Can sweatpants be banned in the classroom?

Quick to pull on and comfortable, affordable, unisex: sweatpants have long found their way as a fashionable everyday clothing item, and are considered acceptable in many offices.

Sweatpants are popular around the world (Jan-Philipp Strobel/picture alliance/dpa)
Sweatpants are popular around the world (Jan-Philipp Strobel/picture alliance/dpa)

But that kind of casual attire isn’t approved in Wormelskirchen, a town in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where high school students were sent home for wearing sweatpants to class. Thus, the school implemented a dress code that was implemented in 2019.

“We want to encourage our students to wear clothes that are not ‘chilling’,” the school management said in response to media criticism.

“Young people need to learn that different behaviors apply in different social settings. Clothes that are appropriate on the couch at home may not be appropriate at school. You don’t sleep on a school desk like you do on a couch,” Moritz Lohmann. , the school’s educational director told local newspaper Remscheid Generalanzeiger. In a letter to parents, he asked them to “support this educational measure”.

‘School is work’

The Wermelskirchen high school director believes that sweatpants are for one purpose only: sports.

The German Association for Etiquette, Deutsche-Knigge-Gesellschaft (Knigge Society), supports the ban: “Going to school is like going to work, so it’s no place to wear sweatpants,” the organization said in a statement to the German press. Agency DPA.

Nigge society is seen as Germany’s right to fair treatment. It is named after Adolf Freiherr Nigge (1752-1796), author of the sociological treatise “On Dealing with People”.

Various athletes also follow this dress code. In 2019, soccer coach Jürgen Klinsmann banned his team Hertha BSC from wearing tracksuits when traveling. Their dress code is still not as strict as that adopted by the American Basketball League in 2005, which requires all NBA players to dress in business or conservative attire when arriving and departing from, and sitting at, scheduled games. Bench if they are injured.

Loss of control or rebellious rhetoric?

Fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld (1933-2019) famously said, “He who wears sweatpants has lost control of his life.”

But in the meantime, many designers, including Valentino, Gucci and Prada, have added elements of luxury to leisurewear, whether by creating models in fine silk or embellishing trousers with Swarovski crystals.

For cultural and fashion sociologist Lutz Heiber, wearing sweatpants is not about losing control, but rather making a rebellious statement: “Sweatpants are an expression of a relaxed lifestyle, it shows that you don’t care too much about traditional norms,” ​​the university said. The professor from Hannover told the news agency EPD.

So maybe the new saying should be: He who sweats is truly in control of his life.

Sweatpants top and bottom

French sports brand Le Coq Sportif launched the first jogging pants in the 1920s.

Sportswear, however, only really became popular in the 1970s, when the fitness movement began to spread.

On the other hand, in the 1980s, trousers also gained a bad reputation, being seen as thick pants worn not for sports but for grocery shopping by socially disadvantaged people.

In the 1990s, rappers and hip-hoppers successfully turned their sweatpants into a fashion statement.

Since 2009, comfortable pants with elastic waistbands have been celebrated as International Sweatpants Day, which is celebrated on January 21. On that day, a news anchor for German public broadcaster ARD once wore sweatpants to present the Tageschau news program; Some school teachers do too – but certainly not in Wermelskirchen.

Clothes are personal

But who can dictate what students wear?

There is no school uniform in Germany. Schools are allowed to establish a dress code as part of school rules, but from a legal perspective, this is only a recommendation, not an obligation.

According to legal experts, “There is no basis for individual bans. The legal situation is very clear,” University of Münster professor Hinnark Wissmann told dpa.

Universities also do not have a dress code, unlike, for example, elite universities in the UK, which have strict dress codes for exams and ceremonies.

In Germany, a law student once sued her university after losing marks for wearing smart pants, but no jeans, to an oral exam. She won the case.

In other words, Germany protects a person’s right to determine their appearance.

Fashion designer Thomas Roth, who is a “big fan of sweatpants” and a “Germany’s Next Top Model” juror, believes that the acceptance of casual clothes has increased significantly due to the pandemic, when many people worked from home, but also for reasons. Street wear has a huge impact on our daily lives. “It’s important and it keeps us young,” Rath told dpa.

He is against the ban. “The years of dictates of fashion – thank God – are over and we can dress individually,” said Rath. Sweatpants are no longer home wear, but haute couture: “We’ve seen sportswear stylishly worn on the red carpet,” he added.

Clearly, the Wermelskirchen school board needs to be updated on today’s fashion concepts.

This article was originally written in German.

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