The last day of summer, and what a day. Out on the beach, a quiet stretch of Sagaponack, children played beneath a rainbow parasol. A gentle breeze whistled in the brush. Beside me, a friend dozed on a chaise longue.
“Excuse me,” I interrupted. “But where did you get those jeans?”
He lifted his fedora to reveal a knowing smile.
“These are no jeans,” he said in a low voice, as if I’d stumbled on the gates of a secret fraternity. “They’re jeggings.”
For much of history, getting dressed was an unhappy occasion. “In modern times,” wrote the late Joan Rivers, “women have used bustles, hoop skirts, petticoats, corsets and girdles to shrink the waist and boost the bottom.” How many feet were bound, ribs crushed, ankles sprained in the name of high fashion.
But, for women at least, much has changed. Ladies I know strut about in sneakers — though sometimes disguised as heels. Stretchy pants stand for any occasion. “Athleisure,” so-called, is ushering in “a new aesthetic of casual comfort suits,” writes Véronique Hyland on The Cut. Wearability is all the rage. Clad in this “third wardrobe,” women are both chic and shrewd, like sheep in wolves’ clothing.
On Instagram the other day, a woman I follow posted a photo with the caption: “Pajama bottoms slowly replacing jeans.” A commenter agreed, “Story of my life.”
This boy’s life?
Not quite. Men still cling to their suits like armor. Neckties remain a noose and a nuisance. Dress shoes hug the ankle, shackle-like, as ever. Our lapels are thinner, spectacles thicker, socks more patterned, and none much the cozier. Perhaps the biggest culprits are those on our legs.
Jeans are, and may forever be, de rigueur. In this decade, denim will reach a global market of over $50 billion. I remember fathers cheering at soccer practice in the same Levi’s 501s favored by Steve Jobs. Quite sensibly, my mother refused me JNCOs — those billowing 90s abominations. Boot cuts tend to shred at the hem, and years later, the soul. I owned splotched, scarified pairs which left their owner, too, feeling “distressed.” Then came the skinny jean, raw and rigid, leaving little room to wiggle and less to the imagination.
What’s worse is the upkeep. I know fellows who freeze their blue jeans overnight. Others prance in the ocean with the pant legs turned inside out. Many decline cleaning outright (a lesson I learned the hard way when my housekeeper reduced a 31 Skinny Straight to a 26 Tall Toddler). In the early aughts I owned a nearly perfect pair, which, I retired after one season for fear of deterioration. For a time I preferred A.P.C.’s petit standard, until my friend Izzie Lerer cried out, “I can see your peeper!”
So, emboldened by my chaise-lounging peer who had looked so at ease in his stretchy pants, I found myself on the third floor of Uniqlo once the leaves changed and fall commenced. “MEN LEGGINGS JEANS” read a sign. I plucked a pair from the shelf and carried my contraband to the fitting room. What can I say? They were marvelous, like trading a catheter for a condom. Aside from the obvious merit — that is, the give — the jeggings were straight-leg, slender, and of a uniform wash. Less jeans, more pants.
$29.90 got me the goods (though I parted with nearly that much to shorten the hem). And since then, I’ve never looked back. They fit like a glove, dress up or down, and come out of the wash entirely unwrinkled.
Non-believers tend to scoff at the “girly” name, or conflate jeggings with skinny jeans. But to the contrary, these tickle where denim chafes yet appear identical to the naked eye. They’re versatile. They’re a second skin. They add bit of spandex to your step.
My advice to the men: torch your wardrobe, beeline for the jeggings aisle, and grow a pair.