It’s been a year since the pandemic erupted into global cataclysm. One whole calendar year of social distancing, wearing masks, and mostly staying home with Netflix and Zoom meetings burning holes into our eyeballs. Seemingly endless purgatory of deferred merriment and lukewarm takeout peppered with incalculable tragedies, great and small.
If there was one small panacea, it was wearing stretch pants, all day, every day. In all its forms—joggers, leggings, bike shorts—the ultra-forgiving embrace of spandex welcomed both bed-bound doom-spiralers and home-gym rats alike.
I know, the Year of Leggings has been great. Freed from the workday shackles of our hard pants, it’s never been easier to take a break from the computer with a set of impromptu burpees or sun salutations. But it has been a year, and we need to move forward with our lives. We lost the sense of mindful intention that comes with changing out of loungewear and into bottoms built not for comfort but for standing up to the rocks and brambles of the outdoors—or for going to an office. Plus, they look and feel put together in a way that leggings can’t.
If we want to truly break out of pandemic life’s emotionally draining slog, we must consider rekindling our relationships with the clothes of the before time. It’s time to start setting dates for socially distanced meetups at the park as the weather warms up. It’s time to start making plans for mask-friendly summer adventures. It’s time to stop putting life on hold indefinitely. It’s time to start wearing real pants again.
Fear not. Denim isn’t necessarily the stiff, abrasive straitjacket for legs you think you remember. Banish all thoughts of waist-digging, back-of-the-knees-pinching discomfort from your mind. These three options are made with a touch of stretch to move with you wherever 2021 leads.
For Working Hard and Hardly Working
Carhartt Straight-Fit Double Front ($60)
These jeans are built for doing tough jobs, with knee panels, a hammer loop, and a higher rise in back for coverage while bending. But the blend of cotton and polyester with 2 percent spandex makes for a heavier ten-ounce denim with excellent stretch and just enough softness to feel slouchy-cozy. I wore these for a day of yard cleanup and didn’t feel the need to trade them for sweatpants when it was time to kick back with a beer. In fact, I found myself reaching for them on lazy weekend mornings for lounging on the couch—they’re that comfy.
For Long Walks and Impromptu Picnics
Prana Gram Crop ($119)
Prana’s jeans are just as excellent as its yoga pants. A blend of organic cotton and polyester with 1 percent spandex makes for a buttery medium-weight denim that hugs curves without squeezing. The brand offers a number of cuts, but I love the Gram for its navel-grazing rise that doesn’t slip down or dig in while sitting on the ground, as well as for its boyfriend silhouette and crop length that kept me cool on a warm three-mile lunch jaunt at the local trail system.
For Beating the Blues
Wrangler Retro Zip-Front Denim Jumpsuit ($99)
The easiest path to getting dressed and feeling put together is a jumpsuit. Utilitarian options abound, but this one from Wrangler stands out for its retro tailoring and cheerful western details. Though this isn’t a technical garment, the cotton-Tencel fabric moves nicely when you bend and reach, and deep hip and back pockets swallow your phone, wallet, and keys. On a particularly burned-out morning, I zipped in and walked to the coffee shop. The light, cool denim felt so good that I added a lap around the park and returned home feeling calmer and more focused.