I was reading through BoF last Friday, and I had a small epiphany.
— Kevin McMurphy (@kevinmcmurphy) June 20, 2014
Do we really want Sweatpants?
Sweatpants are comfortable, slouchy clothes that you wear on a lazy Sunday. They’ve typically been portrayed as the stuff of losers and shut-ins, but there was one specific group that defied that stereotype completely: Athletes.
You know the stereotype – in high school, they were the big jocks that crushed it on the field, slouched through class and wore oversized sweats and sneakers all day. Because they could. Because you weren’t going to tell a 238lb defensive back a darn thing and he knew it. So athlete’s had it all – they were cool AND comfortable.
So what about “normal” guys?
Let me step back again. Since the early 1990s, there has been a very clear trend: Wide ties are out and business casual is in. Lose the suit, lose the tie, slap on some khaki’s and a button down and call it a work day.
The Millennial Effect
Then there was a backlash. In the mid–2000’s young millennials (that’s me, and probably you) started hitting the workforce. Guys in their 20s and fresh out of college, rejected the business casual / middle management mold. They thought of themselves as future executives and they were going to dress like it. A sharp, tailored suit, shined shoes, and a subtle thin tie became the new way of standing out. The suit, for years a symbol of corporate conformity, suddenly became the uniform of the non-conformists. The hard chargers. The doers. The irony of this played right into their hands. They think differently. They push the boundaries of what’s acceptable, they are more socially conscious, and they care more about how things are made than ever before.
Irony also birthed an entirely different sartorial group at the same time. Probably due to similarities with the hippies of the 60s and 70s this ironic group came to be known as hipsters. They almost singlehandedly drove the revival of the heritage and work wear movements. With a focus on durable construction and ethical manufacturing, they took the world by storm. Durable clothing requires a break-in period before it becomes truly wearable, but there’s always the question – which will break-in first – the jeans, or you?
Durable clothing requires a break-in period before it becomes truly wearable.
Comfort is the New Hotness
This brings us back to the BoF article about the new staples of menswear. Comfort is making a comeback. The articles lists new staples:
- man bags
Sneakers have long been a comfortable alternative to dress shoes. Jack Purcell’s and Van’s have appeared on the feet of GQ models since the mid 2000s, but this gave permission to the comfortable streak that we all have.
Comfort is making a comeback.
Now sweatpants get the designer touch. This means we’ll finally get high quality, fitted versions that we can wear comfortably in public. Sweatpants no longer belong to homebodies and linebackers.
The Future is Active.
Companies like Lululemon have driven activewear to prominence. Some argue that premium activewear is the new premium denim with a variety of versions from Gap, Uniqlo, Victoria’s Secret and others coming to market. This is primarily focused on women for now, but I fully expect that to transition over to menswear in the near future. In fact, you’re already beginning to see that with Lululemon and Uniqlo, albeit in a more limited way.
Remember the athletes we talked about? Comfort was king for those with the clout to pull it off. Now that clout is spreading through the streetwear community and into the “normal” population.
A smart suit for business and a slick pair of sweats for the weekend? I’m in.
A smart suit for business and a slick pair of sweats for the weekend? I’m in, but what do you think? Is comfort the future of menswear? And, perhaps more importantly, can you dress well in sweats?
- This isn’t a perfect measure, especially for physical items like clothing, but given that most of the younger generations are regularly online – this should serve my basic purposes of providing a trend line over the past 10 years or so. ↩