By now, the word “sweatpants” can bring a lot of different pictures to mind. There are definitely a lot of people who would automatically think of the traditional sportswear definition, and think of some grey, baggy pants in the middle of a workout.
But there are also many out there who would conjure up an image of a classy pair of joggers; which are comfortable enough for a workout or for lounging, but can also be styled for a relaxed daytime look.
But where did sweatpants really come from, and how long have they been evolving into the versatile wardrobe element that we find today?
Sweatpants, as we know them, came from France. The inventor was a man by the name of Émile Camuset, very celebrated in the history of athleticwear. He was the founder of Le Coq Sportif and was responsible, in his time, for everything from the cycling jerseys for the Tour de France to the uniforms for the French national soccer team.
He invented sweatpants in the 1920’s out of a material called jersey. His original interests were in making comfortable clothing for athletes, especially cyclists. However, by 1939, Le Coq Sportif is credited with inventing the sweatsuit. And here is where a little of the overlap of comfort for training and comfort for lounging begins. The suits were adopted by the French as “Sunday Suits,” and stay-home sweats were born. They were still most popular among athletes and it would still be several decades before they were seen as anything stylish.
Sylvester Stallone’s character in Rocky is also credited with glamourizing the sweatpant. The most iconic scenes in the movie feature Stallone in his grey pants, running all over the city of Philadelphia, and subtly creating room in people’s hearts for sweats.
It was the eighties, however, when a really huge interest in athletic wear and fitness in general came to a head. At first this was centered around more male-dominated areas like boxing or bodybuilding. That changed with the huge success of Jane Fonda’s workout video, released in 1982. The cassette tapes were widely distributed around the world and the accompanying book was on the bestseller list for over a year. She was responsible for putting aerobics on the map, and for inspiring further exercise routine class videos. She is credited for paving the way for things like Richard Simmons’ workout empire and the creation of Jazzercise.
There was no going back after that, athletic wear and exercise classes and gyms became the new uniforms, activities and hangouts for dating and socializing.
The Pandemic and Beyond
Since Lulumon came out with fashionable yoga wear in the early 2010’s, sweatpants and leggings have been marketed under the “athleisure” umbrella. There are even corporations which allow the styles in the office as professional attire. Maybe there would have been a
backlash eventually, but it does not seem likely after the recent global shutdown and the burgeoning stay-at-home business climate. In fact, it seems sweatpants and other “athletic” wear was one of the only apparel industries to really thrive during the pandemic.
So, that’s where sweatpants are from, and looks like they are here to stay. Just make sure to invest in a good pair, and style them neatly when you do wear them for a day out.