With their forgiving waistline and so, so soft fabric, sweatpants are both tempting and forbidding. Are they, as minds as diverse and Seinfeld and Karl Lagerfeld, said, “a sign of defeat”? Or are they a liberating cry that we, men, deserve a little bit of comfort in our lives?
Sweatpants have a special place in many subcultures, from hip hop to gym rats to teenage girls at the airport. But for us dads they hold special resonance. Just like an armchair, a pair of sweatpants is both an admission and a celebration of reaching peak fatherhood. But it doesn’t mean you must retreat into your den of iniquity and sloth. These three sweatpants for men represent the best examples of a much maligned species. They balance comfort, durability, and style.
Best High-End Sweatpants: Woodley Hybrid Tracker Trouser by EFM Menswear
Technically, these are called tracker trousers. But, let’s face it, they’re glorified sweatpants. And what glory! These are the single most expensive pair of pants I own and the pants I wear 90 percent of the time. Donrad Duncan, the man behind EFM Menswear makes a range clothing that combines high tech fabrics and really sharp styling.
These tracker trousers combine the styling of a pair of trousers — flat front, slim fit, besom pockets — with the functionality of a sweatpant, including an adjustable interior drawcord and rib-knit on the leg openings. Made of stretchy dobby, they’re lightweight enough for spring and summer but not so light you freeze your balls off in winter. Speaking of, I’m a dad who bikes my kids everywhere (and generally bikes everywhere). All my jeans, therefore, wear out at the crotch but with a special insert for extra roominess, I’ve had these babies for years and have never heard that sad rip that signals the death of pants. They’re incredible.
Best Mid-Priced Sweatpants: French Terry Sweatpant by American Giant
It makes sense that the company that makes the best sweatshirt in the world would be no slouch at sweatpants either. American Giant, a San Francisco-based company, launched sweatpants in 2012. There are three different levels with French Terry being the mid-range. At 9.2 oz per square yard, the cotton is both soft and durable. (The 13 oz. is a little bit more and also a little too heavy for me.) The cut is straight, not too tapered like many fashion-y sweatpants tend to be, and it’s finished with smart details like antique silver drawcord tips so you don’t have that annoying thing that happens when the fucking drawcord retracts into the waistband and you spend an hour smooshing it out.
Best Low-Priced Sweatpants: Uniqlo Dry Stretch Sweatpants
Uniqlo is a master of vertical integration, low prices and slim fits. It’s why my closet is about 90 percent Uniqlo these days. [There’s also something about how quickly inventory rotates out of production that triggers a panicky FOMO feeling in my heart that results in splurges.] But of all the Uniqlo I own, their dry stretch sweatpants — 75 percent polyester, 25 percent cotton — are my most prized possession. Slim fitting and tapered, they nonetheless boast impressive stretch, for those rare moments that I try to do splits or cartwheels with my kids.