He sat in my kitchen, sipping instant coffee. “You’ve got weirdly big hands,” he told me. “Is that because people in the North have to handle farm animals?” We went to the pub together and he looked above my head at the Everton game on the TV. One time he told me he had a threesome with his mate Mikey, "but it wasn’t gay because we didn’t touch”. Whatever this guy and I had ended when I asked if he wanted to get food and he messaged me back saying, “I think we want different things here.”
Why did I make an effort with him? Why did I put on eyebrow mascara and shave my legs (including my thighs) before he came over, knowing that he would leave after two hours of making little to no effort to please me?
Because he was always wearing grey joggers, and they made him look fit. I’m not a freak. Many of us unfortunate enough to be attracted to the male sex find grey joggers uncomfortably hot. Thankfully, the weather is getting cold and with it comes the need to insulate, so more men emerge from their homes, workplaces, cars and showers in joggers. What on Earth is it about an elastic waistband and a loose fit? Why do they haunt my dreams so? Very important journalism to follow (Pulitzer, take notice).
WHAT IS IT?
Granted the bar is low for men. Give me a guy who knows how to cook something other than spag bol and I will mentally fast forward to the moment when he's tearing up on the pulpit repeating the words “in sickness and in health”. And yet, credit where credit is due, this is a very specific jogger I’m referring to.
They cannot be those overly tight ones with statement zips and some weird brand name like Ice Cold Man (sorry Tommy Fury). They also cannot be the overly baggy, pasta sauce-stained variety. Those should be reserved for sweating out into the sofa in front of episodes of Flirty Dancing. No, these joggers should be purchased at Sports Direct in approximately one size too small and in marl grey – a dark charcoal defeats the whole exercise.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
There’s definitely a pervasive level of working-class fetishism at play here. I would like to ignore the fact that men in prison wear grey joggers, but we all know they do. Yet basics like me are not the only ones into grey joggers. Gay men have been fetishising working-class aesthetics since forever. In the 2000s a number of porn sites such as Sketboy.com and Sneakersex.net catered to a scally lad fetish: trackies tucked into socks, hoodies in summer, more Le Cock Sportif than Le Coq Sportif. Some of my girlfriends would get their gay mates to put them onto councillads.com where there were photos of skinheads, Staffordshire bull terriers and, of course, grey joggers.
A couple of years later, season three of Skins aired and when it did we were introduced to Cook. He wore grey tracksuit bottoms in the young offender institution he was checked into and I wanted to put his head on my chest and stroke his scalp until his eyelids got heavy.
Thirst aggregator Anthony Joshua is always wearing them too – most notably when he tweeted that picture on Valentine’s Day eating salmon and eggs alone with the caption: "Sitting in my armchair waiting to receive my Valentines messages… think my phones broken”. Granted his legwear was of the short variety, but the inclusion of grey fleece material was enough. I, like many other women, gazed upon that image and became pregnant.
Joshua is not alone here. There’s always a specific moment in boxing films where the grey joggers come out. The guy has sobered up, he’s ditched the cocaine and Stella cans, he can’t lose another fight. So, along with the joggers, he puts on a grey hoodie, woolly hat and runs through the rundown suburban streets of his home until there’s a dark sweat stain circling around his chest. It’s part of a montage: he’s rolling in a balmy orange glow under white sheets with his ex-wife, one finger tracing the curving lines of her collarbone, he’s picking up his daughter from school and she runs into his arms (big arms) and he picks her up and spins her around, he’s punching bags in the gym, throwing tyres, he’s got traps bigger than Michael from Love Island. You see variations of this in Creed, Jawbone and Bleed For This. Grey joggers scream: “I’m a mess but I’m pulling my life together. Be the woman who helps me change” (because we all know that works).
WHO'S DOING IT?
With the rise of luxe streetwear, it’s become difficult to tell if men in grey joggers don’t give a fuck or if they’ve just PayPalled £97 to Yeezy to look like they don’t give a fuck. Either way, it still works on me. Kanye’s leather jogging pant dreams have faded to grey and I’m immensely grateful for the fact.
And yet, grey joggers have not been appropriated by the sort of guy who is the manager of an immersive gallery space or has a low-fi techno show on NTS. Men who wear grey joggers are largely the same as they always were. They're still getting kicked out of clubs for taking their top off or could call you "darling" and somehow it wouldn't come across as patronising. They still sit in their cars for long periods without moving, only now they're taking a picture from the driver's side for their Hinge profile.
Men in grey joggers look like guys who would be mean to me at school. The sort that would sneak out of the gates during break time, sell sherbet Dib Dabs on for a profit and call me “Annie no tits”. They speak to some unexamined issue I have with only fancying men who don’t fancy me. Unfortunately, the men I attract are the sort who carry around their copy of Sapiens around as though it were a clutch bag and routinely jizz CBD oil onto their Uniqlo cargo pants.
There’s also something inherently hot about someone looking comfy. It’s like you see the soft lining that comes from a limited amount of washes and want to sink into them like an armchair. They look how you want to feel, and unwashed brushed fleece feels so damn good.
And, sorry to be crude, but there’s also the dick print. Grey projects shadows like no other colour and the form-fitting of a tight jogger mean they approach men-in-tights levels of eyeful. It’s the masculine equivalent of going out braless in a tight top in cold weather. One time, Tottenham player Eric Dier was pictured with what the tabloids called a “mysterious bulge” in his crotch area. Honestly, there’s no mystery about it. We all know what’s down there: a murder weapon.
APPROX WHEN WILL THIS DIE?
Never. It’s too classic a look, they have entered the cannon of the male dress code. Grey joggers are a suit but for guys your mum would disapprove of. I want a wasteman who has found God. I want a sad man who is in therapy. I want the guy who would peanut my tie at school to now be helping me put shelves up. I want a guy who wears grey joggers.