Sweatpants are an easy garment to overlook. The mainstay of dads and guys who live in their mom’s basement, the frumpy, super casual trousers have long been the international sign for “I give up.” But fashion and outdoor brands have revamped the Rocky Balboa staple into something more modern, versatile, and—dare we say it—stylish. I had the tough job of testing half a dozen of the best-looking pairs on the market. I rotated these through my wardrobe on a daily basis, wearing them to yoga and the gym and the coffee shop, during heated Ping-Pong battles, and even to dinner. (Yes, there are date-night options now.) Here are my favorites.
Reigning Champ Midweight Slim ($120)
Best For: Lounging around the house
Imagine your favorite pair of sweats from high school but with 70 percent less volume. That’s what Reigning Champ, based in Vancouver, B.C., did with its Midweight Slim. The company took the classic, 100 percent cotton design and gave it a slim fit with a tapered leg to make a more casual version of skinny jeans. The construction is a thick terry, so these are made for lounging, not track laps. You don’t get any extras, like thigh or zippered pockets, but the quality is second to none: this pair is built to last.
Buck Mason Loopback ($85)
Best For: Dressing up or down
You probably aren’t going to wear sweats to a wedding, but if you were, the Loopback trouser might be a suitable option. Buck Mason uses a thick, French-terry cotton with pronounced seams and stitching, all of which give these sweats more structure than other picks on this list. Couple that burly build with a traditional silhouette, and you have a pair that’s almost business casual. Fancy sweatpants? Yes, indeed.
Mack Weldon Ace ($78)
Best For: Tackling errands and activities
Out of all of the trousers on this page, the Ace is the option I reach for most. I like the modern cut, which is tapered without being too skinny. The micro-sanded cotton is ultrasoft and blended with Lycra for stretch and performance. I ran in the Ace on particularly cold January afternoons and never felt clammy. The zip-up thigh pocket is only big enough for a set of keys, but the hand pockets are the deepest of the bunch, which means your phone won’t fall out when you sit down. A zippered back pocket adds storage you can actually use. The Ace is the definition of athleisure wear: a pair of pants that look good, feel great, and can handle the sporadic bit of action when you’re lured off the couch.
Cotopaxi Baja ($100)
Best For: Working out
To call the Baja sweatpants is too one-dimensional. Yes, they’re comfy enough for napping, but there isn’t an ounce of cotton built into them. Instead they’re made from a four-way-stretch soft shell comprised of recycled polyester that has a DWR treatment to repel light rain. The Baja is a utilitarian workhorse: elastic enough for yoga or climbing, and light and airy enough to handle a jog. (I’ve been playing basketball in them nonstop.) There’s no back pocket, and the hand pockets are on the shallow end of the spectrum, but the zippered seam pocket on the thigh is big enough to hold my iPhone 11. These are joggers that I’d actually work out in.
Icebreaker Shifter ($150)
Best For: Ski layering and lazy days
Sweatpants are traditionally made from cotton, but Icebreaker used merino wool (with a little nylon and Lycra for durability and stretch) in the Shifter to create a thin and light number that borders on pajama territory. They’re warm without being too weighty and hands down the softest on this list. Given the merino wool, you could easily wear these as a midlayer during cold ski days, but I’ve been using them solely for my laziest days when I don’t leave the house.
The North Face Heavyweight Fleece ($70)
Best For: Everday wear
There are some expensive picks on this list, but the North Face proves you don’t have to drop a Benjamin to get fashion-forward loungers. The Heavyweight Fleece is built from an 80/20 blend of cotton and polyester that’s thick and warm but moves well if you’re on the go. Some people might be turned off by the severely tapered leg, which is meant to rise a little above your sock line, but I like the look. There aren’t a lot of frills, so don’t go looking for zippered pockets, but these are way more stylish than the price tag suggests.