When Is It Okay To Wear Leggings As Pants?

Image by Chris Walts

Raise your hand if you think it’s an outright crime of fashion to wear leggings as pants — as in, leggings with nothing else over them.

If you’re like some people I know, you may be waving both arms in the air vehemently now.

Well, I have a secret to tell. I think wearing leggings as pants is….

Frankly, kind of sexy. When I see a woman in leggings, with nothing else covering her butt, my eyes are inevitably drawn to said butt. It’s like… well… uh, porn for my eyes.

And while I’m at it, you know what else I find sexy?

  • Sleeveless blouses with large arm holes, revealing just a tad more bra than intended. (No bra? OMG OMG OMG.)
  • Backless tops with a strapped bra.
  • Okay, yeah. Pretty much any time the bra is visible when it should be covered up.
  • Same with panties (low-rise jeans with the thong riding up past the waistline, for instance).

Unfortunately, all of my favorite things above are also outfits people consider tacky or outright inappropriate. I bet some of you are cringing at my fashion taste (or lack thereof) right this very instant. And that’s why it always bums me out to come across blog posts like this one:

Leggings as pants

Link here, if you must give the site traffic.

For the record, I see nothing wrong with any of the three butts in the above photo. In fact, my first thought upon seeing them was, “Damn.” (But, you know, the drawn-out version of the word that has the “y” in the middle, signifying that I’m being totally admiring and non-lecherous, because… hey, it’s possible.)

And you know what? Maybe that’s the issue….

I started noticing a pattern in all this recently. Yes, plenty of people are adamant in their hatred of leggings-as-pants. But interestingly, every such person seems to be a woman. I have not met one man who cares one way or the other. Sure, guys may comment, but it’s never with anything more than a passing thought. Nope, amongst the slew of writings I’ve come across alleging the criminality of leggings-as-pants, they’re invariably penned by women.

And that leads me to this controversial study, which started popping up all over the internet like a rabid game of Whack-a-Mole last month. In it, scientists at McMaster University recruited women for what was supposed to be a study on female friendships, then placed volunteers in pairs in a room. But this was all part of the setup. The real experiment began when a third woman entered the room and asked for the researchers. This third woman was actually part of the study, whose real purpose was to see how the participants would react to her.

In half the encounters, this woman was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. In the other half, she was wearing a low-cut blouse and a short skirt. The researchers wanted to see if the volunteers would respond differently to her depending on what she wore.

McMasters Study

Khaki jeans? Now that’s a crime of fashion.

Sure enough, in a t-shirt and jeans, she attracted little attention from the other two women. In a low-cut blouse and short skirt, on the other hand, she incited indignation and even anger in the other women. A few times, they were openly aggressive towards her, but mostly, they would talk about her after she had left, making disparaging comments about her choice of attire and how inappropriate it was.

The researchers concluded that this is how women show aggression towards other women they see as sexual threats. While men “compete” for women via direct aggression against each other (you know, shot taking, arm wrestling, breaking beer bottles over each other skulls, and any other type of contest that purports to broadcast the length of our penis), women “compete” for men in more indirect ways — by insulting and ostracizing them.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Because it strikes me as the exact behavior we see when a female blogger rants about how wrong it is to wear leggings as pants. It’s also the same type of behavior this woman experienced when an unflattering photo of her went viral. As she pointed out, the majority of the condescending remarks were actually made by women.

Whether or not you agree with the conclusions of the researchers, this “mean girl” behavior clearly exists. The internet abounds with women hating on other women’s outfits. And worse, it’s considered snarky and witty. Well, to me, there’s something inherently wrong with the fact that we all laugh along when a woman posts a photo of another woman’s backside, without her knowledge, and proceeds to lambast what she’s wearing.

Leggings are not pants pinterest (blurred)

It’s all fun and games until your butt ends up on the internet.

Some argue that these bloggers could be speaking from a place of concern. Maybe they don’t want these leggings-clad women to be leered at by men (even if it’s in the aforementioned totally admiring and non-lecherous way). Well, I call bullshit. These comments are always made with disdain, never concern.

Others argue that these leggings-as-pants haters are simply critiquing the social appropriateness of someone’s outfit. And to that I ask, “So what?” If you’re a woman, and you believe another woman is dressed inappropriately, what does it matter to you? How are her leggings hurting you in any way? Moreover, why is it necessary to publicly insult her?

Let’s face it, berating a woman for wearing leggings as pants is nothing more than slut-shaming couched under fake concern. If you’re a woman who engages in such behavior, maybe it’s because deep down, you resent that she’s going to attract the attention of some of the very men you yourself are hoping to attract.

Well, that’s what science says. I guess it’s up to you to prove science right or wrong.

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  • You’re right in that the female backlash is not really about genuine empathetic concern for these leggings-wearing women.

    But I think it’s more than simply pure jealousy that these women are going to attract male attention.

    I think some women are angry that these women may be changing, perhaps devaluing (in their view), the “price” of female sex appeal. A world where women not only have to look good in bikinis but also in everyday wear because more and more of their body parts are being exposed to the male view is a world that’s very difficult to inhabit for many women. Sure, some may just be so genetically gifted that they can look good 12 months a year, but most aren’t.

    It’s the same mindset that makes men complain about the 80-20 rule, which is the idea that 20% of the most attractive men are enjoying 80% of female attention.

    I think a lot of women are upset that all these “skanks” that constantly wear miniskirts and leggings are going to warp men’s expectations to the point where their own sexual appeal is going to be devalued unless they go to drastic lengths to compete. They feel frustrated because it’s yet another to-do item on the long list of things that society demands of women in order for them to be attractive: they have to screw like porn stars, they have to eat like monks but still have curves in the right places, they have to use makeup but look “natural,” etc.

    And now, their butts have to look great even on the streets in the middle of autumn. I’d get pretty cranky too.

    • Seriously Dennis, good point? You just paid into the bitch slapping that you were trying to address. “All these skanks wearing miniskirts and leggings” women in Taiwan have no fear of other women looking sexy. They admire and compliment women daily. I love being here. I love the fact that I can dress as I like. I love the fact that women openly discuss their weight and how food affects their and your bodies. Looking good is important to women here. In a very non competitive way because all women want to look good. They go about their daily life in a way that ensures they look good in miniskirts and leggings and no one labels them as skanks!

  • HAHAHAHAHA!!!! How about jeggings. Jeggings are the best! Comfortable, casual and fashionable (only to me)!

  • I think LJC lays it out pretty well. There is something to be said for time and place. There is something to be said for well though out attire. There is something to be said for saving something for Friday night. I reserve those standards for myself and no one else. Therefor, I have little problem with the girls who like to slut it up on any given Tuesday. Those girls aren’t fishing in the same man-pond as I am so I don’t see them as competition. To be honest, I am way more irritated at the yoga pant obsession.

  • I have always wore leggings as pants and I know people are looking at my private parts but that’s part of the enjoyment of wearing leggings as pants.

  • Let me preface by saying, not all leggings are created equal. Some leggings can be pants others should not try to pass themselves off as pants.. Beige and flesh colored ones are the most awkward when used as pants, and cause reactions like “omfg! that person is not wearing pants” when seen from a distance or through sunglass lenses. ….and translucent ones…yeah at least not in the grocery store!

    • I am under build woman who wears leggins all the time as pants I don’t see any problem I also wear the heels and boots sometimes uggs depending on how I feel I don’t care what other women think some looks trashy on the other hand man I think its hot I feel awesome in them I look awesome in themso I will continue wearing them as pants

    • I am slender build and busty it Friday nite getting dressed to
      go out so guys this is what I am wearing to nite white tube top mini dress white thong and white heels if you request me to wear some other clothes I just might and post pictures love dressing sexy
      love amber

  • Are you planning on wearing leggings under your mini dress? I only wear leggings under a dress if the dress is really short or the leggings are very see through. I don’t think leggings worn with a dress or skirt looks good at all. Leggings are pants in my books.

    • I agree leggins are pants and as long as they are not see though they are fine to wear with heels and gives you that sexy look that men love and gives a women that sexy look and comfort that she is looking for

  • question a guy I really like asked me out on a date for Saturday night I would like to wear white Leggins since you told me he likes them on women is that okay to wear on a first date I was thinking about the White leggins and a red scoop neck top to show a little cleavage and red high heel boots the pair of leggins I bought are not see through but i have had white leggins before wear I am wearing them during the course of the day they become see through during the day if I were them should I wear underwear or not

    • Sounds like a pretty cute outfit to me, underwear or not…. 😉

    • thank you for the compliment glad you think its a cute outfit
      I was really looking for if I should worry about the tongue showing and wondering if it was too sexy for first date

    • Well, if you really like the guy, then I think you should wear whatever makes you feel the most awesome and confident.

    • I have many pairs of white leggings and they are all see through with white undies. If you don’t mind showing your off your panties to your guy friend on you’re first date them go for it. Obviously he likes seeing girls wearing see through leggings.

    • So are date was moved to friday night instead of Saturday and I wore white leggins with a lace see though thong red top like I said and 5 inch heels all he said all night was how hot I was and my ass was sweet and he cant stop looking at my ass want to dinner and then dancing grinding on the dance floor all night long he couldn’t keep his hands off my ass I can feel he was getting hard we made out all night and then he drove me home no we didn’t have sex….lol he did ask me to go out again on Saturday night he did ask me to wear a tight white skirt heels thong no bra and a see though shirt I don’t want him to know this but its turning me on so I have to find a skirt and top so he can see my boobs and thong again getting horny just thinking about tonite and what I will be wearing for him well have to go shopping I will update tomorrow love him telling me what to wear what a turn on never had a man tell me what to wear

    • That outfit would completely work for me! I’m with the author on this one, and white leggings are even better.

  • Why don’t you tell him what to wear? I bet you he would look sexy in a pair of see through leggings and a lace thong. Then both of you could have fun wearing some daring clothes.

  • All I am going to say Saturday nite was amazing I wore a white mini dress and heels that’s all I wore

  • Ughhh I have to go to work to day don’t want … what shall I wear mmmmmmm

  • For work I wear black leggings other wise I might get fired for wearing pink or white leggings that draw much attention.

    • I guess it depends on were you work cause I work in retail and I dont think management cares what the women were they have never said anything to any of us

  • Women hating on women is omnipresent. I don’t think it is tied jealousy, rather it’s women being taught that they need to be competitive with other women, instead of befriending them and helping each other get through life.

    I personally just don’t feel comfortable exposing my body in that way, but I try not to judge other ladies for wearing what they want to wear.

    We spend too much time in this short life worrying about what other people are thinking of us anyway. Let’s stop making the problem worse with misdirected shade toward other women.

  • You guys are way off base. Most women do not give a rats ass if some man is more interested in the half naked women in the room than he is in those who are respectfully clothed. Wearing leggings as pants is unsightly and a little bit sad. I suspect many of the women who wear leggings as pants would stop doing so if they could see what they look like from behind and some, from the front. Egads!!!! Unless you are built like a rail, it is not a flattering look. Ladies, show some respect for yourself and put on a skirt!

  • I find it disturbing seeing women on the street wearing leggings as pants. Might as well just walk around the street half naked as it doesnt make much difference! Silly!!

  • Leggings are comfy. It is none of anyone’s business what I wear.

  • Leggings are not for men. Men’s body are disgusting to watch.

  • Leggings Are Better Than Pants
    As someone who sells leggings to men and women around the globe at UnJeans.com – I know people are wearing and enjoying them.
    It’s time to get over the body image constraints and go for the comfort. Just wear them. Leggings are perfect casual wear for women AND men. Having worn leggings for years, I’m aware of people’s comments both negative and very positive. After all, it’s not the leggings on the man but the man in the leggings. Everyone looks good in leggings and some people look great! Humans come in all shapes, sizes and permutations. We should all rejoice in that fact and champion everyone for who they are. Why are some humans so anti-human? Why are some body parts considered “junk” or part of a camel’s anatomy? Why have these people been trained to believe that the human body is so cringe-worthy? A little change to a more tolerant, accepting and positive perspective would go far in making the world a better place for everyone.

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