Ryan Chartrand

An ever-increasing fashion trend (if it can even be called that) is sweeping the nation. Instead of actually trying to appear presentable, young people across this great nation of ours opt to keep those oh-so-loved sweats on wherever they go.

Come test day, dead week or finals week, sweats usage will be at its zenith. With the stress of making the grade – not meeting the fashion police’s demands – my guess is that this campus will have a 1-to-1 sweats-to-jeans ratio. (Unless you are like my roommate last quarter who makes a conscious effort to look her best for each test she takes. According to her, this is a sure-fire way to boost one’s confidence.)

Last fall I studied in Barcelona, Spain, and as I prepared to leave the United States and head across the Atlantic, I made sure to not overpack in the sweats/pajama department. Despite the obvious space restrictions, I knew that I wanted, as much as I possibly could, to embrace the Spanish culture, and that included not wearing sweats outside the apartment.

Let me clarify first: I love wearing sweats and pajamas. I’m all for being comfortable. Though I have been trying to limit my use of sweats since returning from Spain, I’ll confess: I have worn my gym clothes to class, my ballet tights around town, and sweats to Bali’s and grocery stores multiple times. And have looked ridiculous, mind you, but comfortably ridiculous.

So, back to the Spain story. One night, over a dinner of tortilla Espanola, my roommate and I revealed this increasingly popular American habit to our Spanish senora. “Oh, Dios mio!” she exclaimed. After recovering from her initial shock, she began to argue with us why no one should ever wear these comfort clothes outside the home or gym.

To Spaniards, wearing Richard Simmons-status workout gear or Victoria’s Secret Pink label sweats outside the home is on par with donning scandalous lingerie and revealing this to the world at large.

Socially, this is just unacceptable in Europe. The purpose of these items is comfort, yes, but not in the classroom, workplace, shopping downtown, etc. Any usage outside of the aforementioned locations is merely a fashion (and cultural) faux pas.

Similarly, only in America, so it seems, are people so obsessed with buying school-touting or sports-inspired goods.

Bookstores across the nation make big bucks hawking sweatshirts, sweats, T-shirts, you name it, encrusted with their school’s emblem. Trust me, as a former bookstore employee, I know from experience that people will spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on clothing (or entire wardrobes) for the entire family.

At the university I attended in Barcelona, I never saw anyone ever buy one of the school’s two clothing options (a T-shirt or sweatshirt, both with graphics I didn’t particularly care for). And I certainly didn’t see anyone wearing one around school.

It struck me as I reflected on this fairly superficial topic that these minor cultural differences could reflect deeper social issues as well.

For me, it is easier to throw on a well-worn pair of sweats as I plow through stressful amounts of homework. Yet the very notions sweats embody (i.e. free time, comfort, lack of stress, etc.) seem harder to achieve.

In contrast, in Europe I never wore my sweats and pajamas outside the apartment, but my life was considerably less stressful. And, from what I observed and saw of Spaniards, they really do appear less stressed and much more passionate about life.

There’s a bit of a disparity here. It seems as though Americans value physical comfort (through what they choose to wear), but also seem to make their lives more complex than they should. Spaniards take the opposite approach to life.

But then again, donning sweats instead of taking the time to step it up a little bit more is also a sure sign of laziness and convenience – two more good old American values.

Honestly, I’ve been here before. Ten minutes to get ready and rush off to class? Two hour break between classes for working out at the gym?

Yes, it’s easier to simply wear sweats and forget about (gasp) actually looking somewhat presentable to the public. But, just a word to the wise, teachers, peers, visitors, etc. will probably take you a lot more seriously without the gym get-up.

I will continue to wear my sweats, I’m sure, but I have experienced an awe-inspiring glimpse at a society in which sweats are virtually non-existent. And I don’t want to merely follow the American trend.

Janelle Eastridge is a journalism junior and Mustang Daily staff writer.

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