I got back from the grocery store and library, happily prepared for what media have trumped up to be Snowmaggedon 2011 and for me what seems to be a normal occurrence in Buffalo – snow, snow, and more snow. I set down the full grocery bags and the overflowing library tote, feeling perfectly comfortable and content with the prospect of being snowed in and spending the next few days at home.
Until I looked down and realized with horror that I was wearing sweatpants.
I’ve been in the US for almost 6 weeks now, which is the longest non-stop stint in about 3 years, and only the sweatpants really brought it home to me. Why? Well, I would never venture out to the greengrocer on the corner, let alone step into an institute of learning (or at least a place that has books) in sweatpants in France or Poland.
Not that I have any great inherent fashion style. The past years have been more of a “see what clothes the poor intern can salvage from her younger sisters’ closets” than “conscious creation of a personal brand via fashion choices”, and living in France for a long time didn’t magically cure me of that. Nor is there anything wrong with sweatpants – they are amazingly comfortable, and the sleek yoga pants I practically live in at home can’t be accused of being shapeless or ugly.
But still, they are, by definition, exercise clothes, and if they serve the purpose of security blankets, all the better – but within the confines of our own homes. At least that’s what I preached and practiced in Europe, where I would actually work out, jog up and down the stairs of Lyon’s Croix Rousse (yep, it’s a hill) in sweatpants. Here in Buffalo, jogging outside is not an option (in between the snowstorms and the incessant colds caused by the sub-zero temperatures, I’ve probably run about 3 times in the last 6 weeks).
And it’s not only me being snobbish or European – I have never had coffee with anybody wearing “sports apparel” at a cafe in Europe. I’m not even sure most of my friends possess sweatpants, at least, I’ve never seen them sporting a pair (get it? sporting? Anyway…)
I’ve noticed also that sweatpants, and their wearers, get a bad rep everywhere in Europe. In Poland, we have a subculture that we call ‘dresiarze‘, literally, “people who wear dres, a tracksuit”, usually tucked into their socks, or, in an upscale version, szeleszczace dresy (imagine the sound lots of shs and chs in Polish make, and you’ll understand I’m referring to the rustling sound shiny tracksuits make). In the UK and Ireland, I saw youngsters hanging around apartment buildings and on doubledeckers in sweatpants and was told they are called chavs. I’m not sure what the correct name is in French, but from what I could see, sportswear companies are definitely not seeing a decrease in sales since 1998 (when I first visited France, I was astounded by the number of kids – obviously not into any kind of physical activity – wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts, but I assumed this was temporary insanity due to their nation winning the World Cup).
Interesting how sports apparel rarely seems to be associated with good-natured, well-spoken, polite and educated people. Here in the US I think the main issue is not that, but rather laziness, as people just can’t be bothered to think of their appearance before heading out the door.
And now you’ll have to excuse me, because the wind is picking up and I need to make sure my extra-soft fleece pants are clean and dry before snow hits and the power goes out.