Are Yoga Pants a Symbol of Class Warfare?


By Joseph Orosco

I was walking to class today–an abnormally warm, sunny day for Oregon in October–and I was struck that almost every student I passed looked like they were dressed for going the gym.  The fashion on campus these days seems to be some version of yoga pants/leggings and tank tops for women, and tank top-athletic shorts for men.



Later in the day, I came across this status update from the site Anarchist Memes on Facebook:

“I would just like to take the time to remind people that beauty standards are based on the image of the class that’s in power. When only upper class people could eat enough to gain wait and not have to work outside all day that was what was considered beautiful. Now that healthy foods and exercise equipment are more expensive the beauty standards have changed to reflect that.”

I think there is something to this!

In the past couple of years, the sales of athletic clothing for men and women has skyrocketed. This is not just old t-shirts and sweatpants.  New materials and fabrics have allowed big time designers to develop their own active wear lines, and certain brands of yoga pants, like lululemon, have become fashionable outside of yoga.  The popularity of fitness classes such as Barre, Pilates, or Crossfit has also erupted into active wear fashion particularly around aficionados of those exercise forms.

But people are not buying this gear in a utilitarian way to participate in those classes–they are wearing them in everyday settings.  Indeed, its not clear that people are even exercising more to explain the rise of sales in the gear.  They have simply come to be fashion symbols associated with appearing healthy, active, practical, and on the go.

Yet, as the status update remarks, we ought to be aware that these are images inflected by class status, representing a certain class status, or (more likely) an aspiration to certain class status, in much the same way that shopping at Whole Foods, or consuming organic food in general, has become a luxury in our society and taken by some to be a sign of a socially conscious person.  What are we to make a society that appropriates health as a commodity?

One thought on “Are Yoga Pants a Symbol of Class Warfare?”


    Your title “Are Yoga Pants a Symbol of Class Warfare?” is a misleading question barely tied to some suppositions about the dominant culture( ruling class tastes) reflected in college students and the public’s choice to look active.

    Trust me clothing choices DO NOT reflect the influences of class interests. Manufacturers pick up and market to consumers’ tastes when an opportunity is seen to exchange commodity values for money.Albeit the owners extract surplus value from the labor of workers changing this value into profits for the owners of the capital required to produce the products people Chose to purchase.

    As for yoga it is a meditative practice following percepts(pranas”) of postures to unify the human body with the mind to find a place within the field of our consciousness where we experience peace and potentially cleansing of our karmic patterns.

    This means cla$$ war how? Because college student’s clothing wearing and shopping habits and trends are forms of class antagonism?

    I would venture to say that you are engaging in false consciousness by drawing feeble correlations to what behaviors you see on the street to something that could at the strongest be called a consumer protest through fashion trend.

    To belabor the point, your pseudoleft title and the following article offer no true analysis and uncovers none of the social relationships behind the relationships of production that constitute the core of capitalism, no matter if most clothing goods are produced in the periphery nations to be distributed here in the imperialist center nations.

    Let alone to offer an alternative outlook not based on corporate style journalism referencing market trends, that would suggest a path to move toward a higher awareness of the real dynamics at play( such as the globalization of goods the majority of which can be produced here in our country offering jobs to citizens to keep money locally working) while helping people to see some connections between their actions and class warfare.

    However that would only be relevant of there were a real connection between the pants I buy and class warfare.

    Somebody’s gotta think critically.

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