What Wearing Leggings As Everyday Pants Says About You

A sign you’ve given up? Or a sign that you’re ready for whatever life throws at you?

When I see someone wearing Lululemon leggings outside of a fitness class, I usually think one of two things: They are on their way to work out or they are hungover. But I’m guessing, more often than not, neither of these assumptions is true. Workout leggings, whether they are a plain black pair of Lululemon leggings or a galaxy-inspired pair of Marine Layer leggings or a (surprisingly cute) pair of Old Navy leggings, have become many-a lazy person’s all-weekend attire.

I’d argue that us fitness people of the world are the guiltiest of all when it comes to wearing our workout gear all the freakin’ time, even when we have zero intention of actually breaking a sweat. Personally, I will put on a pair of workout leggings to go to Whole Foods or to Target or to brunch. Because comfort. And the ease of a thoughtless outfit. And because I probably own more pairs of leggings than actual pants. Be Well editor Emily concurs, although she’s more of a Trader Joe’s gal.

But the question is this: Is wearing workout leggings for everyday life — and not just, you know, for their intended purpose of working out — a sign that you’ve given up? Are workout leggings the new sweatpants?

After reading a piece on Elle begging women to “Stop Wearing Leggings As Pants,” I was torn. I mean, there’s no doubt about it: Putting on a pair of workout leggings is without a doubt the laziest way to put together an outfit. It requires zero thought and maybe, if you feel like making a tiny bit of effort, a shirt that covers your crotch. So maybe, like the author suggests, leggings are just as lazy as sweatpants. And to quote Karl Lagerfeld, as she does, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat.”

But on the other hand, on a Saturday, when I take on the world (although maybe not a fitness class) in workout leggings, I legitimately feel like I can handle whatever life throws at me. Zombie apocalypse? No problem. Or, more realistically, dashing across the perplexingly crosswalk-less stretch of Fishtown’s Frankford Avenue without dying? Done. There’s just something about being able to squat without fear of ripping a hole in your pants that makes you feel like you can do anything, you know?

But still, the you-can-do-it confidence that leggings give me aside, I’m curious: Do other people see wearing workout leggings to stock your cart at Whole Foods as a sign of defeat rather than a sign of practicality with a hint of laziness? I decided to ask the lovely ladies of Shoppist for their thoughts. As Shoppist assistant editor Lauren McGrath told me, “I’m okay with people wearing workout leggings when they don’t feel like wearing everyday clothes.” She even admits to doing it herself (gasp!). “But if you wear leggings to work, you are a psychopath.”

And this is where I feel like I have to be clear: I’m talking about wearing workout leggings to the grocery store and to have mimosas with your girlfriends, and maybe to the DMV. But I agree with McGrath: If you are wearing workout leggings to meet with your boss, and you are not pregnant and you don’t work in the health and fitness world, you might not be a psychopath, but it is probably safe to say that you’ve given up. Just a little.

When I asked Shoppist editor Emily Goulet for her thoughts, she put it like this: “Leggings are the Juicy Couture sweatsuit of today.” This made me cringe. Hard. But it also supports my theory that wearing workout leggings for everyday life — grocery shopping, picking your kid up from daycare, getting a pedicure — while a lazy (and maybe somewhat cringe-worthy) way to live,  does not necessarily scream, “Hi, I’ve given up on trying!” I mean, as she says, workout leggings are the new Juicy Couture sweatsuit. To remind you, J.lo wore a Juicy Couture sweatsuit in the “I’m Real” music video, and she is a queen. If they were the new “from-the-boys-section-at-Gap sweatpants that you’ve had since you were 14 years old,” then I’d be worried.

So, with our trusty fashion editors’ (kind of) approval, I will continue rocking my Lululemon leggings as all-weekend wear — to the grocery store and to Target and to brunch — without shame (and maybe even feeling a little bit like J.lo). If people think I’m going to work out, great. If they think I’m hungover or have given up on life then, well, you win some, you lose some. And if they think I’m the kind of person who probably owned a Juicy Couture sweatsuit 10 years ago, they are correct.

And now that I’ve asked the fashion editors, I will ask you guys. In your opinion, when someone wears workout leggings as pants all weekend long, what does it say about them?

POLL: What does wearing workout leggings as pants say about someone?

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