From sportswear to a luxury item: jogging pants

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From sportswear to a luxury item: jogging pants
Even if the name sounds sporty, in most cases jogging pants are more likely to be worn to relax. © Annette Riedl/dpa

In the pandemic and working from home, they became everyone’s favorite – but sweatpants have always had an eventful history. How the inconspicuous piece of clothing blossomed into a style piece.

Berlin/Vienna – Somehow her name doesn’t quite match what she is anymore. when to wear it. And how. For leisure runs and warm-ups for professional athletes, as Reclam’s costume and model lexicon explains, the classic sweatpants made of cotton tricot with a fluffy, roughened inside and an elasticated waistband and knitted cuffs are still used. But mostly it is worn today without fitness intention.

According to Viennese fashion historian Regina Karner, jogging pants are now an integral part of the world of clothing. On Saturday, International Sweatpants Day, some people proudly display and pay homage to them. “Soft oversize, a piece of clothing that doesn’t constrict the body – it makes you feel cozy,” says the Berlin professor of fashion journalism, Diana Weis, about the piece of clothing.

Tracksuit made of elastic tricot for the first time in 1939

The pants started in 1939 when the French fashion company Le Coq Sportif launched a tracksuit made of stretch tricot. It was initially called the Sunday suit and spread – almost in keeping with its name – at first rather comfortably. “In the 1950s, tracksuits were still cotton. The top with a zip and the pants with knitted cuffs or straight legs, the waistband often with a tunnel,” describes fashion historian Karner. “If someone was very athletic, they had a tracksuit.”

According to the costume and model encyclopedia, this became the garment in the 1970s. “The pants were made out of that awful nylon, uncomfortable to wear,” says Karner, laughing. “But very easy to care for. You basically only had to rinse them out and wring them out once – done.” According to the fashion historian, sweatpants were in top form in the 1980s, when fitness was a big thing and clubs opened for it.

The Afro-American hip-hop scene also discovered the garment in this decade. The guys from Run-DMC in Adidas tracksuits, of course. At first, hip-hoppers wore them because they are easy to move and dance in. But the garment evolved and became the uniform of a subculture in which music, dance and fashion are intertwined. “It was a counterculture – against the prevailing fashion and thus also against the prevailing power relations,” says fashion expert Weis.

From the subversive element to the mainstream

Sweatpants have long lost their rebellious touch. Weis describes the mechanism behind it: The fashion world absorbs a piece of clothing and thus also its subversive element. “Then it’s over with it, then it’s mainstream.”

Are jogging pants now so socially accepted that you wear them everywhere – after their rise through lockdown and working from home? Fashion historian Karner differentiates: the younger and/or hipper, the more common it is as an everyday piece of clothing. “People in their mid-20s wear them to get bread or to the gym, but probably not to the office or the theater,” she says.

Fashion expert Weis still sees a touch of nonchalance in showing up in sweatpants on certain occasions. Message: I don’t care about civic conventions. But what about the fact that luxury labels like Gucci or Prada also have models in their range? Taking up streetwear trends is a common method of reaching the young target group, explains Weis. “Jogging pants are actually anything but pretentious. That takes the whole thing a bit ad absurdum.” And in this case it has nothing to do with a piece of clothing for jogging. dpa