Leggings Are Literally Pants

If one more person asks if leggings can be worn as pants, I am going to die.
Photos by Raymond Hall/GC Images; BG017/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.

Welcome to Fashionating, a column on scathing fashion truths you may not be ready to hear.

I became acutely aware that leggings were possibly the most misunderstood garment in high school, when I heard people idiotically recite the same clichéd opinion ad nauseum: I hate when people wear leggings as pants. This line has been repeated ever since then throughout my social experiences, alongside similar criticisms and questions like, Can you wear leggings as pants? And the like. Many people are hell-bent on asserting the fiction that leggings are not, in fact, pants. If that sounds reasonable to you, it is because you have been brainwashed to believe it. Though this widespread attack on leggings may seem benign, it actually represents a disgusting project to gaslight women into doubting a reality that is self-evident: Leggings are pants.


Imagine a high-waisted (obviously) pair of leggings with a cropped T-shirt and an oversized blazer, your hair in a messy top knot. Now, imagine someone questioning whether or not you are wearing pants in this outfit. It is mind-boggling, and yet, is asked of women in leggings all the time.

Questioning whether you can wear leggings as pants is like asking if you can wear a top hat as a hat. This isn’t even a question, as it answers itself: Nothing can stop a top hat from being a hat, and nothing can stop leggings from being, fundamentally, pants. The only difference is that they’re made of slightly stretchier material than other pants. So why are people pressed about women who wear leggings? The answer is obviously misogyny. Leggings fit all kinds of bodies, they don’t drastically reshape bodies, and they allow the silhouette of the body to be more visible than it is in most other pants. Isn’t it curious that some of the most comfortable, accessible, and universally wearable pieces of clothing that women love to wear would be subjected to a such a hostile social rejection?

And women do love wearing leggings (as pants lmao), something you can find out by simply asking women how they feel about the matter. Personally, I like looking at what Twitter says to take society’s temperature on style issues. When I searched, “leggings as pants,” I found tweet after tweet expressing the love of leggings. “If wearing leggings as pants is wrong, I don't want to be right,” one user wrote. “HOW ELSE ARE THEY MEANT TO BE WORN? workout leggings, yoga leggings they are worn as PANTS,” another user exclaimed, sadly needing to explain something obvious. “Who cares if girls wear their leggings as pants like I will wear my leggings as a scarf if I want to, shut the fuck up,” one lone hero roared.


Leggings are not only literally pants, they are also one of the chicest, cheapest style staples, making the cultural campaign against their public wear as humiliating as it is sexist.

Leggings are not only literally pants, they are also one of the chicest, cheapest style staples, making the cultural campaign against their public wear as humiliating as it is sexist. If you can’t perceive the fashionable nature of leggings, you’re a fool. I guess it isn’t surprising—fools often like to profess their ignorance publicly. Maybe they don’t know any better, or maybe they’re proud of blindly blending in with the status quo.

The true beauty of the legging is its simplicity; alone on an otherwise nude form, they are meaningless. But once you start constructing your look, leggings take on new personality, specific to the themes that you invoke through the garments paired with them. Now, there are limitations to leggings. Well-worn leggings can become translucent (but that doesn’t call their status as pants into question). And, simply, leggings that aren’t black are almost always a mistake. I will not explain why. Patterned leggings are most unfortunate. But this is like telling you not to wear a deep V–neck T-shirt: If you can’t figure that out on your own, you may be beyond my help.

You can’t compare leggings to any other kind of pants. They’re more editorial than sweatpants, which are best worn when you want to ride the tide of comfortable power with a thicker barrier between you and the outside world. They’re, clearly, not jeans, slacks, or parachute pants, all of which provide their own unique utility in the daily project of crafting an outfit. Leggings, unlike these other pant-breeds, make the lower body a casual-yet-elegant canvas that can either be accentuated to demonstrate the power of your ass and legs, or understated to create space for whatever you wear on top. You can wear anything as a top when you’re wearing leggings.

Picture a pair of black leggings with a vintage T-shirt, a leather jacket, and needlepoint, leather-lined slippers. This look feels expensive but mysterious, exuding power in its casualness and neatly sealed together with principal fashion items that speak more clearly without the distraction wrought by more detailed or structured pants. The legs, instead are sartorial stems that don’t overburden the rest of the outfit.

With an oversized, distressed crewneck sweater or hoodie and a pair of heavy acetate sunglasses, leggings make you look like a first-class flyer who has emails to write, TV to watch, and a daily dose of CBD to ingest. For the more formal among us, leggings can be worn under button-down shirtdresses or chunky cable knits paired with tortoise shell frames and a slick ponytail. Your options are endless.

If you have lived in fear of wearing leggings as pants, I implore you to reject this fashion gaslighting and accept what you know to be true. if leggings are not already pants, then leggings are nothing at all. If that is true, then what are any of us?