I never want to see a man wearing yoga pants. Aside from the fact that they leave almost nothing to the imagination (if I even wanted to imagine), I would rather a man’s apparel convey self-respect and class. I want his clothes to say “I respect you, I hope you respect me.” So, what is it about these non-forgiving, figure-revealing, hoochie pants that drive women to sport them around town while running errands, driving carpool, and sometimes even to worship in church? Do they even yoga? What does it say about modern culture, and how did we get here? Throughout history, apparel styles have evolved like a cautiously rebellious teen testing her boundaries, growing bolder with each successful breach of perceived limits. Let’s see what that looks like with a quick walk down the historical fashion runway.
We first travel back to the days when Jesus walks the Earth in his dusty sandals. The women wear long, loose, draping clothing and head garb revealing no more than their faces, hands, and throats. Modesty prevails. Men wear tunics, as well. In fact, it isn’t until the Fall of the Roman Empire, (476 AD) that most men in western civilization regularly wear pants. While most of the fashion reforms of the next 1800 years amount to changes in fabrics, collars, sleeves, accessories, and embellishments, a few trends in women’s fashion stand out as significant turns of event.
Around 1300 AD, a revolutionary shift occurs as necklines plummet and corsets arrive on the scene. Gowns now emphasize the waist and upper chest. More than a century later, Renaissance fashion brings us full skirts. In the second half of the 16th century, during the Elizabethan Age, women, for the first time, desire clothing similar to men’s styles with slim waists, broad shoulders, and puffy sleeves. At the end of the 18th century, following the French Revolution, ladies put away the corsets and return to the draped gown, and the aristocracy begins to dress more like the commoners (generally propelled by fear of the guillotine). In the 1800s, clothing becomes even more practical and comfortable, although, in the second half of the century, known as the Victorian Era, modesty returns with a desperate grasp, and necklines rise to heights not seen in centuries.
Finally, we reach modern history in the 20th century. Experimentation blossoms and the evolution of fashion moves faster than ever witnessed. Skirts creep up to calf- and even knee-length around the time of the Great Depression, then return to ankle-length in the 1950s. Then, boom! The 60s shock us with short skirts and tight jeans. Did you notice this was the first mention of women wearing pants? It wasn’t until about 50 years ago, in the mid-1960s, that it became socially acceptable for women to leave the house in pants. Of course, there were exceptions, such as when women worked in the industrial sector in the 1800s and in WWII, but these women were just borrowing their husbands’, brothers’, or fathers’ pants.
So, 1500 years after men transition to trousers, women finally jump into jeans. Then, we go from jeans and slacks to yoga pants in a mere 30 years. As far as fashion history goes, that’s comparable to about a week’s time. Sounds like that slope was quite slippery. The first yoga pants were sold in 1998 by Lululemon for yoga exercise purposes. They are undeniably comfortable for working out or lounging about, but this garment would have been called hose or underwear 50 years ago. I asked a 50-year-old executive whom I know what he thought about women in yoga pants. He responded,
“Do you want to see me in spandex shorts? Or any guy?
I don’t want to see a woman in yoga pants. It’s soft porn.”
It’s a scientific fact that men’s and women’s brains are wired differently. In regard to sex, studies have found that men are more visually stimulated, while women rely on emotion. Most women don’t understand the struggle that even the holiest of men face on a daily basis. At the same time, most men don’t understand what it is like to be a woman. In my research, I asked a few men if they would ever wear yoga pants. I was surprised when one of them said,
‘No, way! I don’t want to be ogled like an object!”
This guy has empathy, and probably sisters.
Aside from the moral implications, the so-called “athleisure” trend marks a measure of society’s relaxed standards in general. Strangely, the sleek styles are promoted as a step up from the sloppy, I-couldn’t-bother-to-change-out-of-my-pj’s-to-go-to-Walmart look of yesteryear. Some companies and many schools have banned spandex sweat pants. Meanwhile, the fashion industry races to market round-the-clock, night in/night out leisurewear. Dress yoga pants are even a thing. Women have fought hard to reach a certain level of respect in corporate America. Gone are the days of “Sugar, fetch me a cup of coffee.” But, if women wear yoga pants in the workplace, they are sending mixed messages to the very men they have taught to see them as a respected asset, instead of a distraction.
I’m just praying men don’t try them. Ever.