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Jeans and trousers

How to wear sweatpants outside the gym

How to wear sweatpants outside the gym

Nothing sums up the way that menswear has relaxed over the last decade more than sportswear’s shift from something you sweat in to something you might be able to get away with at work. Largely that’s down to shifting perceptions of what counts as smart and the Facebook effect on office dress codes. Now that the world’s wealthiest and most powerful men accrew that wealth and flex that power wearing hoodies and jeans, the suit has lost some of its lustre.

But it’s also because today’s sportswear no longer looks like the kit you wore for PE. At the mainstream end, giants like Nike and Adidas now craft their kit with the kind of flair and attention to detail you’d normally expect from an underground designer brand. Which is understandable, because it’s the underground designer brands that have reimagined clothes for the gym as clothes you should wear everywhere else.

Sweatpants, especially, are unrecognisable from the baggy, saggy things that men used only to while either playing sport or watching it on the sofa. Now, you can get versions made from dressmaking silk or cashmere. There are tie dye sweatpants and sweatpants that are all but indistinguishable from suit trousers (besides being much more comfortable). Especially for younger guys, they’ve all-but replaced chinos as the trousers you reach for when you don’t want to overthink your outfit. They’re the default.

Which is, we think, a wonderful development. Because this new breed of smart, polished track pants is so much more versatile than the jogging bottoms of yore. As you can see here, the tenor of your sweat pants is set by what you wear them with. Choose punchy trainers, a graphic tee and a cross-body bag and they’re youthful, sporty, the kind of thing you might wear to your local skate park. But with neutral knitwear and a pair of muted, retro runners they feel smart and understated. It’s a look you could wear to dinner without anyone batting an eye.

To find a pair that dress both up and down, you need to nail three things – the shape, the fabric and the colour. These sleek sweat pants, from minimalist Swedish brand Our Legacy, keep all the sporty elements – an elasticated waistband, the loose, movement-enabling fit, that side-stripe up the leg – but gives them a tailored makeover with pleats and by swapping the usual polyester stripe for a nubby, woven fabric. This pair, by the workwear experts at Carhartt, is almost indistinguishable from chinos. Until you slip them on and discover just how comfortable they are.

The fashion industry is not, generally, known for its love of practicality. So on those too few occasions when it offers up comfort and aesthetics in the same package, we say embrace it. This year, swap your jeans and chinos for sweatpants whenever you get the chance. It's a style choice you don't have to sweat over.

Words: Tom Banham
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Alexander McCalla