Debate over Spandex & leggings

Out for a public walk in attire of choice.
Out for a public walk in attire of choice.

Two young women, wearing just leggings and t-shirts, walked along Locust Street in the town of Floyd Friday and every man/boy they passed turned and watched them strut.

The scene brings back memories of a verse from the popular country song by Joe Diffie  (Third Rock from the Sun)

She walks into Smokey’s one hip at a time,
Like a broken field runner slippin’ through the line!

The current controversy in casual public attire adds to the scene and their attraction: Leggings, the utra-form fitting Spandex attire that molds itself to the wearer’s butt and crotch and leaves little to the imagination.

“A woman’s best friend is a man’s imagination,” my granddaddy used to say.

Not much left to anyone’s imagination when a woman wears spandex.

When a mom saw coeds at the University of Notre Dame wearing the tight, revealing attire in Mass recently, she wasn’t happy.

“I thought of all the other men around and behind us who couldn’t help but see their behinds,” Maryann White wrote in a letter to Notre Dame’s student newspaper, The Observer. ““My sons know better than to ogle a woman’s body — certainly when I’m around (and hopefully, also when I’m not). They didn’t stare, and they didn’t comment afterwards. But you couldn’t help but see those blackly naked rear ends. I didn’t want to see them — but they were unavoidable. How much more difficult for young guys to ignore them.”

White offered some advice to the those wearing Spandex with little or nothing underneath: “Think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead.”

Instead, about a thousand of the private Catholic university’s coeds showed up in class the following week wearing leggings.  Tweeted Notre student Kate Bermingham: “Participating in with @Irish4RepHealth and thousands of other ND community members in defiance of those who feel entitled to police womxn’s appearance & shift the blame for impropriety.”

She adds:

Let’s also remember that women of color are far more likely than white women to be punished for “violating” dress codes at school and work and that as a group WOC deal w/ greater degrees of sexualization of their bodies than white women.

The war over leggings has raged for several years.  Time magazine calls the debate a “surprising history of what seems to be the most controversial leg covering” in debates about what is or is not considered acceptable to wear in public.

Adds Time:

Before they became a form of activewear, they were used for practical purposes. For obvious reasons, the concept of pants — as opposed to skirts, kilts or other clothing that doesn’t protect the legs individually — is closely linked to the development of societies that used horses to get around, as described by T.C.F. Hopkins in Empires, Wars, and Battles: The Middle East From Antiquity to the Rise of the New World: “From Asia to Europe, the riders of horses are also the wearers of trousers. The image of horsemen without leggings is a film convention, not a reflection of actual riding conditions.”

Locally, women — particularly high school and college students — often wear leggings under their skirts or dresses in cold weather.  While wearing of leggings as the only attire below the waist is banned in most high schools, they are common attire for coeds on many colleges and universities (like Notre Dame or Virginia Tech but not, we bet, Liberty).

In high schools, including Floyd County High, some parents and grandparents have misgivings about the spandex shorts worn by their daughters in volleyball.

Many of the student athletes say the spandex is comfortable to wear and gives more flexibility to move during games.  Leggings also common at fitness centers and for yoga, a popular pastime and exercise activity in Floyd County.

A teen in gym attire (Stock Photo)

Spandex is not limited to leggings or yoga pants.  You also see it worn by young women for dance and other uses.

Again, the argument in favor of Spandex is that the garments are more comfortable.

Notre Dame mother White doesn’t buy the comfort claim. She says not wearing any clothes at all is also comfortable but is not something someone should display in public.

“We don’t go naked because we respect the other people who must see us,” she said, “I’m fretting both because of unsavory guys who are looking at you creepily and nice guys who are doing everything to avoid looking at you.”

Notre Dame students responded, urging “legging lovers of the Notre Dame community” to “join in our legging hedonism” and adding “because what you wear is completely your own choice.”

The men and boys looking at the two teenagers wearing leggings and t-shires (one bare midriff) didn’t complain this week.  They were too busy watching the show.

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