Should you wear yoga pants to work? It’s complicated

There are many ways to wear yoga pants, thanks to their versatility. While they are naturally perfect for yoga classes, they can be worn for other purposes, too. The first time I wore yoga pants to work was a few weeks following my third child’s birth. It was out of necessity at the time (hello, C-section), but I have to admit I felt like I was floating around in a cloud of comfort and relief that the previous season’s wool dress pants failed to offer.

What’s not to love? There are no buttons, zippers, or scratchy fabric to contend with, and you can move about with an ease unrivaled by even your most well-worn pair of jeans. But are yoga pants at the office a good idea?

A few things to note before I dive in.

One, we’re talking about actual yoga pants — leggings whose original intention was to be worn while doing yoga or some other athletic activity. Women’s dress pants that are made to be stretchy by plying them full of wrinkle-resistant fabric consisting of nylon and spandex with nonfunctional buttons and pockets are not what I’m talking about here.

Secondly, we must consider the subject related to society as a whole and its opinions about women in the workplace — typically with a conservative lens applied. God forbid we draw attention to our bodies in any capacity lest we set off all sorts of HR fireworks and inappropriate lusting from our co-workers. Leggings definitely draw attention with their inbuilt tightness and have historically been frowned upon for professional women. Whether we like it or not, perception will always matter, especially if we’re talking about a first impression.

Nowhere was this opinion more on display than in a New York Times op-ed titled “Why Yoga Pants Are Bad for Women.” Senior staff editor Honor Jones blasted the popular attire and anyone who dared to wear this in public, specifically women over 30.

“Women can, of course, be fit and liberated. We may be able to conquer the world wearing spandex,” Jones wrote. “But wouldn’t it be easier to do so in pants that don’t threaten to show every dimple and roll in every woman over 30?”

Sigh.

But should they be worn in the workplace? In 2019, the Society for Human Resource Management took a poll and found 90 percent of the 9,000 respondents said leggings violate their office dress codes. I’d be remiss not to follow that quickly with the fact that dress codes of any kind implicitly perpetuate the sexualization of women — in the workplace, in schools, and anywhere else they exist.

But I digress.

Unless there is a dress code preventing you from wearing leggings to work, I believe that individuals should wear whatever makes them feel good. If that’s a power suit, crisp white button-down, and stilettos on the daily, more power to you. If it’s a more relaxed approach you’re looking for, that’s perfectly acceptable, too.

Plus, there are ways to dress yoga pants up, so if you work in a business or business-casual environment, you can rock a sharp outfit that’s both comfortable and stylish. Pairing them with a longer button-down shirt, an oversized boyfriend sweater or blouse, or striped tunic always keeps the look fresh. Throw on an infinity scarf, cute half-boots, and some colorful jewelry, and you’ve got yourself an outfit for every work environment.

The best part about yoga pants is that they come in an array of solid colors and even acid-washed, so you can pair different tops and bottoms and get your comfort on five days a week. Some already come with accents like zippered bottoms that I refer to as my “fancy yoga pants,” which have been worn to the office on many occasions.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that employees are demanding more of their workspaces and their employers. As demographics shift, workplace standards evolve, and employees push for flexibility in all areas of work (wardrobe included), employers must adapt or risk losing good talent to their competition.

A 2018 Global Talent Trends survey completed by Mercer found that one in two employees would like to see a greater focus on their company’s well-being, both physical and psychological. If yoga pants help a person feel more comfortable at work, more mentally ready to take on the day ahead, why wouldn’t employers allow yoga pants? Happy employees, happy life (I think that’s how the saying goes).

Workers are asking for more, and they can achieve it — one pair of yoga pants at a time.

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