Photo credit: Marc Andrew Daley/Getty

An apologia of “Sweatpants Kid” over at New York magazine left some of our staff wondering: who was the Sweatpants Kid? Did he exist, and is it accurate to generalize his existence across era and geography? Some of us remembered, or even were Sweatpants Kid in grade school, and a few saw him persist into middle school, but some had trouble conceiving of him altogether.

I don’t really recall seeing sweatpants, in the thick, plush cotton, sweat-absorbing, roomy sense, outside of the usual accepted contexts. Sports, sitting on your own couch, hungover college kid shambling into class. This all changed when the recent trend of “athleisure” empowered people to wear their slim-cut pajamas to work and to the club. (Even if I don’t remember Sweatpants Kid from my past, he’s now everywhere I look.) But in my youth we were graced by a lot of other excellent pants and shorts, each of whom probably had their own Kid. In ascending order of eliteness:

  • Mesh shorts
  • Cargo pants
  • Nylon track pants
  • Tearaway track pants with buttons
  • Zip-off cargo pants

Only the last are truly elite, with such elegant design: the zip-off segments could be contained in the roomy pockets of the shorts until needed later, when the evening winds struck your hairless shins. Perfect pant/short versatility.

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Most of this roughly fits into the larger consumer trend, spanning the last twenty-odd years, of elite athletic wear trickling down to the common Cheeto-dusted schlub. It’s a good and nice trend. It’s important that we be able to tuck our plump tummies into moisture-wicking compression gear in order to pick up mail and a six-pack.