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The Rise of the Sweatpants

A summary of how leisurewear has risen in popularity during the pandemic.

For many students, the past few weeks have brought new developments in terms of in-person classes and, with them, a whole new host of questions: How do you successfully achieve dual delivery? Is it safe to be all together in a class when Covid-19 is surging almost everywhere in Europe? On a more trivial level, many of us have asked ourselves: “Do I actually need to dress up now?” After months spent rolling out of bed in our rooms to attend Zoom calls in sweatpants (if not pyjamas), the idea of wearing jeans, even in a town full of people as well-dressed as those in St. Andrews, appears almost ridiculous. This move towards what has been termed “casualwear” is not limited to St Andrews students, however. It is a global trend which has led to several shifts in designs for existing brands, as well as the emergence of new brands.


The collective push for comfortable clothing to wear at home during lockdown days has been so great that it seems that the entire fashion industry has responded. Some were slower to respond than others, but if you have a look at collections for this fall, you would be hard-pressed not to find at least one pair of sweatpants and big wooly socks. This is not limited to ready-to-wear brands like Zara releasing entire lines of homewear. Couture brands like Dries Van Noten have released their own versions (with slightly different price tags, however). The Dries Van Noten cotton sweatpants (pictured below) will set you back a breezy £220. While sportswear brands have been obvious beneficiaries of this new trend, it should also be noted that online retailers like ASOS have seen their profits not only rise but almost quadruple. This is particularly impressive in the context of an economic downturn which has disproportionately affected the fashion industry.

The demand for casualwear has also led to the emergence of new brands in the midst of the pandemic. The designer behind Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty underwear line has gone solo and launched a new underwear and homewear line called Videris. The brand PANGAIA has also launched earlier this year. It offers dozens of designs and is built around the promise to use only sustainable fibers, environmentally friendly dyes, and replant one tree per item sold.


Of course, we cannot omit the DIY fashion trend which took over this spring as bored people staying at home decided that tie-dye would be a fun thing to do, so much that some grocery stores in the United States ran out of Kool-Aid juice (which is used in the process in the absence of fabric dyes). This phenomenon was especially prevalent among teenage girls, powered by another force that emerged during the pandemic–TikTok. The pandemic and lockdown not only changed the way we dress, but it also affected the way we communicate, especially in the case of younger generations.

While they are easy to overlook, these fashion developments show the dynamism that exists between our daily lives and fashion. The fashion industry is an industry, and we can’t ignore the fact that they are also actively profiting from riding this wave, but in a climate where all businesses are struggling and retailers are having to cut tens of thousands of jobs, it is difficult to blame them for it. While COVID-19 has impacted our lives in many deeply distressing ways, we can at least find comfort in the fact that, at least for a moment, the rules of fashion are encouraging us to be comfortable and feel classy wearing sweatpants. So slip into your sweats, put on your big socks and tennis shoes, and head to class–we’re all in this together.



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