By Anne T. Donahue
In 2009, I stopped wearing pants. After falling into leggings for reasons that don’t matter anymore (I had a staff discount and I felt left out), I forsook jeans, slacks, and anything resembling either and grew into my new role as a leggings-wearing bitch.
This phase lasted until roughly 2010 when everybody stopped wearing leggings, and I began living and dying for wearing tights under shorts. “Ugh, leggings!” I’d cry when confronted with photos from my pants-less era. With age I had become stylish. Mature. A woman willing to wear sophisticated fabrics like denim. Leggings were the past, any other trend was the future.
And then the pandemic hit.
I held out for so long. From 2020-2022, I swore by sweatpants and jeans, claiming the influx of leggings was one I was destined to avoid because leggings weren’t pants and I wore pants now.
For a while, this mantra sustained me. Sure, my joggers were enormous and could easily qualify as two sleeping bags sewn together as pants, but they were still exactly that: pants. They didn’t need to be part of an “outfit,” they didn’t make me feel like I was cosplaying somebody who was even remotely athletic. They were the foundations of wearable comfort, even if after a while I started getting tired of wearing sweatsuits.
The thing about sweatsuits is that, like quiche or dipping French fries in a Frosty, you have to be craving them. One does not simply put on a sweatsuit; it’s a commitment. You wake up, get ready, and get dressed knowing that you will be comfy, cozy, and covered head to toe in fleece. It is not the outfit of a productive person or one planning on running into someone they haven’t seen since 2009. It is the look of the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Of Saturdays defined by errands. Of PMS. Of listening to the fireplace soundscape on the Calm app. Wearing a sweatsuit is like wearing a hug. And not everybody wants a hug every day, all the time.
I picked up the leggings on a whim. It was the first week of January, I’d accumulated my weight in oversize sweatshirts, and I was bored. Bored of sweatpants, and bored of the confines of traditional denim. I took the leggings into a fitting room and promised myself I wouldn’t beat myself up if they didn’t fit the way I wanted them to. I told myself it was a trend for the children; that I had lived it once already, and couldn’t possibly go back. I tried to ignore the potential outfits I’d begun mentally planning, reminding myself that to carry off leggings was a treat I wasn’t privy to anymore. I was 37! I weighed a lot more than I did over ten years ago! Everyone else looked amazing in leggings, and since I have the luck of a person who will absolutely always fall down the stairs in front of somebody I’m trying to impress, I assumed my luck would rear its tragic head again and this particular brand of cute wasn’t going to be for me.
But it was. Dear reader, the leggings fit. They slid on, tempting me to buy as many as possible in different colours and fabrics. I imagined myself in large sweatshirts, in huge flannels, in Docs and in sneakers. I pictured myself lunging, casually doing squats while scouring Lowe’s for perfect patio lights simply because I could. I felt like Sally O’Malley, a woman who could kick, stretch, and kick. I couldn’t go back – not even to the pants I’d worn into the fitting room. I slid my leggings off and promised I’d be reunited with them again soon.
Leggings are amazing. They are soft and they are comfortable and they make people think I put thought into the way I look, when in reality I just wanted to justify buying more sweatshirts that could double as dresses. Leggings are for all of us, a gift equipped with better, more supportive cuts that don’t wear out after three washes because we’ve finally all realized we deserve better. You know who can carry off leggings? All of us. Right here, right now. I love my leggings like I love the jogging pants I still hold dear, just differently. I was wrong to question their comeback, and even more wrong to assume that I had moved past them.
I hadn’t. I never will. Leggings, I love you, and I will never let you go again. Except for in the summertime when I finally get with it and buy a pair of bike shorts.
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