Balenciaga’s $1190 Sweatpants: Why They Make No Sense (Opinion)

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I get a wee bit excited whenever men’s underwear makes the news. And I get really excited whenever there is drama (as long as that drama does not include me). The Internet’s fury over Balenciaga’s $1190 sweatpants with a waistband that makes it look like you are wearing boxer shorts is the perfect storm – high drama involving men’s underwear.

Most of the Internet’s fury involves one of the most boring parts of pants (trousers for my British readers): the waistband design. Balenciaga’s sweatpants feature a fake red plaid waistband above the actual waistband of the sweatpants. The plaid waistband’s design simulates wearing boxer shorts and having your pants sag a bit. For Millennials and perhaps Gen X, this look was quite popular in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Balenciaga’s $1190 Sweatpants with a faux-boxers waistband

While this may seem innocent at first, there is a lot of history to sagging pants in the United States, and not all of it is innocent at all. Marquita Gammage, a professor at Cal State Northridge (Valley babies will know this as CSUN), notes that the concept of pants sagging has “been used to criminalize Blacks, especially Black males, as thugs and a threat to American society” (CNN, 2021). Gammage is an authority on this subject; she authored “Cultural Appropriation as Agency Reduction” in the International Journal of Africana Studies, Vol 2 Ed 2.

The Heavy Hand of Local Government

Gamage’s quote is not a theoretical opinion. Shreveport, Louisiana – which I stayed in one night earlier this month – passed a law in 2007 that criminalized pants sagging. From 2007-2019, 726 people were arrested or cited for violating the law; 712 of those people were black (Shreveport Times, 2019). That means 98% of the people that Shreveport police arrested or cited were black, even though blacks only make up around 57% of the population (American Community Survey, 2019). 

First, I can’t even believe that there was a law that specifically criminalized sagging. Regardless of what anyone thinks about the aesthetic of sagging, why does the government care? I am surprised that no one attempted to find the law unconstitutional in court, primarily since a similar law in Florida was found unconstitutional in 2008. After all, small court cases like these can lead to overwhelming change, just like the $100 fine for gay sex in Texas led to the 2003 Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas. (Side note: I am eternally grateful to that court case as I now live in Texas and have gay sex quite often. 😉

Second, I get leery sometimes with statements that say x% of [insert group here] did some action because there is no context of the total population of that group. Even so, I find it simply shameful that Shreveport police gave 98% of sagging tickets to black people, despite blacks being only 57% of the population. Fortunately, Shreveport repealed the law in 2019.

Who wears boxer shorts anymore?

Regardless of the above, I believe people have a right to sag their pants if they wish; it is a fashion choice like any other. People also have a right to free speech and boycott companies they disagree with, and I believe the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects both actions. And since I am not an expert in race relations, I am not going to opine on the racial aspect of these Balenciaga sweatpants; the Internet has covered it all (see here, here, and well, here).


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Nonetheless, I will opine on the sweatpants themselves, and boy do I have a lot to say. My first reaction is that guys in the United States – much less in Europe! – have trended away from wearing boxer shorts. Yes, plenty of guys still wear boxers, and plenty always will in the future. Yet, it seems odd for a company that wants to push the edge of fashion to choose boxer shorts for the waistband. Does Gen Z even know what boxers are?

Moreover, along with the trend towards boxer briefs, trunks, and even now briefs, guys are choosing more fitted clothing. For example, a guy wearing fitted, tapered black track pants is super hot; not so much for these Balenciaga sweatpants! They are so baggy and do not compliment the body at all. Between the boxer shorts waistband and the baggy sweatpants, these Balenciaga pants are from another era entirely.

Yet, after sleeping on it, I realize that women are now shifting towards men’s boxers. Vogue declared in June 2021 that “Flattering Women’s Boxer Shorts Are This Summer’s Surprise Essential.” In this article, designer Thakoon Panichgul “recommends wearing them ‘peeping through jeans’ as another flattering way of embracing boxer shorts.” Sounds like sagging, no? Looking at Balenciaga’s sweatpants through this lens makes their choice of boxer shorts less antiquated. Still not for me, though!

It’s the money, honey.

After looking at the video, it is clear that Balenciaga’s $1190 sweatpants do not have built-in boxers. Talk about false advertising! The plaid waistband is simply a design element that extends slightly past the actual waistband of these sweatpants. When I first heard about this controversy, I thought the sweatpants had built-in boxers, much like shorts with built-in boxer briefs. Nope! You paid $1,190 for sweatpants and didn’t even get a free pair of underwear!



Speaking of the price, I grew up shopping at Ross and American Eagle. When I needed fancy clothes, I went to Macy’s. I doubt the total value of my current wardrobe even comes close to $1000 (unless you add in my underwear collection!). Why would anyone – and I mean anyone – spend $1200 on gray sweatpants? 

I know plenty of luxury brands sell clothing in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars range, and plenty of rich people buy them. At least, if you spend that money and get a one-of-a-kind designer piece, you can justify it based on the knowledge and imagination that went into the product. Designers sell their services just like any other profession.

Yet, Balenciaga’s $1190 sweatpants are plain gray sweatpants. I know I could go to Ross and re-create this look – with authentic boxer shorts! – for under $20. Even better, the sweatpants at Ross allow you to put them in the washer; Balenciaga’s are dry clean only. Of course, Balenciaga’s website points out that their sweatpants are organic fleece and are imported from Italy. 

Yet, Amazon carries organic cotton sweatpants that are imported from Europe too! (Well, imported from the U.K., but the UK is still in Europe!) Pair with red boxer shorts, and you’ve got the same look for around $70 – or about 1/15th the price of Balenciaga. I know that these are the insider tips my readers are looking for – you’re welcome! 😉



Conclusion

I still have sticker shock from the price tag of Balenciaga’s $1190 sweatpants. From a financial point of view, I have no clue who pays $1190 for gray sweatpants. From an underwear point of view, I can’t believe that it doesn’t even come with real boxer shorts! From a style point of view, the baggy sweatpants are neither stylish nor trendy. And from a historical and societal point of view, Balenciaga comes off as tone-deaf, especially after the events during the past 18 months. Balenciaga’s $1190 sweatpants simply make no sense.


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Eric at MensUnderwearGuide.com

Eric is the creator and writer of MensUnderwearGuide.com. He loves boxer briefs and trunks, exploring the new world of briefs, the soft feeling of modal and the lightness of mesh microfiber, and of course writing and researching the world of men's underwear.

Comments 2

  • Big Jock McStropMarch 27, 2023 at 9:52 am

    Having been fascinated, obsessed, even, by mens’ underpants from before puberty when my doting mother, at my request, bought me some what have since become known as tighty-whities – unfortunately size 40 for my skinny 14 year old waist, but that’s another story, I was interested to find the answer to “who wears boxer shorts any more”, but answer was there none.
    Throughout a very varied career history, military and civil, I have been able to observe evolving underpants fashion in numerous public and private changing rooms (locker rooms) throughout the years. It has, however, very seldom been possible to engage other guys in discussions about their underpants preferences, so this is purely my interpretation of my silent observations.
    I would say that most guys start off unquestioningly wearing the underpants that their mother buys for them, perhaps the same as she buys for their father. Then, leaving home for the first job, or going to university, the guy buys his own, perhaps more of the same, but often the latest fashion, colours for the first time, or newest style. Being a guy, he gives no further thought to his underpants, then he finds a partner, gets married, and the love of his life, possibly reminding of the embarrassment of seeing daddy in his underthings, decides that the beloved needs to update his underwardrobe.
    I remember seeing a mousey, middle aged guy looking longingly at some up to date undergarments on display in the largest mens’ outfitter in the U.K., only to be told sharply by his even mousier wife: “you wouldn’t like these!” So unless his circumstances change he wears identical underpants throughout. And he never gets to know what more comfortable and exciting options are available. I don’t know how often I have seen guys sheepishly following partners around the underwear (mens!) department, and you can be confident that if a guy seems to be wearing underpants that are too big for him, they were bought by the woman in his life. The size 40 incident, incidentally, is why I absolutely refuse to let anyone buy underpants for me, unless they have specific detailed instructions.
    You might have noticed that I use the expression “underpants “ and avoid “underwear” – the latter is surely a generic expression to include vests (U.K. English), dockers / wife beater, débardeur, t-shirt, undershirt. I fear that using it is, or was originally, out of coyness, the straight male embarrassment / reluctance to talk about underpants. Let’s get back to saying what we mean: underpants. Or, if you prefer, briefs, boxer-briefs, slip, bikini, jockstrap, trunks, …

    • Eric at MensUnderwearGuide.comMarch 28, 2023 at 6:17 am

      When I started this blog, I didn’t think anyone would care or have any interest. I can’t believe how many people have written to me saying how helpful this blog has been or wanting to engage in conversations with me over men’s underwear. It is very cool and yes, I can talk all day about men’s underwear!

      Your observation of the guy’s wife controlling his underwear purchases is unfortunately real. A couple of guys have reached out to me to find better underwear for themselves, but when I make recommendations, the answer is oh, I can’t buy that, my wife would find out! As if buying fashionable underwear is somehow wrong, or as I suspect, “gay.” I am not making fun of these guys or anything, I am just pointing out the experience because I feel bad for them – I want them to be wearing comfortable, fashionable underwear! And their spouses should support that too!

      If you haven’t read my article about men’s underwear preferences, make sure to check it out: https://mensunderwearguide.com/mens-underwear-preferences-what-men-hide-under-their-pants/

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