The Great Debate: Leggings as Pants

Leggings as Pants: Totally Valid or Partially Naked?

 
Melissa Goldstein says Partially Naked
Let me kick this off with a confession: When StyleBistro’s lovely and amazing Executive Editor Ann Brady floated the idea of debating this question, I responded with the following: “But how will someone defend leggings as pants?”

This will give you a sense of my deeply held beliefs on the subject. I’ll be honest: I’m surprised that it’s even still up for debate. I thought the case was shut long ago, when Blair Waldorf made that girl cry with her disdainful “tights are not pants” comment—the one that launched countless tumblers. And yes she said tights, not leggings (which is how I remember it), but I got her drift.

The drift is this: Leggings are a layer, dependent on multiple other layers to form an outfit, and just because they cover both legs, it does not make them pants. Because pants are an entirely different category, and have rules. Mainly, they must satisfy one or both of the following characteristics: weight or structure.

See this through with me for a sec. Let’s take sweatpants, as an example: those are pants because they have weight to them (hence they don’t need structure). Whereas, what I consider to be jeggings—more on this in a moment—may be nearly as lightweight as leggings, but involve structural design features, including but not limited to pockets (that you can stick your hands in), zippers (not stitches representing zippers), and even belt loopholes.

Jeggings without these things are, in my opinion, leggings mascarading as jeans for Halloween. And leather leggings? They’re the Koala Bear of leggings, meaning that due to their weight, the very phrase is a misnomer—they are pants, and not leggings at all.

I realize the lines can get blurry, and it begs the question: how do you really definitively know if you're wearing pants? For those times, I’d direct you to this flowchart.

But back to leggings: when can one confidently wear them outside of the athletic realm, you ask? Refer to Blair Waldorf’s statement about tights, and now substitute leggings and assess their passability. With an oversized sweater dress? Yes. But with a crop top? I ask you: Is there no decency?
(Photos: Robin Marchant/Getty Images North America, FameFlynet Pictures, Larry Busacca/Getty Images North America)

 
Simona Rabinovitch says Totally Valid:
While it's true that the sight of someone foregoing pants in favor of sheer tights or tight-type leg coverings, and prancing down the street, essentially pantless, is not on my personal list of fashion dos, I also feel that a proper pair of leggings––i.e. thick in fabric and respectable in length––can not only perform double duty as trousers, but in some cases, be an even—wait for it—better sartorial choice than cumbersome structured pants.

But let's get one thing straight: there's a big difference between tights and leggings. And in my book, to qualify as pants, leggings cannot be see-though, transparent, or have lingerie detailing—no exposed seams or panty line situations, ladies. They must cover you up and provide a good base for mixing, matching, and accessorizing.

Before you roll your eyes and think, "Damn, this girl is just too lazy to put her pants on," let us take a moment to acknowledge the active lifestyle in which so many of us––myself included––are engaged in on a daily basis.

If you do a lot of exercise, and are constantly on the go in the city, you really need clothing that's comfortable, breathable, and made to move––especially if you walk or bike everywhere. On those days when you're running around from place to place, be it the office, rehearsal, or the gym, skirts are essentially off the menu, and structured pants can slow you down and cramp your style. 

As you may have guessed, this is where leggings come in. Leggings can be integrated into endless combinations of accessories and wardrobe staples—scarves, button-downs, jean jackets, fitness-friendly tank tops, motorcycle jackets, and oversized sweaters. Because guess what? Leggings go with everything.

So for those of you clinging to the idea that they couldn't possibly be pants, dare to dream (with the opaque ones, mind you). Because once you experience the sartorial freedom they bring, you won't look back.
Melissa Goldstein is a Lonny and StyleBistro contributing writer whose work has also appeared in ELLE, Wall Street Journal, GQ, The Observer, Spin, and Lucky Magazine.
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