The Sweatpants-ification of Society

Until not too long ago, you could find channels on YouTube that showed videos of the day-to-day life in various Western cities in the middle of the 20th century. For some reason, the ones I knew are now gone, probably because of the extremism on display. Yet, whenever you come across such footage, you cannot help but think that we have gone downhill pretty fast. Whereas people used to dress properly for work, or just when they left their house, standards have slipped quite precipitously.

When I moved to Berlin in the early-to-mid 2000s, I was quite surprised that there were people around who wore sweatpants outside the home or the gym. Those people were neither alcoholics nor homeless. In fact, most of them seemed to be doing quite okay for themselves. It was just that they did not care much about their appearance. As I later learned, dressing like a total slob was just what some people thought was fashionable. Even in some clubs with a reasonably tough door policy you could see guys hanging out in sweatpants. For a brief while, there was a fad where people went to clubs in sweatpants, yet put expensive wrist watches or gold chains on display. This was at the height of hipster ironicism.

A mere two decades later, it seems that we managed to reach even further lows. Nowadays, you can sometimes see people at work, in white-collar professions, show up in sweatpants. The white collar has been gone for a very long time. The most egregious example in the year I encountered was meeting a female “head of human resources”, a black woman, who was walking around the office in grey Nike sweatpants. She was very well-mannered and she acted fully professionally, but when I met her in real life, I was a little bit surprised to see someone most likely pulling solid six figures dressing like a slob.

From what I gather, in high school and at university, sweat pants seem to be getting quite popular, too. I sometimes see groups of high school students of which some take heavy inspiration from rap videos. If you think that those must be the lowest-performing students, I have to disappoint you because I have met college students in their senior year who likewise thought that sweatpants were a totally fine piece of garment. Well, perhaps they pick one of their nicest pairs when they come in for a meeting.

In tech, I have heard people joke that there is no dress code. “The one rule is that you have to wear something”, they used to say. This meant that you could come to work in jeans and T-shirt whereas people in other departments frequently had to spend some of their money on buying separate work clothes. Even today, I would argue that it is the norm in finance and accounting to wear a suit or, at the very least, a shirt.

Looking at how people dress, and act, tells you a lot about societal health. Presumably, compared to places like San Francisco where open defecation is rampant, Western Europe is still in a comparably good spot, but the deterioration is obvious for all to see. It is an open question were all of this will lead to. We are probably close to rock bottom already, but if the recent past has taught me anything then it is that you should never underestimate the ability of our elites to make our lives even worse. What you perceive to be the nadir is merely a stop-gap. So, take a breather and appreciate the societal status quo because next year it could be a lot worse, once again, and it most probably will.

17 thoughts on “The Sweatpants-ification of Society

  1. I have worn sweatpants almost exclusively for 20 years now. I go with them to the bank, and sometimes I get funny looks, ???? no fucks given.

    The only place I don’t wear sweatpants is if I have to go a lawyers office to handle some legal matters or to some government office to handle stuff for business. Otherwise I wear sweat pants pretty much 24/7. I have always felt society is behind me on this so I’m happy to hear it’s catching on and becoming a trend.

    One of my best stories was when I was let into an elite nightclub with a Nike set (sweatpants and hooligan hoodie). There was an entire drama at the entrance about how they can’t let someone with sweatpants, but then my friends arrived (with a group of tv celebrities and models) so I walked in with the sweatpants. One of my favorite stories to tell to people lol.

    Oh it’s also the only time I ever drank alcohol (true story). Friends got me drunk and we continued to the club. I didn’t change clothes coz I was too drunk to think, which is how it happened.

  2. Here’s what Bars says:

    Yes, sweatpants are getting more popular. There are a few reasons for this:

    Comfort: Sweatpants are simply comfortable to wear. They’re made of soft, stretchy fabrics that allow you to move freely. This makes them perfect for lounging around the house, running errands, or even working out. Trendiness: Sweatpants have become more trendy in recent years. High-end fashion brands are now designing sweatpants, and celebrities are often seen wearing them. This has made sweatpants more acceptable to wear in public, even if you’re not just running errands or working out. Convenience: Sweatpants are convenient to wear. They’re easy to put on and take off, and they don’t require any special care. This makes them a great choice for people who are always on the go.

    As a result of these factors, sweatpants are becoming more and more popular. They’re now a staple in many people’s wardrobes, and they’re no longer just seen as clothes to wear when you’re lounging around the house.

    Here are some statistics to support this claim:

    In 2020, sales of sweatpants in the United States increased by 25%. A survey by the NPD Group found that 62% of Americans own at least one pair of sweatpants. The average American wears sweatpants 2-3 times per week.

    So, if you’re looking for a comfortable, stylish, and convenient piece of clothing, sweatpants are a great option. They’re sure to become even more popular in the years to come.

    1. And also this:

      Yes, an increasing number of people are wearing sweatpants to places that were not traditionally associated with such clothing. This is partly due to the increasing popularity of sweatpants, as mentioned earlier. However, it is also due to the changing attitudes towards sweatpants in society.

      In the past, sweatpants were seen as being too casual and inappropriate for certain occasions. However, this attitude is starting to change. People are now more accepting of sweatpants in public, and they are no longer seen as being as unprofessional or unkempt as they once were.

      As a result, you are now more likely to see people wearing sweatpants to places like:

      Airports: Sweatpants are a great choice for airports because they are comfortable and easy to move around in. You can also easily layer them up if you are cold. Coffee shops: Sweatpants are a great way to stay comfortable while you work or study at a coffee shop. They are also less likely to wrinkle than other types of clothing, so you don’t have to worry about looking sloppy. Casual restaurants: Sweatpants are a perfectly acceptable choice for casual restaurants. They are comfortable and relaxed, and they won’t make you feel out of place.

      Of course, there are still some places where sweatpants are not appropriate. For example, you would not want to wear sweatpants to a job interview or a formal event. However, for most other occasions, sweatpants are a perfectly acceptable and even stylish choice of clothing.

      Here are some tips for wearing sweatpants in public:

      Choose a pair of sweatpants that fit well and are made of a quality fabric. Avoid sweatpants that are too baggy or too tight. Pair your sweatpants with a nice top and some sneakers or sandals. Don’t be afraid to accessorize with a scarf, hat, or jewelry.

      With a little bit of effort, you can easily wear sweatpants in public and still look stylish and put-together.

    2. This made me chuckle:

      They are also less likely to wrinkle than other types of clothing, so you don’t have to worry about looking sloppy.

      This argument is based on the premise that sweatpants do not make you look sloppy by itself, which is a claim some people may disagree with.

    3. I think it means sloppy compared to wrinkled pants. Obviously perfectly ironed pants look better than sweatpants. Hower, high quality sweatpants bear wrinkled, low quality pants. Especially on hot, fit chicks.

    4. This was also my interpretation. It is still amusing how societal standards keep slipping. Give it a few years and people will argue that holes in sweat pants do not make you look sloppy as it is more important that there are no food stains on them.

    5. Holes and food stains don’t increase comfort though. I think the whole thing revolves around ease, comfort and saving time.

      Having unwrinkled sweatpants is less work than unwrinkled pants. Having food-stain-free sweatpants is the same amount of work as food-stain-free pants, so I don’t think that fits.

      I made the decision to only wear sweatpants when I realized I waste too much time trying to impress randoms on the street. People I have zero interest in what they think.

      I take every little savings of time I can get. If I can through an extra 2 courses in a year by not wasting time (and comfort) on dressing “properly”, and what did it cost me? The dirty looks from randoms I don’t care about. Great tradeoff in my mind.

    6. I don’t disagree on the time-saving aspect, but I view the presence of sweatpants in public life and the working world a form of demoralization. We can of course pretend that everyone wearing sweatpants puts on designer products that are pleasing to the eye and made of high-quality materials, but this is simply not a reflection of reality if you walk around inner-city Berlin. If society had enforced a high standard for appearance in public transport, for instance, then this would have motivated people to make an effort themselves. As an extreme example, consider that the premier minister of your country would give a press conference in sweatpants and a hoodie. You just could not take him seriously, just like the Ukrainian comedian-in-chief with his green sweatshirt looks like total clown, always has, and always will. If you are in a representative position, you need to take yourself seriously because otherwise nobody else will either. This is obviously a necessary, not a sufficient condition.

    7. As an extreme example, consider that the premier minister of your country would give a press conference in sweatpants and a hoodie. You just could not take him seriously

      Actually I would. I hate pretense. If he came out of his house and did a press briefing in casual clothing like this for an urgent statement, I would take him more seriously. He would seem more genuine. Like it was more important to communicate the message then try to impress with clothing.

    8. In the corner case of a genuinely urgent statement I may be willing to look past this, but this is a pretty contrived example because even urgent events should leave enough time to get dressed. Yet, if you think at formal events, for instance a state funeral, you probably would like your PM to show up in proper attire.

    9. Sure, but Im also making an extreme example to show the point. Namely that if there are things that are more important, clothing takes a back seat. And in that example wearing a tuxedo would look bad (to me).

      Personally I don’t think the sensibilities of random people in the metro or on the street are more important than me taking an extra 2 courses a year and all the benefits ill get from that. I don’t care about being taken seriously by random folks and clerks.

      I’m going to put on a nice set of clothes if I’m going to request a loan or draft a legal contract, but not if I’m just running errands.

  3. And this one:
    “Dressing well is a form of good manners.” – Tom Ford

    This Tom Ford quote and the Lagerfeld bonmot are two laws I live by.

  4. Aaron,
    “It is still amusing how societal standards keep slipping. Give it a few years and people will argue that holes in sweat pants do not make you look sloppy as it is more important that there are no food stains on them.”

    Right after college I got hired by the local government. Interestingly, there was only one position open and quite a few candidates. I was somewhat qualified, but there were other candidates who were more qualified than me. Oddly enough, I got the job. When I got hired, the hiring manager told me that the only reason I got the job compared to the other candidates was because I dressed up professional in a suit and tie. Everyone else was casual. Sadly, with this generation of candidates they no longer dress up for formal interviews with the exception of law enforcement and fire department. Its casual Fridays every day.

    I remember back in the 80s that having holes in your jeans was quite popular but that fad did not last too long.

    The standards have drop so much that I see employees go to work not brushing their hair and having it tidy.

    1. I feel great in a tie. That could be a big part of it( your confidence in the interview). Just like being handsome and fit boosts your confidence. Throw a tie on it completes the package. You stand up a little more straight. Chin goes up. Next thing ya know good things happen.

    1. This comment made me laugh. We indeed are moving towards this kind of future.

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