Sweatpants vs Joggers

Sweatpants vs Joggers

Today, joggers and sweatpants are staples in many closets across the country, but this was not always the case. We share what's the difference between them and how to style them. 

Sweatpants vs Joggers: Then & Now

Heather Grey Sweatpants

At one point, there was a negative stigma attached to our coziest pair of pants as Jerry Seinfeld famously exclaimed, “You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world, 'I give up.'” However, this is not the case in fashion today as everyone from celebrities to regular people wear sweatpants and joggers constantly. Furthermore, you can find them everywhere including your most affordable department stores to luxury brands and even smaller startup companies.

Initially, there was backlash that came with rocking a cozy pair of sweats in any sphere other than athletics or lounging around the house. It took visionaries like Kith founder Ronnie Fieg and Michael Huynh, creator of Publish Brand, to push the boundaries. Now with sweatpants and joggers dominating the market, we take a look at their history and how they went from a fashion joke to some of the most popular items on the market.

Sweatpants Before They Were Trendy

Sage Core Dad Sweatpants

Trust me, I know it’s difficult to imagine a time when sweats and joggers were unacceptable, but it took time for them to enter the world of fashion. For many years, sweats were used only for functional purposes in athletics and were non-existent in fashion. In the 1920s sweatpants were first introduced, only in grey, by French sporting-goods company Le Coq Sportif. Rather than fashion or style, athletes wore sweats to absorb perspiration and have more flexibility.

In turn sweatpants gained some popularity in sports as athletes started influencing everyday people to start wearing sweatpants while playing sports. In 1976 more people hopped on the bandwagon when Sylvester Stallone rocked a sweat suit in his iconic role as Rocky during the famous training montage. Furthermore, at the turn of the 80’s sweats became more widespread as fitness and healthy lifestyle started to become popular.

Another huge player in the growing popularity of sweatpants was hip hop culture in New York City. Led by rap group RUN DMC, tracksuits became the new wave as the trio began wearing their iconic Adidas tracksuits with Adidas Superstars. Sweatpants were still not a part of mainstream fashion and were not regularly worn in public until the rise of the athleisure movement in which athletic apparel became fashionable instead of just functional.

Test Your Jogger Trivia

Navy Twill Jogger Pants

It is unclear who invented joggers and when, but their introduction in the United States played a major role in the advancement of athleisure clothing. Technically a jogger is a sweatpant-like trouser with elastic bottoms. This sounds simple, but it took a long time for them to explode into the fashion world. Some early trends that predate joggers include placing rubber bands around the ankles or rolling up pant legs to prevent longer, baggy pants from covering sneakers.

Still, it seemed that many guys struggled with two things: 

  • Finding a fashionable alternative to diversify their collection of bottoms
  • Finding pants that allowed sneakers to be showed off properly.

While the jogger was first seen in the Europe, Michael Huynh and Alex James of Publish Brand were early pioneers in the US. Ironically, their first attempt at the jogger was a misprint from a brainstorm session in 2009. Alex James rocked a dope pair of Marc Jacobs sweatpants to their meeting and informed Huynh they should create a similar silhouette since there were not enough like his available.

At first Huynh was skeptical because the amount of sweatpants already on the market. However, James explained most sweatpants are either too baggy or too slim, there were not many that looked cool and provided a perfect fit. James had also recently returned from London and was certain the style of his Marc Jacob sweats would be the new wave.

Black Camo Polar Fleece Sweatpants

In an interview with Complex James states, “These are going to be the future because everyone’s been trying to roll their pants, get them tailored, and you don't have to do it. It's already done for you.” The two redesigned the Marc Jacobs pair with the hopes of creating something that was unique and distinctively their own, little did they know what was about to happen would change the world of fashion.

When Michael Huynh received his sample back from the factory, he noticed one major mistake: the factory sampled the pants in stretch twill instead of fleece, the material Huynh and James originally wanted. While at first Huynh was upset with the mistake, he realized they had come up with something unique that had a ton of potential. At first, they did not sell well, but Huynh decided people did not understand his new joggers.

They needed to be portrayed in a different light so Huynh decided to market them visually through a photo series in which models were dressed in joggers paired with sneakers like Jordan 11 Concords, Nike Huaraches, Stan Smiths, and other famous sneakers to show consumers (mainly sneakerheads) that this was the future. From there, Publish Brand copyrighted the term jogger and the rest was history. On the other side of the country, Ronnie Fieg was also creating a new wave of bottoms through experimentation. Fieg’s “Kith Mercer Pants” were making serious noise in NYC and originated from a pair of camouflage pants that he owned and needed to adjust.

Camo Contrast Cargo Jogger

After making the pants smaller, Ronnie decided to add an elastic cuff on the bottom. Soon everyone was asking Fieg about his pants and sure enough they were one of Kith’s early best sellers when the store opened in 2010. Later, bigger brands like J Crew picked up on the new trend and produced their own version which was followed by even more companies who wanted to test the new market.

Joggers & Sneakers: A Movement

Another major player in the jogger movement was Nike’s running shoe surge including Flyknits, Roshes, and countless other new running models that pair perfectly with joggers. Many other brands mimicked Nike’s scheme such as Adidas with Ultra Boosts, Yeezys, and more silhouettes that compliment joggers extraordinarily well. Consumers paired the running shoe trend with the jogger trend allowing the movements to grow and evolve together. Ultimately, with the ever growing popularity of Athleisure wear, sweatpants and joggers made an enormous leap in the fashion world from laughing-stock to high-level fashion.

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