Is it a sign of age or waist size when the section you visit most frequently on mrporter.com is “Sweats”? Until recently, sweatpants and sweatshirts were absent in my life; they were something people wore to watch the football or marry Katie Price. There was no room for them in my wardrobe. In fact, I can remember telling the Mr P merchandising team pre-launch that I thought a “Sweats” category was far too American or chavvy for the website. How wrong I was.
In the past year or two, I’ve spent an excessive amount of time admiring the stitching on a Todd Snyder loopback cotton-jersey sweatshirt in washed indigo, or wondering if I can justify the price of a pair of Alexander Wang jersey sweatpants or a Haider Ackermann double-layered hoodie (the former, yes; for the latter, the jury’s still out).
So why has the whole sweats genre become so popular? I’m aware, of course, it’s been a big-selling mass category for yonks, but today it has been embraced by almost every designer – including luxury brands such as Bottega Veneta and Loro Piana – and is worn by people, and to places, that previously shunned it.
Fashion commentators will point out that sportswear has been particularly influencing the menswear collections for a few seasons (it has); that sportswear has pervaded our off-duty wardrobes for decades (also true); and that as we become a more gym-oriented population, we want clothes to take us from treadmill to tea table without a change.
But I think it must be more than that. After all, it is quite a sea-change to decide that on a Saturday morning you will forego putting on a pair of your best Blue Blue Japan jeans (the dye of which turned your legs blue blue), a Band of Outsiders button-down plaid shirt and a pair of scuffed O’Keeffe wingtips and instead opt for an instant, no-brainer ensemble of sweatpants, sweatshirt and sneakers. And it seems we’re all doing it.
These are my three theories:
One: I think it’s the no-brainer part that has a lot of appeal. Today, we all work extremely hard to keep up with the demands of work; we try extremely hard to keep up with the demands of how everyone expects us to look (at work and play); and our working hours are some of the longest in Europe. This means that not only is our leisure time shorter than it has been for years, but we’re actually too knackered or brain-dead to make the most of it. Thus, the idea of getting up and dressed on a Saturday morning before the coffee has brewed is much less taxing if all the clothes you slip on kind of match, don’t have complicated fastenings and will likely fit despite however many beers or curries you gobbled down the night before. We now do ready-made convenience dressing that compliments our ready-made convenience foods.
Two: Away from the office, there is less onus on us to get dressed to go out. Ironically, because of the internet, a lot of our social lives are spent alone. You don’t need to get dressed to go to the supermarket or the record shop (food from Ocado, music from iTunes). Want to catch up with your friends? No need for a trip to Starbucks to say hi, just click the “Like” button on their most recent Instagram post. Fancy a date, or a shag over the weekend? Forget bars or clubs, just swipe through a few mugshots on Tinder. All this is done from the comfort of your sofa, in the comfort of your sweats.
Three: This is possibly the most controversial of my theories and, although you may publically argue otherwise, privately you will know I’m right. What do most of you do when you’re at home, lying on the sofa watching telly? Whether you realise it or not, you’re putting one hand down inside your pants and fiddling with your willy. I’m not sure why: maybe because it’s warm down there, maybe it’s because you like to make sure your willy is still there, or maybe it’s some sort of pet substitute.
A bunch of longtime married friends came around for supper the other night, and this subject came up. The women were all resigned to the fact that their husbands, without a second thought, would happily spend their evenings on the sofa with a hand down their pants having a friendly fiddle. Some were so absent-minded about this habit that they would inadvertently do it even when they had guests. Beware hosts handing out crisps is my advice.
Right. It’s time I finished. It’s tiring typing with one hand. But at least my other one is all warm and cosy.