The problem with self-control: Why I don’t own sweatpants


Karl Lagerfeld famously said, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” But what if you already had no control over your life in general? Our author discusses how avoiding sweatpants has saved her from things getting worse.

This year saw the death of fashion icon, Karl Lagerfeld. One of his best-known quotes is, “You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” In the era of self-love and self-care, Lagerfeld’s claim (that wearing comfortable clothing shows your life has fallen apart) just seems bizarre. In fact, a writer from described sweatpants as the greatest possible expression of self-love, while according to the magazine Mit Vergnügen, anyone who doesn’t own sweatpants has lost control of their life.

With this in mind, it shocks the people around me again and again that I don’t own sweatpants. And not only that, I also don’t own pajama pants, leggings or any other “comfy” clothes. For most people, a sweatpants-free lifestyle means green smoothies, a well-organized calendar and fat-free yogurt – a lifestyle led by perfectionists, squares and killjoys. They’re essentially the people ringing their neighbor’s doorbell at 9 PM on a Saturday night to complain about loud music.

When your bed becomes a trap

The biggest twist is that my closest friends and family would say I’m the absolute opposite of the the type I have just described. I eat too much, forget too often to pay bills and sometimes it’s only after 3 AM that I notice I’ve binge-watched two seasons of a TV show. Impulse control? Non-existent. In my early 20s, my self-indulgent lifestyle often brought me into tricky situations and led to depressive episodes – the fact I am predisposed to depression (thanks, Mom and Dad!) didn’t help either. But also, my bed has an incredibly magnetic attraction for me: if I don’t manage to get out of the immediate vicinity, I am magically pulled down towards the horizontal, and my mood follows right behind.

At some point I had enough. I wanted to change my life and avoid these regular low periods. In order to do so, I had to rid myself of some toxic habits. This was my strict 3 point plan for years:

  1. Get out of bed within 10 minutes of waking up
  2. Get dressed as if you have an important appointment
  3. Leave the house at least once a day and speak to another person

Although this sounds quite rigid at first, it helped me escape a vicious cycle – and to practise self-care in a conscious manner. The second point plays an especially important role: while others might take their bra off as soon as they get home, I still put my tightest jeans on before breakfast, wear make-up, even though I am home alone, and do my hair. Why? Every step towards comfort is another step back towards bed. I am a coziness-addict and I absolutely needed to go cold turkey. Even clothes that are perfect for chilling out are now banned from my wardrobe. The risk is too great that I again one day will wake up and realize that 10 days have passed without getting out of bed.

The polyester temptation

All of this probably sounds very demanding and, in the last few years, I’ve learned to allow more gray areas. On the weekends, I can wake up and watch an episode of Sopranos in bed, or even go to work without my hair or makeup done. There have been a few times, where I have glanced at the shimmering polyester of my boyfriend’s sweatpants and felt they have been whispering to me from their spot in the closet: “Psst, hey, you there! Why don’t you and I grab a bag of chips and settle in for 6 episodes of Family Guy?” Up to this point, I’ve remained strong. But it would be nice, if coziness and structure could co-exist in my future. Maybe someday I’ll be able to chill out on the couch in my best casual-chic ensemble, all without the accompanying life crisis – and without Karl Lagerfeld turning in his grave.

Author: Marlén Jacobshagen

Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash


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