Is Wearing Leggings as Pants Ever Okay?

The ultimate guide to the leggings as pants debate. Plus, answers to questions such as “What about jeggings?” and “What if you’re wearing a tunic?”

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Leggings as pants

What’s not to love about leggings?

They’re comfortable. They hold everything in. They’re great at making lazy outfits look sleek and stylish. They’re inexpensive. And there’s something so retro fabulous about them.

I for one am a huge fan.

But one of the most prolific fashion rule to emerge over the last few years is the danger of wearing a pair of leggings as pants. From Blair Waldorf to Conan O’Brien, it seems like everyone has a passionate opinion on the right way to wear this humble garment.

But as with most pressing debate in life, nothing is black and white. What if you’re wearing a tunic? What about running tights or yoga gear? What’s the rule on jeggings? Aren’t really tight pants pretty much the same thing? 

Is it ever OK to wear leggings as pants? Or, why is wearing leggings as pants so frowned upon? 

I’ve researched both sides of the argument, and have developed a few guidelines of my own to help steer me in the direction of what I feel good and confident wearing. After you read, leave a comment and tell us where you weigh in on this argument. Ready to debate this out? Read on, girlfriends!

Related reading: How to Wear Leggings: The Ultimate Guide to Cute Leggings Outfits

Arguments In Favor of Leggings As Pants

With heavy fabrics, interesting styles, and the popularity of “skinny” cut pants, it’s understandable why some people would embrace the idea of wearing leggings as pants.

First of all, they’re super comfortable. The elastic waistline will feel good on your body all day long, no matter if you’re sitting at a desk studying for finals or lounging on a couch watching movies with your girlfriends. I love each and every pair of jeans that I own, but nothing compares to the stretchy goodness that a nice pair of cotton leggings can provide.

Second, a quality pair can support your hips and backside enough to function as a pair of pants. As long as the leggings are thick and supportive, I don’t see a need to discriminate against a piece just because it’s less structured than others.

Also, leggings have been a staple of chic girls’ wardrobes for decades. Remember how beautiful Audrey Hepburn looked in her signature pair of cropped ankle-length leggings and ballet flats, paired with a crisp white button-down shirt, or a black turtleneck? My mind also goes to ’80s bombshells like Cyndi Lauper and Paula Abdul wearing brightly-colored, high-cut leggings with spikey stilettos. The legging is such a cool throwback item!

Lastly, you have to admit that the right pair of leggings can make you feel super sexy and ultra cool. Both the shiny and matte lamé leggings from American Apparel are so badass that just wearing a pair will make you feel like Catwoman! Dark-colored leggings are very flattering and will make your legs look miles long, especially when worn with a pair of heels.

Related reading: The Best Leggings Outfits for Work

Arguments Against Leggings As Pants

On the flipside, I can definitely understand why many girls regard leggings as pants as a huge fashion faux pas.

Generally, leggings aren’t the most supportive piece in your closet. They’re easy to spot panty lines though, and they don’t do the best job of, well, giving your tush the lift and shape it deserves.

Second, not to get super graphic or anything, but, well, wearing leggings as pants puts you in the danger zone of accidentally ending up with a frontal wedgie-type situation. Wardrobe malfunctions are never a thing you want to spend the day worrying about. They’re distracting to think about, not to mention pretty awkward — for both for you and whoever happens to witness them.

Another big reason some girls are against leggings as pants involves the potential for revealing too much. If the leggings aren’t thick and opaque, they can easily be see-through, and if said see-through leggings aren’t covered by an appropriately long top, they can give passersby a full-on view of your anatomy. This isn’t a fashion statement that most of us want to make, nor is it something we want to be subjected to on our 7AM walk to class.

Lastly, wearing leggings as a pair of pants is just…well, a tad bit lazy. Not that that’s totally a bad thing — obviously, if you’re studying and just vegging out with friends, looking sharp isn’t going to be your first priority. But, some girls liken leggings to sweatpants or yoga pants, and think they should be saved for days that you’re running late or feeling a little under the weather. While I definitely think leggings are usually better than wearing sweatpants or (yikes) pajamas in public, I can see where it’d be a little bit sloppy to constantly wear them.


Finally — My Tips and Tricks For Rocking Leggings as Pants

Taking the best of both worlds, I’ve compiled a few rules of thumb for rocking a pair of leggings. Check them out below! (And for more, see our post on how to wear leggings.)

  • This is very obvious, but the safest way to wear leggings is with a tunic that hits about mid-thigh. This way, you’ll get the look of leggings, but still have plenty of hip, butt, and crotch coverage. Always a good thing!
  • If you want to be bold and wear leggings with a thigh-grazing top, be sure to go for styles with thick, opaque fabric and a good amount of support. Like I mentioned before, the very stretchy lamé versions from American Apparel are a small miracle.
  • I know this is kind of awkward to talk about, but you want to make sure to have full coverage (and at least an inch or two of some wiggle room) covering your crotch. This part of the equation is completely non-negotiable.
  • However, if you happen to be so bold, you can be a little more relaxed about how covered your backside is. Of course, this depends on how comfortable you are with your body, your personal body shape, how thick and structured your leggings are, and what sort of a top you’re wearing. If you have doubts, recruit an honest friend to tell you how you look.
  • Jeggings are tricky. Some of them look just like real jeans, so it’s sort of a delicate line to walk. Personally, I find them to be a little to thin and unsupportive to wear with shirts shorter than tunic length, but if you have a great pair that you love, more power to you!
  • Dark-colored leggings are absolutely the most flattering. I’m not saying they can’t be worn, but I’ve yet to see a pair of white or nude-colored leggings look right.
  • For a relaxed yet chic look, pair cotton leggings with riding boots and an oversized knit sweater. Finish with a top knot or a loose side braid.
  • Leggings are the perfect thing to pair with a dress that’s just a little bit too short to wear alone. If your dress is getting close to knee length, though, opaque tights will look much more chic with it than leggings.
  • For a sexy look perfect for a night on the town, pair stretchy lamé or coated leggings with a longish tank top or silky blouse. Finish with edgy jewelry, your tallest pair of heels, and a box clutch.
  • Wear black leggings with a chambray button-down and wedges for a breezy model off duty sort of look.
  • If you dare to wear a regular-length top with a pair of leggings, balance it out with a long scarf and cardigan. You could also channel the ’90s and tie a sweater or shirt around your waist for coverage.

How do you feel about leggings as pants?

What are your thoughts on wearing leggings as pants? Would you ever wear leggings with a regular-length shirt? Do you think leggings come off as too casual for many occasions? What are the rules you follow to avoid a faux pas? Where do you fall on the legging debate continuum? We want to know how you feel about this issue! Let us know with a comment!

73 thoughts on “Is Wearing Leggings as Pants Ever Okay?”

  1. Leggings should be worn with long shirts, sweaters, or tunics. Anything that covers the butt and the cookie box. Wearing leggins any other way…just looks plain stank! Let’s be honest here…

  2. I love leggings! There are more positives to them than negative! They’re so comfortable and can make any outfit look good. Although, I do agree that certain types of leggings shouldn’t be worn as a pants, such as those that are see-through. Great article though!

  3. Leggings are ok for little children. But if you must wear them not every day you look like a sloppy mess. If you want a nice comfortable pant try a ponte pant. Audrey Hepburn wore ankle pants not leggings, a difference between the two.

  4. Leggings are better than pants.
    As someone who sells leggings to men and women around the globe at – I know people are wearing and enjoying them.
    It’s time to get over the body image constraints and go for the comfort. Just wear them. Leggings are perfect casual wear for
    women AND men. Having worn leggings for years, I’m aware of people’s comments both negative and very positive. After all, it’s not the leggings on the man but the man in the leggings. Everyone looks good in leggings and some people look great! Humans come in all shapes, sizes and permutations. We should all rejoice in that fact and champion everyone for who they are. Why are some humans so anti-human? Why are some body parts considered “junk” or part of a camel’s anatomy? Why have these people been trained to believe that the human body is so cringe-worthy? A little change to a more tolerant, accepting and positive perspective would go far in making the world a better place for everyone.

  5. I don’t leave my house w/o them. I simply love my leggings. I have them in every color. I enjoy the look and the comfort.

    • Ok let me ask this. I wear men’s leggings when I go exercise I walk to regain my longevity after a bad accident. I will wear compression pants so I dint get cramps. The problem I have is I can’t stand to wear shorts over the pants it is uncomfortable and they restrict movement. The only real problem I have is that I wear a little longer shirts so they hang below the belt a little but not because I’m modest only out of respect for those who might not care to see. The only problem is that I’m not small I am usually around 5 1/2″ when I’m flaccid and have very large testicles. So is it rude for me to wear compression pants in public. I live quite a distance from the place I go walking and I like to have a cup of coffee once I get through walking so ill stop by and get a coffee at a local shop. Do women find it offensive if they get a pretty well defined view when I sit down to drink s cup of coffee. Like I said I’m not modest dont care what or how much anyone sees but I dont want to be offensive. Having a larger endowment causes lots of problems. I actually have to buy underwear made for well endowed men or else I end up hanging outside them by the end of the day and its very uncomfortable. So ladies please tell me do you think it would offend you to see a guy in leggings more or less who can’t help that his bulge is very defined and its very easy pretty much just to see everything clear as a bell. I wear thicker pants so they aren’t see thru mind you but they do suck up like vacuum packed wrap.

  6. What about kids in leggings. My nine year old wears them all the time, so does everyone really. Maybe thats just in Australia, but looking at pictures the leggings we wear are way less reveling then all the ones people in America seem to be wearing. (It might just be the only pictures I have seen)

  7. There is only question about leggings that matters:

    Are they opaque or transparent?

    If they’re transparent, the wearer runs the risk of arrest for exposure. Make sure they’re not before going out.

    If they’re opaque, then the opinions of idiots don’t matter. Anyone (any gender, any sexual identity, and sexual orientation) has the right to wear what they like as long as it’s legal.

    Those who don’t like seeing people in leggings and lycra tights need to grow up, grow a brain and STOP LOOKING. Nobody is forcing them to look, they’re choosing to stare and stick their noses into other people’s business.

    The US really needs to get out of the 16th century with its prudish and juvenile attitude towards the human body. A hundred murders are seen per hour on TV and movies, and nobody bats an eye. A tight piece of clothing or glimpse of a natural human body happens, and everyone freaks out.

  8. In reality women of all ages, shapes and sizes are wearing leggings as pants. They are wearing them with long and short tops. Most women find them very comfortable. And for the most part women look very attractive, and some are sexy while wearing leggings. Yes, there are a few women look trashy or gross in them, but the same can be said about skirts or shorts or any other article of clothing.
    Personally I found that leggings worn with shorts, skirts or dresses as not being attractive. If wearing a skirt wear a skirt, if wearing shorts wear shorts, but do not wear them in combo with leggings (although sheer tights great with skirts and/or dresses). I love the feel and look of leggings when pared with tops that are no longer then mid-butt.
    The three most common problem sheerness, wedgies and cameltoes can be overcome by buying the leggings of the right material weight and cut for your body.
    I have basically given up on jeans. Anytime I have the choice of jeans or leggings I now opt for leggings.

  9. I would argue that wearing leggings with a tunic top etc. isn’t wearing them as pants. The problem is when people wear them with a shorter top and you end up seeing pretty much everything, especially if they’re made of thinner fabric (which most are). No one wants to see your underwear, especially to the point of knowing what colour they are and the fact that you have a wedgie (sadly, I’ve witnessed this more than once…). If they are jeggings or treggings or just very thick and definitely, beyond a doubt, have subjected them to testing under the brightest of lights with contrasting coloured underwear and they still dont show anything, and there’s definitely no camel toe risk (sorry lol) then fine, but otherwise always ALWAYS wear them with something that covers that whole area. PLEASE!

  10. IMO Leggings as pants depends on the person wearing them. I’m a thicker girl, I have a smaller waist but a large bottom (Latina hips :)) and I love leggings. Why? Because finding a good pair of jeans that don’t rise up to my neck, or look I have a penis (forever21 plus size I’m looking at you) or is really hard to find. I agree with some, if they’re too sheer, don’t wear them or even better, put 2 pairs on. The best thing about leggings are that if the thighs run out (I’m built very close together, thigh gap is something I’ll never have) I can buy another pair without a problem. I don’t have the money to spend on 100 dollar jeans, especially if I want them in different colors and patterns.

  11. I personally love leggings. They’re comfy and i can wear them on lazy days or dress the up. I love wearing legging with boots. Though I do agree that I have seen people wearing them in a distasteful way. That doesn’t mean that leggings are unfashionable. That can be said about other types of clothes as well there’s always a “right” and “wrong” way to wear anything, but just because you saw some other girl’s camel toe or pantie line doesn’t mean that’s how everyone who wears looks.

  12. I wear leggings all the time and so do many people in my school. They aren’t too revealing like said in the article. They make me look good unlike other pants

  13. I like leggings with skirts, dresses, and tunics. They are fine as athletic wear but those ones are thicker and more supportive and with a running jacket and sneakers you have the “sporty look”. But to wear as pants seems sloppy cuz you have your “stuff” hanging out and it looks exactly as if you are wearing tights by itself. It’s unflattering to me. That’s just my opinion.


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