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Leggings Are Not Pants, But What About Long Johns?

Leggings Are Not Pants. But what about long johns?

Leggings Are Not Pants. But what about long johns?

I am not ashamed to say that I stand (literally and figuratively) in the Leggings Are Not Pants camp. 

It’s not that I have anything against leggings themselves (though I am pretty sure I have never owned a pair) it’s just they aren’t pants.

Over the years we have bought dozens of pair of leggings from Lands End for our daughters. We always paired them with cute little dresses. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that they are stand-alone (no pun intended) clothing items.

But here’s the thing. I am sitting here writing this profound essay from the comfort of, not leggings, but long johns and a cozy fleece pull-over from REI.

And not only that, but I actually found myself looking in the mirror this morning and asking, “I wonder if these could pass as leggings? I mean, they are black. Would it be okay to wear these out of the house?” 

These long johns are soft and cozy and the fabric gives in all the right places. It is like being naked.

No, it’s better than being naked.

It’s like being naked and warm.

(Can you tell I grew up in Alaska? I’m not sure I have *ever* been naked and warm at the same time…well, maybe before I was born…)

My eyes have been opened, my senses awakened, to the sheer coziness of non-pants.

This is my life right now, my friends. I am one step away from going to Walmart in my pajamas. Not only do I seriously consider sleeping on waiting room couches, but I am having an internal debate about the merits of long johns as pants.

Listen. I am forty and hormonal changes over the last few years (no, it’s not menopause) have caused me to put on weight. Yes, I know how to solve that problem (eat clean and exercise) but I also know how to get adequate sleep (go to bed early and don’t let first graders, dogs or weird noises wake you) but for better or worse I do not live alone or with a private chef.

So all of these long john ponderings led me to think…can I pull off leggings? It is Han Solo Season, after all. I think I only have two friends left (one is male and the other is a dog) who don’t sell Lularoe. I could get some leggings. But then I would need long shirts, tunics or perhaps mumus (I’m pretty sure this one is perfect for me) to wear over them. 

And that just seems like way too much work for this Girl Who Hates Shopping.

And then.

When I realized that no, Renee, no matter how comfortable those long johns are, they really are not pants and you should not, under any circumstances leave the house in them, I started wondering if I really needed to leave the house*. I mean, how important is it for me to return the movie I’ve had from Red Box since Friday? Toilet paper? Lunch meat? Laura Ingalls never had those luxuries. I know, because I have read all of her books.

*Proof right that leggings (and their gateway cousin, long johns) lead to sin. In this case, the sin of laziness.

Well, my friends, I think I’ve delayed the inevitable long enough.

I’m off to repent, slip on my pants, and return that Red Box movie.


Your Pants Wearing friend, Renee

Please do chime in. You all gave me the green light to go ahead and sleep in the waiting room. What are your thoughts on wearing long johns as pants?


  1. corinne g

    I love your views. I have to agree about being cold in Alaska. Little ole me young and dumb decide A Florida girls needs to spend her first 3 years of serving her country in Alaska. What a shock and at times those long johns where my best friend. However Uncle Sam only issued them in off white and on mens. All 115 lbs of me swam in them but I don’t think wearing them as pants would of been a great picture, not! Now many years later (back in Florida) my granddaughters seem to disagree with you (at 11 they disagree with everyone though) I can’t count the number of time they have tried to get out the door of my house with a pair of leggings and a shirt that barely is a shirt much less to cover what I think they should. I know thy D-I-L lets them and she would wear the that way too. So it must be a generational thing on what clothes items are meant to do. And yes that dress would look lovely over your long johns, after all your not out to impress anyone on your days chores. I’m sure your husband will love your outfit too..

  2. Melissa

    I stand firm with you, because…Leggings Are NOT Pants!!! I purchase leggings for my daughter, but only to be worn under dresses or skirts. I do have a few pair that I wear under my long nightshirts when its cold. I live in Texas so that is only January and February!

  3. Sarah

    Leggings are not pants. But are yoga pants interchangeable with leggings? Is there a defined difference? Does it matter where you are going? If you are pregnant or recently post pregnant do the rules still apply? So many questions left unanswered….

    • Renee

      See? You are just as confused as me…Inquiring minds want to know. This is what the debate last night should have been about.

  4. Amy

    It is true that leggings are not pants – in large part because the fabric itself looks under-garment-y. However, thick leggings worn under tunics most definitely ARE pants-equivalent. So are yoga pants, which can be worn be worn with t-shirts if required. Quick, go to Costco and get a few pairs of their nice, thick, uber-comfy Matty-M (is that right?) women’s leggings! Why suffer under the constrictions of denim waist bands or needs to change between the all-too-early school drop off and other more public errands? You too can be modestly dressed in a nice garment that let’s you think to yourself, “I am wearing socially acceptable pajamas!!!!!” Seriously, though, there are nice thick leggings that hide undergarments and when paired with tunics are really quite modest (says the pastor and theologian who does wear yoga pants in public when logistics demand).

  5. Emily

    I don’t understand the train of thought that yoga pants are pants and leggings are not. When I go to yoga stores and try both on, they fit the same! Maybe you can all lend a hand and explain for me!

    That being said, there are places where I don’t think it’s appropriate to wear either as pants, but grocery stores or school runs, all bets are off!

  6. Nana Jo

    It has been my opinion for a long time that leggings are not pants. I have always seen them as similar to leotards and to be worn the same way …under dresses, skirts, tunics and long tops. I have several and find them very comfortable. My daughter is presently 5 months pregnant with her second child and especially loves her leggings under long baggy sweaters and shirts. She always teams them with cute little dresses for my 22 month granddaughter. However, I have to be very careful when expressing my opinion because my daughter-in-law and oldest granddaughter (age 13) both wear them as pants!

    As for longjohns, for the first years of our marriage we lived in a small city in northern British Columbia where winter reigned for 6-8 months per year, and they were a must. I still have a pair somewhere. A trend I have been seeing here is the onesie for big people … all in one button down longjohns in multiple colours and patterns …worn by both sexes of mostly teens and those in their twenties ..and yes, out in public!

  7. Ethel

    I agree that leggings are not pants. Not only that, but that they lead to a slippery slope of non-pants-wearing. Specifically, my second year in grad school was the peak of “girls wearing Ugg boots, leggings, and hip-length sweaters or sweatshirts and calling themselves dressed” thing. (Maybe it’s still a thing? I don’t live in the US anymore.) And one [very cold, very snowy] day I saw one of my undergrad students at a bus stop wearing something that was clearly trying to follow the trend. But she was doing it wrong. She was wearing a [fairly flimsy] sweater and … grey pantyhose. Not leggings, not stockings, not even opaque tights, but pantyhose. The kind where you could see the cotton crotch insert and, of course, her, well, actual panties. I was about to go say something to her and was steeling myself for the mutual mortification but her bus arrived and she hopped on, so I missed my chance. I still wonder how that conversation would have gone, and whether and when someone else clued her in.

    Really, it was a whole series of category mistakes: leggings are not pants; pantyhose are not leggings; and if you’re wearing either, it’s for the best if your top comes to finger-tip length at least.

  8. Mominator

    Yes, leggings are pants in the same way speedos (the underwear looking kind) are bathing suits. Sure, you can wear both as such but do you really want to display your junk in spandex? My 8 baby body says no:-)

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