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Three young men wearing traditional gray sweatpants

Sweatpants are a casual variety of soft trousers intended for comfort or athletic purposes, although they are now worn in many different situations. In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa they are known as tracksuit bottoms. In Australia and New Zealand, they are also commonly known as trackpants, trackies or tracky daks.[1]


The first pair of sweatpants was introduced in the 1920s by Émile Camuset, the founder of Le Coq Sportif. These were simple knitted gray jersey pants that allowed athletes to stretch and run comfortably.[2] Sweatpants became commonplace at the Olympics by the late 1930s, and were seen on many athletes in the decades that followed.[3] The rise of workout culture, as well as the birth of hip-hop in 1980s America, led to the popularization of sweatpants as both leisurewear and streetwear.[4]

College students also contributed to sweatpants' rise in popularity in the United States. Since the 1910s, "sportswear" has been a staple in college campus style and in the 1970s and 80s designers began reimagining the "jersey knit fabric that had been used for gym garb" into clothes for students' everyday wear.[5] Despite their rise in popular culture ,sweatpants were often criticized in mainstream media in the 1990s and early 2000s; in the American sitcom Seinfeld, the title character, Jerry, tells his friend "you're telling the world you've given up" when he appears in sweatpants.

The discussion surrounding sweatpants and their role in the world of fashion continues today though now it is framed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the months since a quarantine was implemented by many countries, there have been many articles written about how fashion has shifted. Sweatpant sales have increased since 2019,[6] and many high-end and couture fashion brands have moved toward creating simpler, athleisure-inspired looks.[7]


Sweatpants are usually made from stretchy knitted jersey fabrics of differing weights, including single jersey, double jersey, fleeceback jersey, and loopback jersey (terry). They are a pull-on style pants and often have a flexible elasticated waistband with a drawstring closure. They may or may not have a fly and pockets. Some sweatpants can also feature elasticized cuffs at the hem of the leg. Sweatpants are traditionally ash gray in color but are now available in most colors. Traditionally quite "baggy" and loose, sweatpants are now also available in more form-fitting shapes; moreover, they have flexibility and comfort.


Once these practical pants were only worn for sporting events and at home. Now, they are available in many fashionable styles and are worn in a variety of public situations. Because of their comfort and fashion, they have become a popular choice of clothing. Sweatpants may come from many different materials and in many forms including thick and thin. Sweatpants are sometimes associated with certain lifestyles such as gym culture or hip-hop culture.[8] This niche-specific perception of sweatpants since the 1980s has at times resulted in extensive dress code regulations with some outlets outright banning the wearing of sweatpants on their premises; including some German cafes and a substantial number of nightclubs worldwide.[9]


Woman wearing tearaway pants

There are many variations on sweatpants design that have evolved to define their own categories of athletic pants. These variations include fashion pants, windpants, tearaway pants, and muscle pants.

Fashion pants[edit]

Fashion pants typically refers to fashion conscious sportswear. These pants are often made from a variety of materials, like velvet or satin, and in many color combinations or patterns. One distinguishing characteristic is that fashion pants generally lack the elastic band at the ankles. They are considered a form of athleisure wear.[10]


Windpants are similar to sweatpants but are lighter and shield the wearer from cold wind rather than insulate. Windpants are typically made of polyester or nylon, with a liner made of cotton or polyester. The nylon material's natural friction against both itself and human legs makes "swooshing" sounds during walking. Windpants often have zippers on each ankle, letting athletes unzip the end of each leg, allowing the pants to be pulled over their footwear.

Tearaway pants[edit]

Tearaway pants, also known as breakaway pants, rip-off pants, or popper pants are closely related to windpants. Tearaway pants are windpants with snap fasteners running the length of both legs. The snaps allow athletes to remove their tearaway pants in a timely manner to compete in some sports. Basketball and track and field are the two sports most commonly associated with tearaway pants.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lisa Pryor (25 October 2002). "In her tracky daks, a Hollywood star turns invisible". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 March 2013. Naomi Watts: 'I look like a completely different person when I just wake up and get my tracky daks on'
  2. ^ VanHooker, Brian (November 24, 2017). "The Cultural History of Sweatpants". Mel Magazine. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  3. ^ "The Cultural History of Sweatpants". MEL Magazine. 2017-11-24. Retrieved 2021-09-27.
  4. ^ "The Cultural History of Sweatpants". MEL Magazine. 2017-11-24. Retrieved 2021-09-27.
  5. ^ Clemente, Deirdre. Dress Casual : How College Students Redefined American Style, University of North Carolina Press, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/bu/detail.action?docID=1663559.
  6. ^ No sweat: how tracksuit bottoms became the height of lockdown fashion; Sales of sweatpants soar as fashionistas embrace the joys of an elasticated waistline in their working-from-home outfits. (2020). The Guardian (London).
  7. ^ Hunt, Kenya. "Sweatpants are no longer 'a sign of defeat' - every day you get dressed is a win." Washington Post, 10 Feb. 2021. Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A651370688/AONE?u=mlin_b_bumml&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=d616728e. Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.
  8. ^ http://www.dw.com/en/germany-stuttgart-cafe-bans-sweatpants/a-41504760
  9. ^ McLennan-Dillabough, Sarah. "Mediating Access: The Utilization of Status Evaluation Processes in the Work of Bouncing." The Arbutus Review 4.1 (2013): 45-62
  10. ^ Sportswomen's Apparel Around the World. New Femininities in Digital, Physical and Sporting Cultures. 2021. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-46843-9. ISBN 978-3-030-46842-2.