As an international student from Nicaragua at IU, I saw many things that I was not used to during my freshman year. I experienced fall and winter for the first time. I saw leaves and snow slowly fall from my dorm window. It was filled with new things, new people and definitely new clothes.
I bought coats, boots, wool sweaters and cable knits for the cold weather — everything I thought I might need to look cute during fall and winter. To my surprise, people here wear mostly sweatpants, Uggs and gym attire for every season. The coat and Uggs come on and off depending on the temperature, but the gym attire and sweats stay on no matter what.
In countries in Latin America, I can tell you from personal experience, you cannot wear those comfy clothes anywhere except your house. In many parts of Europe and Asia, this also applies. I have spoken to many of my friends about this — they’re mostly Latin American — and we all agree that it’s very different from what we’re used to. I was glad to know that I was not the only one who was not used to putting comfort over anything.
Even though it's a complete phenomenon to me, I know for U.S. natives it's completely normal. So why is it that in the U.S. it's socially acceptable to be comfortable above anything else?
Some people say it's because sweats and leggings are cheap, but they’re really not. A quality crewneck, legging or sweatpant can cost anywhere between $40 to $60. Very popular brands like Essentials, Alo Yoga and LuluLemon sell their apparel for even higher prices, reaching upwards of $100. These are the cozy brands I see a lot of people wearing all over campus. Sure, people buy from more affordable brands like H&M or Old Navy, but there are still countless students who wear high-end athlesiure everywhere they go.
Then I think about the look. I guess people like the in between of being comfortable and not looking like they just rolled out of bed. A good crewneck and nice LuluLemon leggings will do the trick.
At the same time, I have seen so many guys wearing those checkered Christmas pajama pants out and about. I don’t think they care about looking like they just rolled out of bed, and society here does not seem to mind anyway.
Maybe that's it. Nobody really cares that much about how other people look. Everyone dresses comfortably because nobody cares enough to judge. There is a collective agreement that comfort is the most important thing when it comes to clothes you’ll use daily.
The one thing I would say sweatpants have over nicer clothing is that the effort it takes to put them on or plan an outfit around is minimal. That’s why people reach for them in the morning. Rather than choosing to wear jeans, finding a shirt to match, putting on a belt to complete the outfit and looking in the mirror for 10 minutes to make sure it looks good, people choose the easier option: leggings, sweats and crewnecks.
As for me though, I don’t think I can ever be a part of that. I will always have to put make-up on, do my hair and think about my outfit the night before if I want to step out my front door. And honestly, I enjoy it. Beauty is not in comfort for me, it's in effort.