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Fear, Loathing, And The Great American Yoga Pants Panic


I’m going to come right out and say it: I am a person who wears yoga pants. I wear them on hikes. I wear them to Starbucks. I wear them to the grocery store. I even wore them to my last meeting with the Illuminati, which was conveniently held at the secretive, exclusive, and redwood-lined Bohemian Grove.

Ha, ha, just kidding! Women aren’t allowed at the Bohemian Grove! This is unfortunate, because its woodsy, back-to-nature atmosphere would be perfect for yoga pants. It’s sad, really, but I always manage to assure myself that if I were a man, I would be at the top of their invite list. But, then again, if I were a man, I wouldn’t have the pleasure of being bashed for the simple act of wearing a pair of comfortable and practical pants.

Yoga pants, you see, are under fire. Last week, a Montana state legislator, in sponsoring a now-failed bill against “indecent” clothing, set the Internet ablaze with his suggestion that “yoga pants should be illegal in public.” The alleged oppressor in question, a Rep. David Moore, later told the press that his comment was a poorly timed, offhand joke. Perhaps this is true; perhaps not. The fact remains that the Great Yoga Pants Moral Panic is nothing new.

This Isn’t an Isolated Incident

In January, Christian blogger Veronica Patridge issued her own gentle fatwa against yoga pants, claiming that they—together with their ’80s-inspired sister, the legging—were leading men astray. Form-fitting pants, Patridge wrote, unfairly “enticed” men, inspiring lustful thoughts. “I asked my husband his thoughts on the matter,” she wrote. “I appreciated his honesty when he told me, “Yeah, when I walk into a place and there are women wearing yoga pants everywhere, it’s hard to not look. I try not to, but it’s not easy.”

For crying out loud, people. Where’s my burka?

Patridge’s post went viral, inspiring earnest discussion on Christian websites, scorned derision at places like the Huffington Post, and even an appearance on “Good Morning America.” “Though it may be difficult to find an outfit at times,” Patridge wrote,” my conscience is clear and I feel I am honoring God and my husband in the way I dress.” On the photo linking to this post, it should be noted, the very attractive Patridge is wearing a pair of tight jeans and a shirt with the top button—rather suggestively, if you were to ask, say, Jonathan Edwards of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” fame—undone.

Seriously? Where do we draw the line? Skirts? High heels? Swimsuits? For crying out loud, people. Where’s my burka? Where’s the Tylenol?

Why Women Wear Yoga Pants

Here, in short, is why women, particularly moms, wear yoga pants:

  1. They are comfortable, and they do not wrinkle.
  2. The black ones match with everything.
  3. If you have small children, here is what you do throughout the day: Pick kids up, wipe noses, field incoming tackles like a professional wrestler, kneel on the ground in highly uncomfortable positions, cram your legs into weird tiny playground trains, get sat on, and otherwise emulate a very comprehensive high-end yoga workout, but with really weird props.
  4. Using the guidelines of rational choice theory, it can be safely stated that it is a poor use of time to plan a real outfit that would not be remotely suitable for any of the activities above. That outfit can be saved for dinner.

Ironically, whenever I wear yoga pants, I feel like a bit of a high-end hobo, not an alluring, heretical temptress—and I suspect the hordes of harried moms who join me at preschool drop-off feel the same way. Trust me, there are many ways that attractive women dress that could be construed as unfairly “enticing.” The solution would be to get over it. I think Melissa Clouthier puts it best:


There Are Good Yoga Pants, and Bad Yoga Pants

So, with this all said, and righteous indignation intact, I recently searched the web for yoga pants moral support. “Oh, here we go,” I thought, finding a link to a blog titled, “Girls Wearing Yoga Pants.” Click! “This will help my case!”

Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Pause. “Oh, dear.”

I’m not going to get all dramatic about this, so I’ll just inform you that this is when I blew an intricate mental gasket, the good Rev. Jonathan Edwards rolled over in his grave—twice!—and I almost fainted and fell off my chair. Please do not ever visit Girls Wearing Yoga Pants. It is basically porn with clothes, and it almost made me print out this half-finished article, burn it in effigy, and then go blowtorch my yoga pants.

That moment passed rather quickly, however, and good sense prevailed. This is for one key reason: These were not my yoga pants, nor were they the yoga pants I see around Austin on a daily basis. Sadly, as I have discovered through my Internet wanderings, there are good yoga pants and bad yoga pants. Here is a pair of good yoga pants. I won’t show you the bad. They’re bad. In fact, it might be a good idea to raise awareness of this striking dichotomy with #NotAllYogaPants, if that’s your kind of thing.

Rules for Successful Yoga Pant-Wearing

With this in mind, here are some rules for successful yoga pant wearing:

  1. If you can clearly see any private bodily crevices through your yoga pants, your pants are either too small or too thin.
  2. Your yoga pants should not be giving you an Atomic Wedgie.
  3. When it comes to leggings, remember: They are not pants. They are very thin. Leggings require a long shirt.
  4. When you wear your yoga pants, try not to pair them with something like this:


Or this:


Or this:


Let’s be honest: The Great American Yoga Pants Debate is more than a mere dust-up over workout wear. It is a microcosm of our most tendentious political debates. It is, in fact, a powerful metaphor for the many failures in our public discourse. Not everything, we must remember, is black and white.

Most importantly, we must not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Certainly, there is a small, radicalized subculture of yoga pants abusers in America. But to ban or condemn yoga pants based on a few bad apples would be a tragic mistake. You might as well try to ban baseball, miniskirts, roller coasters, the no-longer-endangered American Bald Eagle, fireworks, makeup, or fun.

I have no illusions. I know, deep down in my heart, that yoga pants haters will continue to hate. Go ahead. I see you. Remember that famous karate kick, the one that makes you look like a crane? The one Daniel LaRusso uses to defeat his cheating Cobra Kai rival in the first “Karate Kid” movie?

In my yoga pants, I can do that too. Easily. I’d just like to see you try it in jeans.