“I got real inspired by Berlin style,” my friend Ryan said to me over Gchat a few weeks ago. He’d just returned from a trip abroad. “I bought some fitted sweatpants.”
I clicked the link he’d sent and blinked. He’d spent $100 on sweatpants.
“They are the best pants,” he said calmly, after I pointed out that that price seemed insane. I brought my protest to others—$100! on Sweatpants!—and learned that Ryan was far from the only one who felt this way. The true outlier when it came to this pair of magic sweatpants was, as it appeared, me.
Men’s fashion rarely gets the attention that women’s does, so dudes have to latch onto something hard in order to prompt media coverage outside of men’s style blogs and the six-months-late Times Style piece. The tapered sweatpant is one of these heat-seeking items. These new ones, the Nike Tech Fleece, are apparently special enough to earn not only the designation as (in Ryan’s words) “PANTS pants. Pants for public” but even a Business Insider piece about them, and their growing “cult following.”
Breton Fischetti points out that these pants have been labeled “the most comfortable sweats in the world,” and that they are frequently sold out. On a visit to the Nike store on 5th Avenue in New York City, an employee told him that “whenever a new shipment comes in, people buy several pairs, and then call their friends to tell them they’re available.”
Fischetti himself tried on a pair and “immediately saw what the hype was all about.”
I wondered: would I feel the same way?
These sweatpants had been so aggressively touted to me that I figured wearing them for awhile would be not only a breeze, but perhaps even a pleasure. My personal style does not normally incorporate sweatpants as pants pants, but I decided I had to try. They were that good, everyone kept saying.
“It won’t be weird,” Ryan said, forwarding me an email exchange he’d had with a male friend, in which the conversation topic was tapered sweatpants.
He was wrong.
The first day of Sweatpants Week, the exorbitant costs blessedly sponsored by Gawker Media.
On this day, I decide to work from home: an ideal opportunity for a test run. Just before taking the pants out of the wrapper, I feel very excited. These pants are going to revitalize my life. They are going to make me cool and comfortable.
Then I put them on. Quickly, I realize the extent to which they are unflattering. My butt, not some sort of amazing thing but normally pretty decent I would say, looks terrible. The sweatpants are like weirdly fitting leggings. They are far tighter than I thought they’d be, even though I’d followed the suggestion that you buy a size up from your usual size. Worn with the drawstring top sitting at my waist, they look like leggings; worn with the drawstring down around my hips, they have a slight dropcrotch. Neither look is great. (Both fits are perfect for lounging.)
I notice that the pants are very warm: warmer than the sweatpants I previously had on, probably due to their eerily close fit. Perhaps they were too warm for the day in question (74° F). I decide to pair the sweatpants with a wifebeater tank top to really ~get in the mindset~ of being a man.
The pants themselves have a weird patchwork quality though the inside, which prompts my roommate to say they feel “like a whale skin.”
I head into work that evening for a gathering of drinks with my coworkers. The pants are immediately noticed, as they are well outside my usual garb. But they are actually taken quite well! My coworkers, who do not mince words, express support for my new look, although a few notice that the pants alter my reclining style, making me “sit like a man on the subway.” After Madeleine notes that I look like someone on So You Think You Can Dance, I find that I want someone to put on Jason Derulo’s “Wiggle.”
The pants are very warm. Too warm.
The pants are fine in the morning at home. It’s when I have to style them for the office that the struggle begins. I throw shirts, shoes and sweaters around my room—nothing works. I contemplate buying some new items of clothing specifically for this experiment—a relaxed white T-shirt or a cropped jacket, items people on Pinterest seem to wear when they wear sweatpants not to the gym. “I look so dumb compared to these girls,” I chat to Erin, surveying my disastrous bedroom.
Once I’m walking down the street, my outlook improves. I’ve settled on the sweatpants with the bottoms rolled up, sandals, a white t-shirt and a black blazer, all of which seems to mildly fit in the overly hip Nolita neighborhood our office is in. Concerns that my coworkers will jump all over me abates; no one seems interested in my sweatpants.
Except Jolie Kerr. Upon entering the office and saying hello, she zeroes in on my pants, giving me a once-over, before making a comment about how I appear “super ready for the weekend.” Defensively, I explain that I am wearing these for a post; this prompts her to make me stand and twirl. She decides they’re not terrible, although she would prefer that I wear them at my waist, pulled up high. “Why is there so much space, you know, down there?” she says, gesturing to my crotchal region. (Ever the lady, she then apologized for staring at that part of my body.)
From the desk behind us, Tom Ley stares.
A few minutes later, a woman from floor 3 (SALES) walks through the office. She’s wearing a perfect black dress with a flared skirt and nude pumps. I assume Blogger Stance and sink lower in my chair.
Later, coworker Sam Woolley describes my sweapants as “crazy.”
More disturbingly, Madeleine begins to share with me details from our train ride the night prior which I did not remember.
You kept saying “I am hot and not having a good time right now.” And I said “It will be cooler tomorrow.” And you said something like “Oh, I’M SURE,” very sarcastic and full of doubt.
Oh! You also kept telling everyone that I read The Queen of Tearling and loved it, when I have never read that book.
She was right about at least one thing: the day had proved cooler than I thought it would be, although, about my look, I cannot say the same.
I decide that the day is too hot to wear sweatpants.
Later that day, Ryan texts me. “How are the sweatpants?” I don’t respond.
The weather is still too hot. The sweatpants seem like a brief fever dream I had during an unexplained illness. I give myself yet another reprieve.
I leave the house, still self-reprieved from my experiment. There’s actually a breeze. I long, surprisingly, for the sweatpants. At the office, Kyle Wagner is sporting the sweatshirt version of my sweatpants. I feel a pang in my heart. We build our lives on erroneous timing.
Later that night, while heading out to dinner, I’m cold. Where are the pants? This is a night I could have learned to appreciate them!
The combination of the weather and my guilt pushes me to return to the pants. My ardor weakens immediately when I remember that I am incapable of styling them.
At the office, I receive an up-and-down from Dodai, who asks, “Are you wearing the sweatpants again?”
I say yes: obviously.
“Are you wearing other pants under them?” she adds. Their fit is not going over well among the female contingent in my life.
At 4:54 pm, I sneeze. “Bless you,” Dodai says, before trying to sneak yet another once-over. I consider that these sweatpants are prompting me to experience sexual harassment in the workplace. “I want to see what shoes you’re wearing,” she says. Lies.
Later that night, I leave the gym in the sweatpants and a different pair of Nikes. I feel Post Gym Casual; the sweatpants seem like they almost work. Then I see the hottest man I’ve seen that week on the train, while sweating in my sweatpants. I start to doubt their power. Then I notice that he and I are wearing similar shoes. I wonder: would this be something to bond us, or would it push us apart?
The final day. I wear the sweatpants at home, because something inside of me is refusing to wear them on streets of New York, to work, again. Perhaps it is the mandatory nature of this mission that has made me, normally a strict rule-follower, want to break free. Mentally I criticize the people who told me that these sweatpants would make me not want to wear regular pants ever again.
Feeling: Like myself: annoyed.
A few days later, when I’m still feeling guilty about my failed experiment, Ryan checks in about them. He wasn’t surprised I didn’t like them. “They’re for boys,” he points out.
“That’s like if I reviewed a skirt,” he adds.
I countered that it would be nothing like if he reviewed a skirt, considering I own and like sweatpants and he presumably does not own a skirt.
But to Ryan (and many other men), the Nike Tech Fleece sweatpants are “not really sweatpants.”
“They are something else entirely. They’re just called sweatpants because that’s the closest corollary,” he says. “These are basically skinny jeans made of sweatpant-y material.”
“It’s like when Kid A came out, in 2000,” he adds. “Everyone at Tower Records or whatever was like ‘Ok well I guess this goes in Rock/Pop?’ because you just have to put it somewhere.”
I realize that I, like Ryan, have overthought it. It didn’t work. I should move on.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby. Images by myself and Dodai Stewart, who made me pose for photos on the Gawker Roof