy sweatpants to English and math and seemed to relish it. Some proudly wore their father’s scrubs. And on standardized testing days, it was a complete free-for-all.

I, on the other hand, maintained my tailored look: well fitted jeans when I was feeling casual with a blazer. At age 12. From the Brooks Brothers children’s section. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always favored dressier clothes.

Karl Lagerfeld once reportedly opined “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” I do tend to agree—there’s a sense of defeat and of not-caring that clings to this type of clothing. When I see people leave their houses in the morning to grab a cup of coffee still in last night’s sweats, I wonder why they simply couldn’t throw on a boyfriend jean and a sweater.

Fashion, even the most everyday variety, should be about imagination. One of the reasons I love working in this industry and flipping through the pages of magazines like ELLE is for all the incredible clothing, most of which I’ll never own: embellished Valentino gowns, wide leg trousers by The Row, intentionally tattered Proenza Schouler jackets. Celebrities, of course, are the ones who will wear these clothes on the red carpet and off. When they wear them, they give us a glimpse of what it’s like to have such access to these pieces.

Which is why I scratch my head when I see them opting to wear leggings as pants instead of, well, pants as pants.

There are times, of course, when leggings are appropriate. When going to the gym, leggings and sweatpants of any kind are totally okay. I personally own a pair of leggings from American Apparel that I wear on airplanes and consider to be a sort of safety blanket. I’ve heard that when pregnant, leggings are a savior, although I cannot personally attest to that.

But leggings with high heels? Leggings with a blazer? Leggings, just because? And leggings on celebrities, the very people we rely on to preserve some of the fantasy of fashion? Why?

Why not opt for a black jean if you’re going for a fitted pant look? Or a baggy boyfriend cut, if a cozy cut is what you desire! There are plenty of options that keep you looking chic and buttoned up.

But please, and yes, Kendall, I’m speaking to you: Your body is amazing, and yes, you look fucking great in leggings in a way that most mortals cannot. But with designers like Olivier Rousteing, Nicolas Ghesquière, and even Karl Lagerfeld himself begging to dress you, why not go with some real pants?

Ruthie Friedlander Deputy Editor As the deputy editor of, Ruthie supports all content, with a close focus on all things tech related as well as sponsored content.

That’s not an uncommon view in America’s cubicle farms. But I would argue that tights are better than pants. Working in leggings is approximately 400 times more comfortable than working in literally any other garment. I sit for at least 10 hours every day. Sitting for that long is not comfortable in regular pants. The waist band digs in, the legs ride up, and, depending on how long in the pelvis you are, the crotch gets more intimate with you than is common on Tuesday afternoons.

Read: How jeans got weird

All of this led me to wonder: Is it okay for me, or any woman, to wear these puppies to the office regularly, or what? I don’t mean the leggings that are made to look like dress pants—though that’s basically all women’s dress pants these days, and we’ll get to those later. I mean leggings, the kind you wear to yoga or to the couch when you’re hungover. I mean nothing but a thin layer of spandex between your butt and the conference-room chair, supporting you as you talk about synergies.

My office dress code says nothing on the subject, so I decided to ask around. It turns out you can—but it’s fraught.

Leggings sauntered into our lives in the second half of the 20th century. The concept came from the dance world (think ballerina outfits), and by the 1950s, cool girls at Barnard were hanging out downtown in black tights and oversized men’s sweaters, says Deirdre Clemente, a historian at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas who focuses on American fashion in the 20th century. Leggings made headway in the aerobics-crazed 1980s, when synthetic-fiber technology became more sophisticated. By the 2000s, they’d taken off in tandem with yoga.

Once they started showing up in offices, however, the outcry began. Work is one of the most sartorially conservative places for women. It’s long been thought that women shouldn’t look too sexy in the workplace, and leggings … well … they show your butt. Before leggings, says Linda Przybyszewski, a history professor at the University of Notre Dame, there were controversies over cleavage and midriffs. The ’70s brought complaints about women wearing sheer blouses, and back in the ’30s there was consternation over sleeveless tops.

The other place where leggings are deemed unacceptable today: church. After a mother wrote a letter to the editor of the student newspaper at Notre Dame, pleading with leggings-wearers to “think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead,” Slate’s Ruth Graham explained how leggings have long been controversial in several faith communities. Graham herself admitted that she rarely wears leggings out of the house. Again, because they show your butt. (One common leggings workaround is wearing a long sweater or shirt to mask the butt.)

In an informal internet poll performed by the Society for Human Resource Management this year, 90 percent of the 9,000 respondents said leggings violate their office dress code. I conducted my own small survey too, sending out a Google form through social media that asked for women’s experiences wearing leggings to work. The 50-some responses spoke to how much thought women put into how they’re perceived at work, and how even the elasticity of one’s pants can be seen as a career obstacle. Women feared that leggings would make them look unprofessional or too sexy. One 22-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her job, said her boss once said leggings made her look “young.” Another woman was told she looked “cozy.”

Leggins are not pants

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