Anne VanderMey on Fortune:
On Sunday morning, two teenage girls were barred from boarding a United Airlines flight because they were wearing leggings, sparking a social media firestorm. But it was just the latest flashpoint in a much larger American war over leggings. These days, you can’t swing a Lululemon Wunder Under Pant III without hitting a Fox News panel on whether leggings are actually pants.
The absurdity of the United Airlines incident aside (sure they were non-paying passengers, but what does “casual attire” that’s “in good taste” even mean for a 13-year-old?), at its core, the Great Yoga Pants Debate boils down to a disagreement over how much time and effort women ought to be putting into their outfits. As a Washington Post contributor put it in a recent story, by wearing athleisure outside the gym “we are saying to the people around us that our own comfort is our first priority.”
This is a surprisingly complex and thought-provoking issue.
Dress codes as applied to men and as applied to women are often two different things entirely. With women, dress codes are often about body-shaming and enforcing sexist notions of propriety. And women’s office-wear and dress clothes are just plain more expensive, more uncomfortable, and require more maintenance than men’s.
One article on the United incident noted that the girls’ leggings were unacceptable, but their father’s cargo shorts were not a problem.
With men, dress codes are usually no big deal. But even with men you get into issues of facial hair, headwear, and religion.