In Sweatpants: The Remote Control of Constriction and Expansion

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There is something cosmically ambitious about the floppy, malleable, waistband of sweatpants. ?Sweatpants??the term will here be used as a metaphor for when ?giving up? becomes en vogue??sweatpants are a sign of defeat,? says Karl Lagerfeld, despite the fact that there is such a thing as Chanel sweatpants.

In ?sweatpants,? one floats down the supermarket aisle like a ghost: unseen, undressed, and (hopefully) invisible. We wear ?sweatpants? more and more in an attempt to be at home in the world. Indeed, invisible looks have become so glamorized as to have nearly obliterated beauty standards.

The phenomenon of ?normcore? fashion?a deliberate attempt to appear non-deliberately ?normal? and blend in?suggests that this preference for looking relaxed and casual harbors a tyrannical impulse. Is it possible that as we recline on the couch in our fleece onesies we actually become more motivated? ?To die, to sleep?to sleep, perchance to dream?ay, there?s the rub?.?

Did your parents ever tell you anything was possible? Optimistically, this might mean that the world will open up to your dreams?it is made of a stretchy fabric that will allow you to grow as fat as you like. Pessimistically, this might mean that the world shapeshifts?you never know what it is going to throw at you.

Indeed, the freedom to expand only goes so far before expansion becomes a mode of constriction. This will happen when our limits become indistinguishable from the world or when we constrict ourselves so fully that we vanish. Such is the wish of someone who longs to master the universe as well as someone who wants to disappear.

Here, sweatpants and philosophers share something in common. In the philosopher?s purist form?and, keep in mind that purity might not be a good thing for philosophy?invisibility reigns. To see life as it is, you must be able to view it without participating in it. Everything is done from the remote control of an ivory tower. This is because, if you participate in life, you?re involved. And if you?re involved, you might make the mistake of being prejudiced.

Of course, it would be equally prejudiced not to experience the life you are trying to understand, and so, philosophers are in a bind. They seek nudity. But if nudity?philosophical or otherwise?involves subtracting your clothes (or opinions) from your self, and, if this is impossible without appearing idle or anarchic, then perhaps you could subtract your self from your clothes? Dressing down entails diluting your personality with your outfit (read: sweatpants).

The procedure is reminiscent of Socrates? well-known remark that philosophy is the ?practice of dying and being dead?? an intense devotion to downplaying the drama of your own life in order to capture reality as it is. However, Socrates? lively practice of dying became a trend in its own right. Starting out with the impulse to disappear, Socrates was subsequently executed by the city of Athens for being too conspicuous. You might ask: how does the attempt to disappear move so quickly into the limelight? And how does the limelight morph so quickly into a death sentence, as it did for Socrates?

When we crawl into sweatpants and switch on the world with a remote control, we not only remove ourselves from the world but also long to overcome it. From the couch, you can criticize celebrities and politicians while scarfing down potato chips and falling asleep with drool on your face. Sweatpants are a curious mechanism that allows you to hide from the world while at the same time empowering you like an unmanned combat drone. While the couch may seem like a place far removed from universal exploration, television and computer screens are the windows of our spaceships.

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