As peak athleisure, the best men’s track pants are a little bit of everything.
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Like those Adidas styles you sported in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, they feel comfortable while letting your body move. At the same time, the shiny polyester material, often with contrast stripes down the sides, delivers total retro appeal.
As a third and specifically modern-day factor, men’s track pants are no longer just for the gym. Stemming off spending more time at home, track pants merge fully relaxed with refined style, resulting in a do-everything garment that’s neither too casual nor too formal and could well exist within a smart-casual wardrobe with the right pieces.
In a sense, men’s track pants have gone through the same revolution as joggers did a couple of years ago. Associated with men’s sweatpants, joggers looked like something you’d wear to go for a run or head to the gym to work out in.
But, as more and more men sported the tapered and cuffed silhouette outside of an athletic context, we started to spot designs made out of nylon and twill. Today, assuming you’re pairing them with a button-down and lace-up boots, jogger pants can be a part of your work wardrobe.
So, as you’re thinking about trying out a pair of men’s track pants for their recent revival, here’s how to approach the trend.
Track Pants vs. Sweatpants vs. Joggers: What’s the Difference?
First things first: not all men’s athleisure pants are the same. Reflecting this, joggers and now track pants have received the elevated, designer streetwear treatment over the past couple of years. Sweatpants, however, remain strictly a chill-out and workout item.
Men’s track pants, by design, aren’t tapered. Rather, they feature an elastic waist for flexibility, although a drawstring may be involved. Then, with a straight or slightly wider cut, they fall down to the ankles. True athletic versions – as opposed to athleisure style – feature a zippered or snap-button hem that opens up for an even wider fit, allowing the wearer to slip them on over a pair of sneakers.
Visually, although solid-color track pants are certainly out there, the classic designs tend to feature some degree of contrast or color-blocking, in the same vein as Adidas’ no-longer-trademarked 3-Stripes.
Sweatpants, by contrast, are often constructed out of a cotton blend, usually with polyester, and don’t have a set silhouette. Instead, you’ll see jogger varieties with cuffed elastic ankles or a straight cut similar to track pants. Yet, the best men’s sweatpants focus on warmth. In turn, a reliable pair has a medium-weight exterior and brushed fleece lining to retain body heat.
Jogger pants at one point were interchangeable with sweatpants. Today, however, “jogger” applies to a specific silhouette. The waist sits just above the hips, although it doesn’t need to be elastic, and the legs balloon out to some degree but are never truly wide-cut. Then, from the knees on down, they taper right to the ankles, where elastic or banded cuffs keep them in place.
How to Wear Men’s Track Pants
Back in the 2000s, tracksuits for both genders were eventually mocked for their slouchy fit and matchy-matchy nature. Eventually, they essentially became high-priced men’s sweat suits with embellishments and contrast piping.
To avoid this aspect:
- Never wear the waist below the hips. In line with the current high-waist trend, men’s track pants should be worn slightly above the hips, so that they create a clean silhouette that falls to the ankle.
- In the opposite direction, the pants shouldn’t ever bag or drape too much around the ankle. At this point, they begin to look like pajama pants. Rather, as mentioned above, the hem should hit at, if not slightly overlap with, your shoes.
- Think about the relationship between your shirt and your pants. Traditionally, men have worn a workout shirt or even a sweatshirt with a pair of track pants, with the hem falling over the waistband. Here, the best sweatshirts end where the waistband begins, creating a clean line and contrast in the process. Men’s workout shirts, meanwhile, should still be reserved for the gym.
- Look for a fitted silhouette. We, however, don’t mean leggings (or meggings) or a skinny pant. Instead, look to your chinos as an example. Just as the cotton twill skims your form without highlighting too much of anything, a pair of track pants should create an even, consistent line from the hips to the ankle, without bagging or being too tight.
What to Wear with Men’s Track Pants
The best men’s track pants don’t specifically come off as athleisure or gym wear yet still fit like they do. This factor, in turn, influences what you should be wearing with this garment:
Men’s Workout Shirts
In this vein, we discourage the modern-day polyester/spandex style in favor of some color-blocked ‘90s sportswear or a classic white T-shirt fitted precisely and tucked into the waistband.
A Casual Jacket
Also in line with avoiding a head-to-toe early ‘00s faux pas, ditch the track jacket – or, better yet, save it for a different outfit. Rather, to take track pants off the field and out of the gym, pair them with a denim trucker jacket, a blazer, or a bomber in a similar yet contrasting hue. Whatever you sport, it should be light and somewhat structured and fitted.
Avoid Athletic and Running Shoes
Mimicking many of the above sentiments, now’s not the time to lace up your dad shoes. Instead, consider pairing your track pants with a set of leather or desert boots. If you are going to wear a sneaker, consider a solid-color, smart-casual option that you’d put on for work.
Avoid Too Many Colors
Unless you’re intentionally aiming for that ‘90s sportswear vibe, the best men’s track pants utilize a monochromatic or two-color combination. Classic black and white – or even solid black or grey – tone it down without bringing too many hues – and too many distractions – into the mix.