Dress Pant Sweatpants: Workplace Etiquette

All Work No Play?

April 7, 2014  by

I spent a little over two years as a pretty strict raw vegan, another as a regular, not-insane vegan. Now I’m a lapsed vegan, but during that time, I’d eat very simple meals, made of whole foods.

It was a great time for me, nutritionally; I always felt energetic, and was never sick. I ate a diet that was darn near perfect– a harmonious balance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, etc, each type of food had its own vital benefits, served its own necessary function. And, believe or not, I was happy. My body was happy.

As I write this, a few years later, in the comfort of my own home, I’m wearing sweatpants. They’re grey, from the Gap, with a little drawstring I don’t bother to tie. I wear them because they’re lightweight and comfortable. In about an hour or so when going out to dinner, I’ll exchange them for jeans or corduroys. On Monday morning, while preparing to teach English classes, I don my khakis. When I get home from work, I’ll put on these same sweats.

dress sweat pantsThus proceeds the great circle of life below the belt, sort of in the same way, reflecting upon it, as my superhuman diet. You see where this is going.

I don’t think it’s strange that I thought of this period when I first learned that dress pant sweatpants are projected to be the next big thing, that they were so well made (with buttons and belt loops and all) that it’s difficult to tell at a glance that they were actually sweatpants.

Upon seeing them in person, though (Right after thinking “Why did someone sew cuffs into that underwear?”) I thought, “Those are some ugly goddamn expensive pants.”

Not too long ago, the crowd-funding site Betabrand introduced the idea of dress pant sweatpants, and it didn’t take much time at all for the dream to become a reality. When I first heard about these, I thought to myself, “What next? The executive hoodie?” As it turns out they actually do exist on Betabrand’s website, along with many other half-breed garments constructed like monsters from Greek mythology.

Well-crafted, they are, certainly. But that’s not the point. Neither is the point that they’re comfortable. Are my jeans and slacks so intolerably uncomfortable? Quite the opposite.

During my period of veganism, when I’d be at a barbecue or something, and someone would offer me some sort of tofu hamburger, I’d politely decline, and opt for the real thing. When they asked why, I’d say, “Because I’m at a barbecue!” The word of the day here is ersatz. I don’t want a thing that’s just an inferior substitute for an actually good thing. I’d actually eat a hamburger, because when someone who’s not an asshole is at a barbecue, that person eats a hamburger made of the stuff that makes up a hamburger.

Dress pant sweatpants are suitable for neither the office nor lounging, and at over $100 (at the cheapest), they remind me of all the worst stereotypes foisted upon my fellow Millennials by the so-called “Greatest Generation” (who, for a generation that was so great, sure used the n-word a lot, but that’s a diatribe for another day): they’re expensive, ridiculous, useless, and soft.

Dress Pant Sweatpants
I’ve long had a fascination with the idea of softness (see my previous article “On Cashmere”), and still maintain that there’s something very disturbing about a person whose definition of comfortable necessitates fleece, and who requires this comfort 24/7/365.

Come on, man, if you really really need to be that comfortable, get a job at one of those offices where you sit on a big bouncy ball and play ping pong. Or work from home.

It also seems like a novelty. I can hardly imagine the person wearing them not constantly advertising the fact that, dude, come here check it out, feel this, they’re actually sweatpants. I think a sparkling personality and professional competency might go as far.

To continue this thought experiment further: I actually like the ritual of changing from work to lounge clothes. Pants have a powerful ability to separate our public and private spheres–which is something again we Millennials are accused (this time perhaps rightly?) of mixing. What does this person change into when he gets home? Nothing? Woe betide the person unfortunate enough to move in with him; it must be quite a scene.

Cool and fun? Yeah. Great quality? Absolutely. But just because it can be done…
dress sweatpants stretch

The point of clothes is not to be comfortable; the point of clothes is to let the world know who I am, what my context is, and whether or not it’s raining.

Which brings me to my second (or fourth?) point: the whole enterprise of dress pant sweatpants reeks disconcertingly of upper-middle-class privileged buffoonery; it betrays a sort of solipsism and moral weakness, at home only with those who have the disposable income to waste on such a farce, and for those who feel entitled to that kind of constant softness. I just wouldn’t trust someone who wore them.


I’d rather not have a burger made of mashed-up beans and who-knows-what-else, thanks. It doesn’t taste the same.

-Jason Sebacher

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