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  • Robert Farago

$1350 Track Pants?

Michael – a fashion plate par excellence – says no

“Men’s track pants have entered their sophisticated, mature phase.” Who knew? Ashley Ogawa Clarke at the perpetually paywalled Wall Street Journal.

“Forget gym sessions, these suave styles can work for dinners, dates, even weddings.”

Truth be told, the average WSJ reader is in his “mature phase” and wouldn’t think twice about paying $1350 for a pair of track pants. They’d sooner wear a fursuit than a pair of track pants at a dinner, date or wedding. At least the laughter wouldn’t be behind their back.

Oh sure, some young, over-moneyed fashionista will do the unthinkable: show up at a formal or semi-formal event wearing track pants that cost more than their car payment.

No matter how those track pants “puddle nicely over shoes,” no matter how their “high rise and subtle sheen recall dress-pants,” someone will say “heading to the airport are we?”

I know that’s a bit rich coming from a sexagenarian who only wears dress pants to go to the one Austin bar where men dress to impress… middle-aged sugar babies.

Even so, I’m not blind to the ways of men’s fashion (save certain shades of red and green thanks to a genetic deficiency). I understand there’s a critical difference between upmarket track pants and downmarket sweat/jogging pants.

Track pants are designed for athletic performance, with an elastic waistband and moisture-wicking fabrics.

Jogging or sweat pants are thicker and softer, designed for sitting at home, day-drinking, huffing Cheese Whiz and watching football. A sign of defeat, according to the late Karl Lagerfeld.

I’m also aware that professional athletes and rappers wear track pants everywhere as a sign of success. To let the world know they’re professional athletes and rappers. (Bard says it has something to do with “freedom of movement.”)

I reckon Ms. Clarke reckons I’m the clueless guy singing Tower of Power’sWhat is Hip? Has she got news for me!

… designers have refreshed the look in ways that merge classic sporty comfort with rakish dressiness worthy of dinners and date nights. Emily Gordon-Smith, content director at trends and insights company Stylus, considers these status trackies key to the “elevated sportswear” trend that emerged from a post-Covid desire to be comfy yet look sharp.

And there I was thinking people bought comfy clothes during the Pandemic because they weren’t going to dinner or date nights.

It turns out not being French was my real mistake.

Our inspiration comes from Navangi, who can often be spotted strolling around Paris’s artsy 18th arrondissement in voluminous, velour Adidas track pants. His styling trick: He’ll pair the forest-green pants with a top in the same color family, say an olive green tweed jacket. These sort-of-similar shades create an outfit that’s cohesive and polished but not matchy matchy—an effect that’s known in French as camaïeu, he said.

As a general rule, I’m not comfortable taking fashion tips from a Frenchman who uses an umlaut. Who is this Schnuckiputzi? shares this:

Gilles Mayk Navangi is a painter, illustrator and sculptor. His work presents a dreamlike universe composed of graphic motifs, stylised vegetation and human silhouettes that intermingle.

So more aesthetic than athletic. Perhaps the artist who “questions the representation of black people today” should name one of his artworks after Ms. Grant’s most poetic observation: “dark hues ensure suaveness.”

The one sure thing about cutting edge fashion: as soon as something’s fashionable, it’s unfashionable.

The people selling The Emperor’s New Track Pants know a new “look” has less shelf life than a week-old Whole Foods avocado. Fashion-forward brands are in a constant battle against the clock. “Street wear” is a street race.

Why run with the riffraff? As Oscar Wilde advised, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” To which my stylish friend Michael adds a note of caution:

Fashion is 20 percent what you wear, 80 percent how you wear it. In theory, you could wear track pants anywhere – if there was a good way to wear them. There isn’t. Track pants are the NASCAR of fashion; you’re always turning left.

Whatever that means.

Michael has a tip that I’ve seen work in bars, cigar bars and atop his Indian motorcycle (not to mention dinners, dates and weddings): wear a suit.

“It shows the world you mean business. Good business or bad business, depending on the suit.”

That kind of thinking has “elevated” my fashion game even as it depleted my bank account.

The good news: the clothes I buy will go out of fashion when the sun devours planet Earth or powers California’s trucks, whichever comes first.

Ms. Gates offers one worthwhile piece of sartorial advice, courtesy Gavin Hui, buyer for the decidedly downmarket Bodega brand: you can’t miss with an Oxford shirt!

Unfortunately, I can’t miss an Oxford shirt with an Austin taco.

Still, longevity. The Oxford shirt’s distinctive, durable, breathable basketweave has been popular for over a century. Odds are it will make it through the next.

Long live the Preppy look! Brooks Brothers; gone but not forgotten. Wait. They’re still in business? Selling white track pants for fifty bucks?

Don’t do it. Resist the WSJ’s clarion call for track pants of any stripe. As Ralph Waldo Emerson cautioned (presciently), your life may depend on it!

“There is one reason for dressing well. Dogs respect it, and will not attack you in good clothes.” Next question?

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