When Is It Okay To Wear Leggings As Pants?

Image by Chris Walts

Raise your hand if you think it’s an outright crime of fashion to wear leggings as pants — as in, leggings with nothing else over them.

If you’re like some people I know, you may be waving both arms in the air vehemently now.

Well, I have a secret to tell. I think wearing leggings as pants is….

Frankly, kind of sexy. When I see a woman in leggings, with nothing else covering her butt, my eyes are inevitably drawn to said butt. It’s like… well… uh, porn for my eyes.

And while I’m at it, you know what else I find sexy?

  • Sleeveless blouses with large arm holes, revealing just a tad more bra than intended. (No bra? OMG OMG OMG.)
  • Backless tops with a strapped bra.
  • Okay, yeah. Pretty much any time the bra is visible when it should be covered up.
  • Same with panties (low-rise jeans with the thong riding up past the waistline, for instance).

Unfortunately, all of my favorite things above are also outfits people consider tacky or outright inappropriate. I bet some of you are cringing at my fashion taste (or lack thereof) right this very instant. And that’s why it always bums me out to come across blog posts like this one:

Leggings as pants

Link here, if you must give the site traffic.

For the record, I see nothing wrong with any of the three butts in the above photo. In fact, my first thought upon seeing them was, “Damn.” (But, you know, the drawn-out version of the word that has the “y” in the middle, signifying that I’m being totally admiring and non-lecherous, because… hey, it’s possible.)

And you know what? Maybe that’s the issue….

I started noticing a pattern in all this recently. Yes, plenty of people are adamant in their hatred of leggings-as-pants. But interestingly, every such person seems to be a woman. I have not met one man who cares one way or the other. Sure, guys may comment, but it’s never with anything more than a passing thought. Nope, amongst the slew of writings I’ve come across alleging the criminality of leggings-as-pants, they’re invariably penned by women.

And that leads me to this controversial study, which started popping up all over the internet like a rabid game of Whack-a-Mole last month. In it, scientists at McMaster University recruited women for what was supposed to be a study on female friendships, then placed volunteers in pairs in a room. But this was all part of the setup. The real experiment began when a third woman entered the room and asked for the researchers. This third woman was actually part of the study, whose real purpose was to see how the participants would react to her.

In half the encounters, this woman was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. In the other half, she was wearing a low-cut blouse and a short skirt. The researchers wanted to see if the volunteers would respond differently to her depending on what she wore.

Khaki jeans? Now that’s a crime of fashion.

Sure enough, in a t-shirt and jeans, she attracted little attention from the other two women. In a low-cut blouse and short skirt, on the other hand, she incited indignation and even anger in the other women. A few times, they were openly aggressive towards her, but mostly, they would talk about her after she had left, making disparaging comments about her choice of attire and how inappropriate it was.

The researchers concluded that this is how women show aggression towards other women they see as sexual threats. While men “compete” for women via direct aggression against each other (you know, shot taking, arm wrestling, breaking beer bottles over each other skulls, and any other type of contest that purports to broadcast the length of our penis), women “compete” for men in more indirect ways — by insulting and ostracizing them.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Because it strikes me as the exact behavior we see when a female blogger rants about how wrong it is to wear leggings as pants. It’s also the same type of behavior this woman experienced when an unflattering photo of her went viral. As she pointed out, the majority of the condescending remarks were actually made by women.

Whether or not you agree with the conclusions of the researchers, this “mean girl” behavior clearly exists. The internet abounds with women hating on other women’s outfits. And worse, it’s considered snarky and witty. Well, to me, there’s something inherently wrong with the fact that we all laugh along when a woman posts a photo of another woman’s backside, without her knowledge, and proceeds to lambast what she’s wearing.

Leggings are not pants pinterest (blurred)

It’s all fun and games until your butt ends up on the internet.

Some argue that these bloggers could be speaking from a place of concern. Maybe they don’t want these leggings-clad women to be leered at by men (even if it’s in the aforementioned totally admiring and non-lecherous way). Well, I call bullshit. These comments are always made with disdain, never concern.

Others argue that these leggings-as-pants haters are simply critiquing the social appropriateness of someone’s outfit. And to that I ask, “So what?” If you’re a woman, and you believe another woman is dressed inappropriately, what does it matter to you? How are her leggings hurting you in any way? Moreover, why is it necessary to publicly insult her?

Let’s face it, berating a woman for wearing leggings as pants is nothing more than slut-shaming couched under fake concern. If you’re a woman who engages in such behavior, maybe it’s because deep down, you resent that she’s going to attract the attention of some of the very men you yourself are hoping to attract.

Well, that’s what science says. I guess it’s up to you to prove science right or wrong.

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Dennis Hong

I am a relationships and comedy writer, which can be redundant or an oxymoron, depending on your perspective. As of 2018, I’ve started a dating coach service called Social Savvy Sage, which focuses on developing social skills rather than offering generic dating advice. I am the creator of Musings, the blog you're reading right now, and LemonVibe, an anonymous relationship advice site. You can also find me on Twitter (I am not the creator of Twitter).

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