As a friend recently lamented, "In the future everything was supposed to be metallic or self-cleaning, but everything is jersey." True. Every futuristic portrayal of fashion may show us all wearing the same thing, but at least that same thing is often a badass amalgam of chrome, black, breathable fabrics and stylish contours.
Reality? We all just look like we rolled out of bed in fabrics that don't even actually make seasonal sense. Yes, we're talking about leggings, the clothing item where barely-there meets zero-effort. But leggings aren't just offensive to people who think we should wear actual pants for pants. They are also the subject of a growing number of nationwide school bannings happening in the U.S. and Canada. If the newspapers are to be believed, there's a new "culture war" a-brewin' over leggings like a hot cup of sinful outrage in your morning coffee mug. (Would the devil wear these? YES.)
Really? Surely the leggings battle has already been won, as is evidenced by simply walking out of one's home and looking around. By now I'm sure your local neighborhood postal carrier is wearing blue and gray leggings — if she even has a job anymore.
But instead of fretting about whether the ubiquity of leggings means that we are one very thin, soft, comfy, yet never-quite-opaque-enough layer away from a continent-wide orgy, let's talk about the real crime: that the present pervasiveness of leggings actually signals the ultimate, most casual pinnacle of fashion yet. Can fashion actually get any more casual than this?
First, the hot ish:
A Vermont high school's recent ban on skin-tight leggings seems to be part of a larger trend spreading across North America.
Over the last year, school boards in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Halifax have all prohibited their students from wearing form-fitting clothing such as leggings, skinny jeans and yoga pants.
I do feel for the kids today. They can't wear anything super baggy, they can't wear anything super tight. What's left is an endless quest for the Goldilocks of school-appropriate wear that neither offends nor arouses. But we all know some people can make a trash bag look sexy. (Oooh, trash bag leggings.)
At the totally made-up center of the leggings controversy is everyone's favorite provocateur, Dov Charney, a wolf in American-made clothing who said in response a predictably wolfy thing, which, this time, happens to be correct:
"There's always going to be a tug of war of young people wanting to wear certain things and perhaps the academic institutions wanting them to wear other things. I think it will always be part of the history of clothing," Charney said, pointing out that similar bans on denim jeans in the '60s and '70s prompted Levi's to invent the corduroy pant.
Super true, not to mention good for leggings! (American Apparel is at the forefront of the Movement to Informalize All Fashion.) Sure. This generation's leggings was the last generations jeans (and every generation before them, too), which were often thought to be offensively casual and strangely arousing, too. (This tale about Bing Crosby being refused entrance to Vancouver hotel in 1951 because he was wearing — gasp — denim, will stay with you. When Levi's heard about the mishap, they made Bing Crosby his own denim tuxedo jacket. Imagine — Canada not liking denim!)
The difference between denim and leggings, though, is that leggings are not part of any movement by youth to distinguish themselves from anything other than their last destination, bed. (Also, their parents are wearing leggings.)
But if leggings are growing in popularity on some outrage front, what could a leggings ban prompt future manufacturers to make? Can we even imagine it? If leggings are just another fashion trend waiting to be bested by a future generation, what would that look like? In other words, in a world blighted by the ever-present "L.A. yoga look" — thanks, Juicy Couture terrycloth sweatsuit and celebrities — how could things get anymore just-outta-bed than this?
A parallel: I remember when I was a teenager (the early 90s, GUYS) it was increasingly more common, but still a HUGE deal to have facial piercings or lots of tattoos. You were still consciously aligning yourself with the outcasts and job-averse by doing so. By the time I was in college in the late '90s, my little sister had a nose ring and a few tatts and it was no bigs. Grandma's gotta mohawk, look out. I distinctly remember trying to envision what, then, would be more shocking for the youth to trot out that would mystify me, and I couldn't picture it. Then, a few years later at a mall, I saw it: stretched earlobes.
Applied to the casualness of leggings, I will now try to envision the stretched earlobes of leggings, the future of casual wear. In the spirit of leggings, it should require very little thought on the part of the wearer, and a total disregard for looking good, or like actual clothing. Any nod to the homey feel of home is a plus. In the spirit of stretched earlobes it should be shocking. But also stupid.
Going Gone with the Wind: Remember how Scarlett had to make an evening gown out of curtain fabric? The ultimate in future casual means using homey fabrics from your own home: skirts made from chenille throws, wraps made from tablecloths. Your bedroom is your atelier. No actual sewing required, or allowed.
100% "Recycled" Fabrics: Trash Couture is certainly not new, but it's not exactly commonplace, either. Expect it to eventually take off, if for no other reason that it's impossible to imagine cheaper materials. Look out, fast fashion! Perhaps this could mean pants, made of recycled cardboard, will disintegrate upon contact with water. T-shirts comprised entirely of wood pulp. Evening wear materials sourced from closest dumpster, which gives your look that much-needed variety.
Fashion Becomes Truly Functional: Nothing useful is much fun, says art. So if your socks have Swiffer pad material on the bottom for a quick sweep of the kitchen, you're "working" but it's not "working," if you get my meaning. Your jacket is lined with heating pads for an unpredictable bout of cramps. Padded bras are like mattress toppers for on-the-go naps. Your underwear has a pull-cord that inflates it into a Depends for long stalking trips. Your little black dress is "micronutrient couture" that looks like something on "Cake Boss" or Trader Joe's Roasted Seaweed Snacks stitched together. Mmmm.
Fabric is Smarter Than You and Therefore No Longer Fun: Guaranteeing that it will never look good, fabrics may become more than just functional, they will actually be able to tell us stuff. Like this roundup of futuristic fabrics, that could include materials like 1.) pollution-detecting sweatshirts, 2.) touch-sensitive sequins, 3.) melt tags made of detergent that dissolve with the first wash to clean manufacturing chemicals. We kinda did this whole smart-fabric before once, with Hypercolors. I can only assume it didn't stick because we just weren't ready for its heat-sensitive jelly. But now, with all the global warming, duh.
Nudity: Well, shirtless dudes are already the ultimate in casual. Shirtless everyone just screams no big doy, amirite?
You're a Walking Sleeping Bag. Literally: You guys saw this the episode of Girls where Hannah wears the orange sleeping bag glow-worm thing with the armholes cut out, right?? WTF is IT? Oh, OK, it's explained here. And it's from here.
Leggings on Leggings. Another idea from the past that seems ripe for future success on the make-no-effort front is Multiples. Remember Multiples!? Cotton-poly blend, one-size-fits-most, it was a 48"
pillowcase tube dress that could be worn in an allegedly limitless number of combinations. There was a Multiples store in every mall I ever went to growing up, and then all the sudden, they vanished. Perhaps because we just weren't quite ready to try so little. But nothing says ultimate casual like being able to put your entire wardrobe into one slim plastic package. It's like leggings, but for your whole body. Imagine the possibilities.