Leggings Are Not Pants (and other fashion fugly trends)

Welcome back, everyone! To start off, I’d like to say that I love an open dialogue. I may be one opinionated bitch, but I am always willing and able to change my opinion should someone present a well thought out and founded counter-argument. So if you are just someone looking to rant at the minutia…get a life. If you want to actually comment or discuss a topic, you can join me on twitter @DannOpinions.

In the past few years, personal style vs. appropriate style has been a relevant conversation at the forefront of many a newsfeed. We seem to have hit a point as a society where no one accepts that there are any rules governing behavior or fashion. Some have called it the “Me, Me, Me” Generation; an age of people refusing to do anything to conform to anything that stands at odds with their perceived views or to do anything simply because they were told to. God forbid you tell anyone to do anything anymore. Even if you are their boss or employer, many people rally behind the staff member instead of the employer’s right to dictate how their business is perceived via their employed staff.

This brings us to “legging gate” (Tada!). To sum it up, two girls were barred (until they changed) from flying on free employee tickets with United Airlines due to being inappropriately dressed. Some of you are already preparing your inner monologues and rants. Are you already getting ready to be pissed at me? Probably. That’s fine but listen anyway. The reason you are getting a little angry is because you wear leggings. And if that’s not the case, then you are turning the case of leggings into a feminist issue, and getting angry over that. Either way, in my opinion, and that of many people, you are misguided. So get angry! But it doesn’t make you right. You are still gonna be wrong.

Let’s break down this example situation (United Flight), and then I’ll extrapolate as to what is actually at play here. First, United Airlines is a service. A non-essential service. Not a right. This means you purchase a ticket, and they can offer the service or refund your money. It also means they have a right to control the behavior and attire of their passengers (within reason and only if they choose to) and staff. Many restaurants and clubs, for example, have dress codes directed primarily at male clientele offering admittance only if he is properly dressed. Also, most of you will remember seeing those signs on the doors of stores along almost any international beach boardwalk: “no shirt, no shoes, no service.” Where are all the crusaders falling on their swords over these dress codes or signs? (insert crickets here) You all have no problem forcing guys on the beach to put a shirt on before entering a store, but if a woman is forced to put pants on before boarding a free flight as an airline representative, god forbid! The entire Internet goes ape shit! “It’s sexist” – “Misogyny!” – “How dare they tell any woman how to dress!” – “Body Shaming! Body Shaming! Body Shaming!” etc. etc. etc. ad ignorant nauseum. Don’t let yourself get distracted by people trying to turn this into a sexist issue. It’s really not. There are sexists involved in it, but at its root, it’s an issue of appropriate attire vs. inappropriate attire.

The main issue at play in this situation is the fact that the girls in question were flying on company employee benefit tickets. NOT REGULAR PASSENGERS! No regular paying passengers were asked to change their crappy clothing choices before boarding. They were flying free as guests of an employee which means they are guests of the airline and subject to the dress code of the United Airlines employee handbook. Though the handbook doesn’t explicitly exclude leggings, it does offer guidelines to employees and leaves a lot of the decision-making as to what is deemed appropriate attire up to the ticket agent. This allows certain variations on a theme, cause not all leggings are made equal. Thin or nude leggings for example. Anyway, in this case, it meant no leggings as pants. Sorry girls, change or actually pay for your flight like everyone else. Those are the options. You want free shit? Jump through the hoops. You wanna do whatever you want? Pay for that right. Sounds simple right? Should be.

It’s pretty clearly cut that United Airlines was well within their right to denying boarding of two girls wearing undergarments or workout wear as pants while flying on free tickets and representing the airline. How many men in a similar position were denied boarding because they were wearing leggings or sweatpants (the more common male equivalent to leggings)? No one knows. Why? Sweatpants are loose for starters, and no one will come to a guy’s defense to wear sweatpants if he was told it was inappropriate. You haven’t heard of it, cause I’m right. No one would run to his defense. And yet somehow it becomes a feminist issue when the same situation arises for women. I’m sure this is not what the suffragettes had in mind when they took to the streets banging their pots. “We want the right to wear skintight vagina hugging pants in public and for us to have control over your opinions of us while doing so to be an inalienable right!” Really? That’s worth hanging yourself on? Forget equal pay. Forget maternity leave. Forget birth control. Forget abortion. Forget body autonomy. Leggings! That’s where it’s at ladies! Fight for your right for leggings and distract the world from real issues affecting you! Hurry! Now! Don’t miss the boat! Or flight in this case. And to be clear, I’m not ignorant that the fury surrounding this case was peripheral to the issue of women’s bodies being regulated. This is not the same thing. This is about appropriate vs. inappropriate clothing, which still applies.

Do you even know the history of leggings? In the 18th century, they were a male undergarment. NOT a women’s one. Later in the 19th century, they referred to the tight leg wear of babies or of trappers and soldiers. In about 1960s, with the rise of Lycra, they were the attire of acrobats. In the 70s and 80s, they became workout wear for both men and women and have slowly crept into street wear. So to start off, when you are fighting for the right to wear leggings, you are fighting for an 18th century men’s undergarment to be acceptable women’s street wear when it’s not even acceptable for men to wear. Just so we are clear. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, as jeans were once the attire of the blue-collar laborer and are now even sometimes couture. Things change. But when certain things come about, we have to look objectively at them and think: is this a good change, a neutral change, or a bad change?

Now I don’t hear anyone fighting for men’s rights to wear leggings. In fact, most of the criticism of men in any form of Lycra pants (bicycling gear, aerobic gear, etc.) comes from women and the fact that unless he’s wearing a cup, male genitalia looks like a bird that’s been squished to death by a Lycra cocoon. Tweet…tweet…smother. It’s not a great look. Dancers pull it off because they are wearing something called a “dancer’s belt,” which is basically a jockstrap. Plus they have thighs that can crush walnuts. Anyway, I digress. Most men don’t pull off leggings. But guess what? Most women don’t pull them off either! Most of you look like a two-day old sausage desperately trying to swell out of its wrapper. (insert chant here: “Body Shaming! Body Shaming!”…but I bet you giggled at the smothered bird comment – check your double standard) The male genitalia may look like he’s shoved a dead bird in his pants, but women’s are no better in leggings. I don’t care how amazingly thick your leggings are, you are flashing some vajayjay. Is that any better? Flashing your taco to the world is a right? Fine. I’m game. Go for it. But just like it’s your right to do so, it’s my right to think you look sloppy and trashy. Also, I am not alone. There are an equal number of both men and women who agree with me.


To be fair, I think it’s equally appalling to see men in sweatpants. I like seeing the dangling fruit in the front as they walk, probably just like straight guys and lesbians enjoy looking at a fantastic woman’s ass in leggings. It’s one thing if s/he is jogging, or working out, or the like. It’s another thing if you are in a fine dining restaurant and someone lowers the entire experience for everyone else by looking like they are preparing to do squats. Clothing is designed with particular functions in mind. That’s a great thing! Leggings are a fundamental part of any modern woman’s wardrobe, just like sweatpants are for men. No one wants you to NEVER wear or own them. But unlike sweatpants, the clue for their function isn’t listed in their title. Sweatpants = sweating. If you are not sweating why are you wearing workout wear guys? You look like a tool. Leggings seem to have gotten a pass as they are also used under dresses, long sweaters, and the like as leg coverings. All of the legging looks can look great, but like I notoriously stated once on my radio program (much to body shaming outrage): “spandex is a privilege not a right.” Leggings, same deal.

Then with the advent of yoga pants (strategically with the word pants in their moniker), women are emboldened to wear them as pants even though they’ve never been to a fucking yoga class in their life. At least with yoga pants, you are less likely to have enough front bum showing to hold your keys while you search through your purse for loose change. We are all thankful for that. Maybe not my Uncle George, but ok, most people are thankful for that. And trust me, you don’t want to dress to impress Uncle George.

As one of the greatest fashion designers of all time (and an incredibly funny character), Karl Lagerfeld infamously said: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” It’s pretty true if you are honest. I know that when I put on my sweats (which I do EVERYDAY for the record), I’m either going to workout or I’ve given up on my day. I’m done. Pass the check, it’s time to go. I’d challenge any woman who thinks that leggings are a right, to project that same right on men in leggings or sweatpants. Do you like the way the world looks? Maybe the idea of everyone else giving up makes you feel less like you are the only one? Is that a reason for a fashion trend? So we can all give up on looking good together? Really? Is that what it has come to?

I had an equal response when Crocs came about as a trend. They looked like those rubber shoes Strawberry Shortcake dolls used to come with but surprisingly with less style. And then Uggs arrived. I mean the clue is totally in their name. Ugggggggg! Don’t you want to look your best? Don’t you want to present a well-polished image to the world? Maybe you never have so you don’t realize that people will treat you completely differently depending on how you are dressed. Why? People care about people who care about themselves. Our attire (along with hygiene and other things) is one of the ways our society judges how we care for ourselves. For good or bad, it’s true. You are ALL guilty of it. All of you! Male or female. We all judge other people by their clothing.

My day-to-day job is as an image consultant. That means I basically style people and help them present their best selves through how they are perceived. One of the first lessons I teach any of my clients as far as wardrobe is concerned is that clothing has a function as well as a style. If it is not serving its function, it better win you over with its style. Let’s face it, leggings and sweats DO NOT! Walking around seeing moose knuckles and camel toes all over town like it was the Ringling Circus is not a winning style choice. I don’t want to be able to see inside you while I sip my macchiato. Close the clam ladies and cover up the dead bird guys.

One of the best moments I remember about leggings was about a decade ago in a diner. Not a glamorous establishment, so I expect to see some people decked out in their least fashionable “fashion.” There was a table of new suburban moms, what I call the Lululemon Army, pushing their urban attack strollers all over town and pretending that walking to the corner for a bite to eat was actually a workout. They were gabbing. Nothing wrong really with any of that, except those totally ignorant giant strollers. You are not the only people here, and why is your stroller 10 times larger than your baby? What happened to the umbrella strollers of my mother’s era? Oh yeah! Courtesy is dead. It’s me me me and only me now. That’s why those urban attack strollers are becoming an issue in cities on public transit and in restaurants because no one cares about another person’s enjoyment of a space. Respect is secondary to our experience. First myself, and if there is anything left, you can have it.

I digress and clearly hate those strollers. Anyway, the ladies were at the table next to me and I had to sit sideways to enable room for the 3 attack strollers. That wasn’t even the most interesting part. A man came in from a bike ride and went straight to the takeout counter. He was sweating and wearing a helmet and bike shorts. The ladies all began talking about how inappropriate it was for him to be dressed like that. Basically, they were saying that he should be ashamed of his body! Cover it up! There are children present! We can see the outline of his dick and it seemed the world came to a halt for these ladies, and not in a positive way. The irony of the situation is that all of the ladies who were bad mouthing the guy who’s attire was actually being used appropriately (ie. workout wear for working out) were all wearing their leggings as pants. Clearly not intending to workout as most people I know remove their diamonds before working out, they still had the self-righteous reaction of criticizing the man and his body while they hypocritically sat their in leggings hugging every inch of their momginas. I guess outrage over body shaming only goes in one direction. Worst part was the guy was actually appropriately dressed for his activity and the self-righteous women were not.

This isn’t to say that when you see men in sweats or bike shorts it’s always appropriate. So many guys wear sweatpants as pants. THEY ARE FOR SWEATING GUYS! It’s not a gender issue for me. It’s an appropriate attire issue. I just don’t hear a lot of people advocating for the “right” of guys to dress in workout wear outside of working out. I mean we all like looking at whatever gender we find attractive if they are pulling off an active wear look. It can be really sexy! But in order for that to be the case, an activity must be present. Otherwise, it’s basically underwear. If you look like a dump truck guys and gals, people will treat you like one. Maybe that’s harsh. Maybe it shouldn’t be the case, but I’m not here to debate the morality of appropriate attire. It’s simply true. Maybe one day we will get to a place where walking around naked isn’t even frowned upon. Maybe we won’t. I know that personally I adore being naked. Does that mean I should be allowed to be naked in public? If you tell me ‘no’ are you body shaming me? Is the human form something to be ashamed of? See, it’s a rabbit hole and someone has to point out where it starts. Maybe there are too many personality types out there to appease with our attire that we still need norms of social decorum. Leggings as pants outside their useful function (active wear or underwear) should be reserved for when you’ve given up on your day. Lounging at home. Dropping the kids off at school. Camping. Jogging. You get the idea. Basically, the more comfortable the clothing is, usually the more informal it is.

It’s funny because everyone I talk to about this basically agrees that leggings (or sweats when talking to guys) as pants look like crap on 99% of the population wearing them, but so many still argue because THEY want to wear them. Why? “But they are so comfy!” Really? Women have all the choices when it comes to clothing. Pants, skirts, dressed, flats, heels…there is literally no male outfit without a female version plus all the gender specific ones reserved exclusively for women and denied to men. Just look at the men’s vs. the women’s departments in clothing stores. Women’s clothing takes up 75% or more of the floor and window space. Half the time, the women’s mannequins are all characterized by hair or makeup or body pose or something giving them personality, but the men’s mannequins are basically faceless clothing hangers. Why? No need to appeal to a man’s need for individuality because there is barely such a thing when it comes to what’s available for him to dress in. But women have an endless choice! Then why hang yourself on leggings? A maxi dress is a 1000x more comfy than leggings (and yes I know from experience). It’s basically a muumuu with more style. You will also feel WAY slimmer in looser fitting clothing. Also, a maxi dress looks fucking fierce! Fierce on almost every body type, too! Yet, why are you all wearing leggings? Is clam on the menu?

You may be reading this and thinking: “I’m not gonna listen to any man telling me what to wear and what not to.” Fine. That’s your right. It really is. We do have those rights. It doesn’t change anything about how you are perceived, but yes, go on wear your leggings. You’ll be comfy. I’ll be able to see your vagina and think you look trashy. Those are our rights. Yay! Rights!

You may also think I’m being hard on women specifically. Not at all. Most men acknowledge that sweatpants are inappropriate unless you are working out, ridicule guys caught wearing them as pants, and those wearing them CLEARLY don’t care what other people think or how they are perceived. The dialogue isn’t the same. That’s fine. It’s also not considered political to ridicule a man wearing sweatpants. Certain women on the other hand have turned wearing leggings into a misguided political statement. Somehow diverting attention from the fact that leggings are a wonderful invention of appropriate activity specific clothing and turning them into a statement of feminist empowerment. It’s not. It is a distraction. Focus on real issues. There are a fucking shit ton of them! Pick one and fall on that sword. Don’t fall on a sword for your leggings as it cheapens real issues of inequality that women face every day.

As a closing and to frame the issue of appropriate vs. inappropriate clothing using a different piece of clothing, I know the last few years have raised many questions about dress codes singling out women’s wear. I’ve worked for firms with dress codes in the past. The section for women is always like 5x as long. Sometimes there are sexist things in there like “must wear eyeliner and lipstick” or “must wear one article of jewelry,” but mostly it’s a list of inappropriate clothing based on past issues. If the issue is an honestly sexist one, fight it tooth and nail and I’ll fight it with you, but don’t mix it up with simply what’s appropriate wear for business.

Recently, there was a big issue with girls in schools wearing spaghetti strap tops to school and being sent home. The argument is it is hot and the girls are being body shamed or held responsible for the boys’s reactions to them. Yes, some people body shame. Some people give stupid reasons for the rule like “it’s distracting to the boys.” That’s insulting to the boys more in my opinion, as if they are uncontrollable hormones running loose, but granted it’s the girls who get sent home. It’s sadly typical for women to wear the brunt of any gender-based dialogue in almost any forum. This needs to change, but that’s a bullshit reason for the no spaghetti strap rule. The real reason is actually gender neutral. Most of those dress codes with a “no tank top” policy have the same policy for both boys as for girls. It’s actually gender neutral not sexist. One of the issues at play is that the boys abide by it, and if they don’t, it doesn’t become a gender issue, they simply have to change their shirt. The girls on the other hand (using excuses like availability of clothing styles, etc.) do not. Why? It becomes an issue of “telling women what to do,” and in our current climate anytime someone tells you what to do it MUST be challenged. It also brings us back to what’s actually at play in the misguided excuse from earlier: the girls are enjoying the attention they get from the boys as much as the boys enjoy giving the attention. Girls have hormone monsters, too! God forbid we acknowledge that women are sexual beings and not just objects for male sexuality, or point out that women often dress provocatively for the attention they receive. And from one attention whore to another, dressing for attention is totally cool. TOTALLY! But instead of excusing it, own it! I do it all the time. Pretty much everyone does! That’s almost basically what this whole rant has been about. Also, there are plenty of t-shirts for girls to wear to school that would abide by the school’s dress code just like for the boys to wear. And if you still feel like the dress codes need to change, don’t use your children as pawns.

As such, this situation is then turned into a political issue, an offshoot of actual real political issues affecting women. It dilutes the real issues by focusing on something that is actually gender neutral, neither boys nor girls can wear tank tops. I’m not even going to get into the entire issue of hyper-sexualizing our children in North America, and the discussion of “why” young girls feel pressured into dressing provocatively. That is a really serious issue affecting our culture, but the argument that it’s hot and that is why s/he’s wearing a tank top to school against the dress code is a joke. No one is arguing for the boys to wear less clothing and the temperature is the same for them. I mean have you seen men’s summer clothing?! It’s bullshit! Cargo shorts? You are guaranteed to sweat buckets. Just check the density of men’s t-shirts to women’s ones, and you’ll see my point. This is another rabbit hole to fall down, but suffice it to say that we have other issues at play that are not spaghetti strap related. Again, it’s appropriate vs. inappropriate clothing.

As I mentioned before, women have all the choices under the sky for clothing. With this benefit comes the responsibility of knowing when and where to wear certain things. This responsibility is also one that men have, and their choices are much more limited. It’s really something we all should learn and understand. It’s up to parents to teach their kids, male or female, what is appropriate. Even though you think you can wear whatever you want and should be entitled to (and you really are and should be in most cases), you should also be aware of how the world will view you and treat you. That’s up to you. It’s also up to you to teach your kids that they will be judged by how they dress. For good or bad it’s true. Also with the advent of fast fashion, you don’t need to be rich to dress well, so there are no excuses. But then again, how can any parent who thinks wearing leggings, or sweats, or crocs, or some such unflattering outfit is appropriate dress casual wear teach anything to their kids about appropriate wear when they can’t even do it for themselves. That is all.

Here are some leggings as pants I found for sale online:

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1 Comment

  • Totally agree. They just look ugly and lazy. A lot of women in my rural town wear leggings as pants as well as runners when they are just going shopping. I’ve been asking myself why people want to look like they are trekking in the Himalayas when they are going to the movies? I know sports clothes are comfortable but so are maxi dresses etc is it that people don’t want different clothes for different activities? I know people who ride push bikes everywhere so they are always dressed in bike riding gear. It does look strange to me though at dinner or the pub. I mean it’s not like you just can’t ride a bike in normal clothes. I mean, you’re not in the Tour de France ?? mate…. j

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