Sweatpants Won't Let You Break up With Them That Easily

·4-min read
Photo credit: CDLP
Photo credit: CDLP

For a short time, I sort of... enjoyed lockdown? I was at my parents in Yorkshire, and so regressed from a 30-year-old man into a 15-year-old teen; surly, lazy, largely stress-free, oversleeping and over-Call of Duty-ing, and intermittently drinking warm cans of Stella Artois in fields with other friends who'd escaped London. Dinners were sorted by my good mother. The Sopranos reruns and tanks of red wine were sorted by my good father. 2005 was back, baby! But, in a sleepy provincial corner where people still get Really Dressed Up for a big Friday night, lockdown also allowed me to embrace my inner stoner, my inner LA crystal healer mom, my inner Sunday League coach and my inner cantankerous Florida retiree all at once, because I could walk around in a sweatsuit all day, everyday, unperturbed by cagouled, farmy locals who eyed me as if I were openly peddling drugs in the village square. Or jade eggs.

Photo credit: CDLP
Photo credit: CDLP

And we still can embrace comfies. Though sweatpants and everything else cotton and marled became a cash cow for brands at a time when people demanded comfort above all else, the appetite for max casual, low effort menswear rumbles on as the world opens up. Case in point: the new Mobilité range from Nordic cult label CDLP. As a brand that filled a gap with its shrewd concept of functional but mildly sexy undies, fingers have extended into pies that encompass swimwear, wardrobe essentials and now, the business of mildly sexy sloth clothing.

But that isn't Mobilité's proposed USP. This is activewear, and it seeks to reverse sweatpants back to their original purpose. "We released our first active essential a year ago with the Mobilité Boxer Brief. Performance underwear is not so commonly used, and it has gotten great response from our customers," founders Andreas Palm and Christian Larson told Esquire via email. "Even if we’ve been wearing activewear inside a lot these past months, we wanted to bring it back to its initial function: to transition in and out of physical performance – in style."

Because, ultimately, the tracksuit, and the sweatsuit, and even sweatpants, have long been a style grail. And though this is not being delivered from a place free of bias (I love a tracksuit, and I always will), fashion's embrace of comfies has resulted, perhaps accidentally, in the minting of a new classic – and menswear classicists, oh how they despair.

Of course, Eighties sportswear immortalised sweatpants, and that led to a natural foothold for modern streetwear. But lazywear (or, in CDLP's specific case, activewear) has been co-opted by creative directors that, once upon a time, would rather self immolate than go gym coach. Now, legacy tailoring brand Canali still makes sweatpants and hoodies after the Covid hatches have been unbattened. Brunello Cucinelli, the one stop shop for corporate cognoscenti the world over, still offers sweatpants and sweatshirts in the finest Italian cotton.

The runways also provide a litmus test for a piece's staying power. And, though showboaty tailoring took up most of the oxygen during the S/S '21 shows (understandable given the fact all weddings, christenings, business meetings, important dinners and not-so-important dinners were put on ice), tracksuits of sorts were peppered into the collections at Burberry, and Paul Smith, and Isabel Marant; a sign that, maybe, these once maligned pieces are now a permanent menswear fixture. After lockdown, there was ostensibly little need for something that was confined to a sofa we yearned to escape. And yet.

Despite the recent surge, CDLP's Palm and Larson have always considered sweatsuits a staple. "We've looked for a sweat collection that has a more relaxed fit and robust materials, creating the classic American college look worn by Kennedy Jr. and the Chicago Bulls team," they wrote. "To us, it's a timeless look to have in your wardrobe. You can wear it for a Sunday walk in Central Park." And everywhere else, too.

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