Which Sweat Pants Say “Power?”
A necktie is a long piece of cloth worn for decorative purposes around the neck.
Decorative is the key word, since ties serve little purpose other than to provide a splash of color against men’s otherwise drab wardrobes.
But is that really true? Or do ties serve another, more sinister purpose?
“Colors give off very specific signals,” said David Zyla, the New York-based author of Color Your Style, in a 2013 BBC piece. “The same suit can be transformed with different tie colors, each with a different meaning.”
That’s some some DaVinci Code-level shit.
A lot has changed in the seven years since Zyla spoke those insightful words. Most of those changes have occurred in just the last seven weeks.
Men’s fashion in the time of Covid
While men of yesteryear fretted each morning over the message they wanted their neckties to send to adversaries around the conference room, today’s men are faced with a different but equally perplexing puzzle: which sweat pants to pull off the closet floor for that important Zoom call, should they elect to wear pants at all.
Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright famously pinned the perfect brooch to her suit coat each morning, depending on the specific challenge she would face that day. During the Gulf War, the government-controlled Iraqi media likened Albright to an “unparalleled serpent.” In a response, she wore a snake pin to her next meeting on Iraq.
Talk about a power play.
For men wanting to assert themselves, a red necktie used to do the trick. “There’s something about red that always comes back to strength and passion,” says Mark Woodman, a trend analyst who studies color(!).
But today’s power comes not from a necktie, or even a pin. It comes from the sweat pant. More precisely, it comes from the stripe of color running vertically down the outside of each sweat pant leg. And to fully articulate the hidden meaning behind the sweat pant stripe, a man must have the confidence to tilt his computer camera downward, enough to show call participants what’s going on below the desk.
Just as men’s suits come in a near-infinite selection of grays and blues and blue-grays and gray-blues, each awaiting adornment with a color statement at the neck, men’s sweat pants are today’s tabula rasa, primed for the equally expressive leg stripe. Which stripe a man selects says a lot about what he is trying communicate to those around him.
And to fully articulate the hidden meaning behind the sweat pant stripe, a man must have the confidence to tilt his computer camera downward, enough to show call participants what’s going on below the desk.
Dressing for success
For my canvas, I find that the classic black training pant is ideal — one hundred-percent-breathable polyester, drawstring, elastic waistband, supple enough to sit or stand at a computer for hours and still look activity-appropriate when I head out for a jog at the end of the workday.
The black training pant is the Mexican guayabera of shelter-at-home formalwear. But instead of a shirt with two vertical rows of pleats running the length of the front and back, the training pant features two equally elegant rows of vertical stripes, running down the outside of either leg. And both the guayabera and the training pant are acceptable at virtually any important gathering, such as a (virtual) contract negotiation or (virtual) wedding.
On days when I wish to convey an air of mystery, I sport the Carbon Pearl Essence side stripe. The Carbon Pearl Essence is akin to saying “I’m here, on the other side of the internet.” And that’s about it. Everything else is held close to the vest. Sometimes it’s good to keep them guessing.
If I’m feeling playful, I’ll instead choose the Shock Cyan stripe, a sort of Cerulean Blue, that says “hard-working yet creative; jaunty.”
The alternating stripes of Legend Ink/Tech Ink/Real Blue/Glow Blue present a dizzying array intended to distract and confuse my prey.
On days when I want to push back, I’ll go with the Reflective Silver stripe.
Which reminds me of a story I once heard about Wyoming trial lawyer Gerry Spence, who famously never lost a case.
“The two most important words in a negotiation,” Spence allegedly said, are “huh?” and “what?”
With those simple questions, Spence would reflect the onus back on his adversaries, forcing them to stutter, substantiate, and revise (did I say $1 million? I meant $2 million…)
That’s what the Reflective Silver stripe does for me. It keeps others off balance, redirecting the conversation back to their side of the monitor and forcing them to respond or relent.
Imagine what Spence could have accomplished had he worn red-striped sweatpants in the courtroom.