Nowadays the term “sweatpants” tends to be a misnomer. Shorts make far more sense as workout gear; those heavy cotton sheaths for your legs have a place, and that place is buried ass-deep in a poofy couch cushion, dusted lightly with Cheetos residue.
But the fashion powers that be have decided to challenge this entrenched positional duty. “Look at jeans!” they shout. And it’s true: not that long ago denim was for plowing and clearing brush, and now jeans are office-wear, home-wear, and even, with your favorite blue blazer, “I look damn good” wear. So why not the sweatpant? Why not expand its role beyond stoner attire, make its ambulatory pleasures accessible to non-agoraphobes?
New materials, improved elastic, zipper, button and drawstring placement, deeper and more various pockets, modern cuts, and a general aesthetic that doesn’t beg the question “Dad, can you lend me some money?” are pushing some of our favorite sweatpants to the next level of style and utility. That doesn’t mean they can’t be the perfect sidekick to your duckie slippers. It just means that, with the right outfit, they can be worn for a workout, a very casual lunch with friends, or, if you have Kanye West swagger and money to burn, serious social events. Still, at these price points we don’t recommend wearing them to your next backyard football mud bowl. And there’s another potential land mine: you run the risk of paying out for a pair and then still being called a schlub — though that may have something to do with your beard crumbs and stale coffee cologne. Best pull out the wallet, brush off the cheese dust and risk it.