And the Great Leggings Debate Rages On

leggings debate

When you write an article on tights not being pants and it goes viral, you will forever be sent every subsequent article, graphic, funny post and GIF on the topic…for the rest of your life.  You may even gets funny cards in the mail that someone just couldn’t resist sending to you because when they think of the leggings debate they think of you.

How do I know this?  Because I am someone who wrote an article about leggings that went viral.  Funny thing is, it wasn’t even an article about leggings as much as it was a warning to those out there who confused opaque tights as pants.  Seeing that there is often confusion when it comes to tights, leggings and yoga pants, I now get sent EVERYTHING on the topic, often multiple times.

I’m not complaining.  It was worth getting barraged for a week with hate comments from those who thought I was a jerk for pointing out what every human should already know….that tights are NOT pants.  I laughed my way to the bank and paid my rent for two months on that post alone.  I got a whole new crop of readers and fans and, admittedly, when an article involving the debate over leggings gets sent to me I do get a good laugh reading it.

So when a client sent me an article about leggings last week that linked to a New York Times article about the great leggings debate, I had to check it out.  All these years later, it’s nice to see where the general population stands on this incredibly important topic.  Seeing that it was a New York Times piece, I figured it would have to be a halfway decent op-ed.  After all, this is the New York Times, right?  Unfortunately, I was wrong.  Instead, what I read was ridiculous dreck that, for some reason, I feel inclined to weigh in on.  Don’t ask me why I’m heading back into this snake pit.

The article titled Why Yoga Pants are Bad For Women by Honor Jones, which you can read here if you haven’t already, isn’t necessarily about the leggings debate, or arguing whether they are pants.  What the article is about  is what leggings have come to represent to Honor Jones.

Because, why?

Opening the article, as a non-Times subscriber, I really couldn’t believe I wasted one of my free monthly NYT’s articles to read it.  Yet, here I am writing about it.

Jones starts out explaining that after a return to the gym in the new year, she noticed that women no longer wear sweatpants and choose yoga pants, or leggings, or whatever you want to call them, instead.  This made her wonder why women gave up sweatpants, so much so that she needed to write a New York Times Opinion piece on it.

On the day of Jones’ earth shattering realization, she chose to wear sweatpants to the gym over traditional yoga pants (which she mentions in the article she owns several) because it was 8 degrees outside and she wanted ankle coverage. She got on the elliptical to work out only to receive funny looks from some of the women in the gym for apparently wearing something so, so dated.  “Like…god, Becky, she’s wearing sweatpants!”

Okay, wait a second.  Is she serious?  No, really, I want to know.    As Jones says in her article: “We’ve internalized the fact that we have to look hot at the gym.”  

Excuse me while I get my eyes out from being rolled up inside my head.

First of all, I have a hard time thinking these women were staring at her because she chose to break the standard yoga pant look and wear a pair of sweatpants to work out.  And even if they were eyeing her down, why should she care?  Does Jones have such thin skin that this matters to her?  Seriously, when I go to the gym, which is just about everyday, I look like I rolled out of bed because basically I have.  I can give a crap about what other people choose to wear to work out and I get the sense that my fellow gym members feel the same.

And if she thinks wearing a pair of innocuous sweatpants is what made people take notice, she should know that just a few weeks ago two Muslim women were working out at my gym wearing hijabs and full modest covering, one actually wearing an abaya.   Both of them did their cardio and nobody bothered to take notice.  Remind me again what Honor Jones said about mean girls judging her for wearing sweatpants to the gym again?


Next, Jones further pondering this ever-so important question says:

“Seriously, you can’t go into a room of 15 fellow women contorting themselves into ridiculous positions at 7 in the morning without first donning skintight pants? What is it about yoga in particular that seems to require this? Are practitioners really worried that a normal-width pant leg is going to throttle them mid-lotus pose?”

Clearly, Jones has never done yoga before because if she had she would understand that there is a reason why yoga pants are actually called yoga pants.

First of all, has anyone ever tried wearing sweatpants to yoga?  Free range fabrics and silhouettes can be tricky to wear in vigorous yoga classes.  The last thing you need to think about is extra fabric folding in on itself when you have one leg in the air and are going from downward dog to pigeon pose.  It’s sort of feels like one leg getting caught up in the bedsheets.

Next, any true yoga practitioner, I’m talking those with a serious practice, not a yoga booty gym class practice, moves way beyond thinking about the body during the experience of yoga and can care less about what gets worn.  The body simply becomes a vehicle for deeper spiritual awakening.  When I was a hardcore Bikram yoga practitioner and sweat it out in a 105 degree room seven days a week, you can bet we all wore next to nothing, even the men. And it was NEVER about anything more than it being stifling hot and because all of us had moved way beyond what someone’s ass looked like in skimpy shorts.  It was actually quite liberating to feel such freedom half naked in a body accepting environment.

If Honor Jones’ worldview of the practice of yoga has been limited to glamazons stretching in Lululemon at 7am that’s on her, not the practice.

Jones’ next quote:

“The gym is one of the few places where we’re supposed to be able to focus on how our bodies feel, not just on how they look. We need to remember that. Sweatpants can help.”

I’m not even sure what she is trying to say by saying this.  Is she saying that by wearing sweatpants, something she described in her article as “basically just towels with waistbands” and claims nobody looks good wearing, our focus will be on what’s important about working out?  What sort of modest Amish b*llshit is this?  Honestly, as someone who doesn’t even think about hotness while grunting through my squats at 7am, I can assure her, wearing sweatpants won’t help me with anything, and I certainly don’t need to wear them to keep my focus on why I’m working out in the first place.

And one more thing that Jones should understand.  When you do more than cardio, seeing your body is sort of important to make sure you are getting proper form and lifting safely, making more form fitting clothes ideal.  Plus, call me shallow, but I quite like noticing the changes my body is making through a daily workout routine.

In one of the funniest points made by Honor Jones’, she says:

“All of this turns working out from a healthy thing you might do twice a week into a Way of Life, where $120 leggings are more necessity than extravagance. Consider the way that these fancy exercise clothes have spread from the gym to the street, essentially outfitting women for every activity beyond white-collar work. Consider the way the step-counting Fitbit turns every errand into exercise. When yoga pants are the first thing grown women put on every morning, we can’t help absorbing the message that staying fit is our No. 1 purpose in life.”

A few thoughts:

#1- I have never bought a pair of $120 leggings nor felt pressured to do so.  If Jones feels like expensive exercise-wear is necessary then I question the company she keeps.  I also question her level of self-esteem.

#2- People were dressing in active wear long before designer workout clothes hit the scene.  Flashdance, anyone?

#3- I like that my Apple Watch turns every errand into an exercise and that it has made me more aware of how much I move.  With tons of Americans becoming morbidly obese, where is the harm in trying to get your 10,000 steps in or for doing a little more activity?  I love trying to close my activity rings on my watch and appreciate the reminders to stand when I have been inactive too long.

#4- Maybe it shouldn’t be our sole priority, but what is wrong with absorbing the message that staying fit should be a huge priority?

#5- While I don’t disagree that activewear has become a huge streetwear staple, should we really be that upset that what has come from this is wardrobe options that allow us to go from the gym to the street with style?  I hardly see a time returning where everyone will go back to being as buttoned up as they were 20+ years ago.  I am at least happy to see that there are options beyond Costco sweatpants to do it.

#6- Who cares?  Seriously.  If someone wants to drop $120 on athletic wear, why should I care that this is how they choose to spend their money?  It’s certainly not a priority for me but I have better things to do than concern myself if it is for someone else.

Jones does say that we can be fit and liberated but questions why it must be done in spandex.  To, which I say, again, who cares?  Feel liberated in sweatpants, in yoga pants, in a barrel and suspenders.  Instead of being a productive article, I found Honor Jones’ piece to be rife with martyrdom over an issue that she made up in her head.  This made me question her age and search online to find out how old she is.  Clearly, she can’t be someone evolved and seasoned enough to know to be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Now if you will excuse me, I have some grubby $40 leggings to put on and a workout to get to.

  • tgchi13

    Loved your article B! That poor girl…and I feel as badly for NYT(differently) as I do for her.

    • The article was so sad and pathetic. Really, I could have just saved myself the time and wrote, “Who cares? The end.”

      • tgchi13

        Agreed, but I think you wrote it the way you did so it wouldn’t be as harsh as it would have been without your thought process.

  • What?
    LOL! I refused to read it but I cannot even with the bits I read! Honestly…working out in *exercise* pants and working out in sweatpants are two different worlds. True workout pants absorb and wick away sweat – sweatpants will become hot and heavy. Workout pants allow FULL RANGE OF MOTION! – sweatpants do not.
    You know what…you’re right. As to the original article; WHO CARES?! Aye-yi-yi!

    • Yea, don’t waste your time with the article. With all that is going on in the world, who cares? 17 kids were killed last week in a horrific school shooting and this dimwit wants to debate over exercise-wear? And I so agree, sweatpants get awfully heavy after sweating. The reason we wore sweatpants at one time is because we didn’t have an alternative. Now we do.

  • Mary Kay Rohrbach

    I’m not going to waste on of my NYT “free” views by reading the article (thanks for the warning that it was NYT), but I emphasize with Jones. I finally this year began to visit a gym, hire a trainer, etc. etc because my doctor scolded me into strength training to fight back against early osteoporosis. I searched forever for lightweight ankle pants with cuffs because of the cold (at my age, I feel the cold). I don’t mean heavy “sweatpants” – just something lightweight that doesn’t stop at the calf. I finally located something at Costco ($20 ea) that will work. I don’t care what others think – but I do want to be comfortable and I’m more likely to get to the gym if I am not cold and miserable. Plus, I’m not trying to break a sweat – just trying to get in those muscle building reps. Cheers Bridgett – love your blog..

    • Thanks! You hit the nail on the head, which means to just wear what makes you comfortable. I am sorry it is hard for you to find what you are looking for. I’m one of the crazy ones who doesn’t even wear socks to the gym on the coldest of days. It helps that the gym is on my corner.

  • Aragon131

    Reading this piece I am of two minds.

    1 – While I can appreciate the snobbery of what I’m assuming is a Manhattan Gym (Rachel Zoe herself once told me at a party that my shoes looked ‘really comfortable’. It was not intended as a compliment). The fact remains while you can’t choose how you react to treatment you can choose how you respond. Honor dwelled on perceived judgements to the point where she wrote an article on it. There are always people who are going to judge you. Shoot you dirty looks. Thanks to the internet we can even let a lot of those people know what we think. I’ve personally asked Sarah Sanders if she realizes her makeup guy is a drag queen who hates her guts via twitter. She has not responded. I’ve had people I’ve disagreed with point out my eyebrows are a different color than my hair. How do I react. I don’t.

    2 – I have to ask the question, were those women really staring at her. I can’t help but recall a woman on a reality show about fine art talking about filming an episode in a car dealership, where passing men were making her feel uncomfortable because they kept peeking into the dealership trying to see her.

    Really? There were three other women in the show. No one was trying to peek at them? Shooting the show, no doubt required lights, cameras etc. Maybe the people were noticing that. And car dealerships are giant glass boxes so as to display the car. How is looking into a display window ‘peeking’? It’s because this woman could not fathom a world where she was not the center of attention.

    Likewise, a I feel like Honor may have received a few glances, but far more likely the women were focused on their own fitness routines and lives in general. Honor just happen to enter their eye line from time to time. But Honor assumed their focus was on her. That everything going on in the gym that day was all about her.

    Then she held herself up as the moral authority, lecturing those women who are obsessed with her about priorities in their life.

    I shall choose not to react to Honor.

    • tgchi13

      You are both right. It’s not been since the 80s-90s that the gulym was only for people who didn’t need to be there!