When men see the word “stretch”, they tend to stay far away. They might be thinking of their girlfriend’s form-fitting yoga pants, and want nothing to do with it.
But in this era of stretchy elastane-filled activewear, men have grown more comfortable with the idea of incorporating spandex into their pants.
Elastane (the generic term for Spandex and Lycra, according to Jack Threads) has always appeared in men’s activewear (including Lululemon’s ABC pants) as well as some niche items, like ultra-skinny jeans (how else would you get them on?).
But now clothing brands from J.Crew to Uniqlo have all jumped on the flexible bandwagon, and there’s a really good reason why. Stretch improves comfort in a way you can actually feel, and it makes doing anything in your pants easier, from biking to flat pack furniture shopping. The material is used in these cases because it can stretch four to seven times its initial size and still return to its original form.
Even Levi’s announced that their most popular and cult-favoured jean, the 501, are now being produced with stretch, with 1% elastane — the first change to the 501 fabric in 140 years. Levi’s acknowledges this may anger denim purists, but “finish technicians ensured this new fabric maintained the DNA and integrity of the original,” Levi’s wrote in a blog post.
Men are now used to having elastane in their pants from their athleisure garments they also own, and traditional pant sellers now need to incorporate it to maintain the same level of comfort. Retailers of “rigid clothing” are feeling the pressure to adapt their clothing and make them more comfortable, as that is driving sales and eating away at the profits of non-stretch clothing, according to Quartz.
Retailers, as they push stretch pants, will be dealing with some misconceptions. The biggest guys have about stretch is that the pants will be skin-tight, but that’s frequently not the case.
The pant’s cuts do not change, and, depending on how much stretch there is, they look very similar the same as non-stretch pants. Levi’s claims that the pants look entirely similar to non-stretch 501 jeans, and you only feel the difference when you put them on. They’re just now a whole lot more flexible when you bend or flex, and they move with you instead of acting as a barrier.
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