Look of the Week: In Which I Re-Enact My Particular Version of My NYC 90s with a Pair of Fancy Track Pants

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Lately I have been intrigued by the emergence of what I call the “fancy track pant” in fashion. It all began, like many weird yet strangely awesome ideas in fashion, with Phoebe Philo’s work at Celine, the bougie French brand she is quickly turning a heritage-level powerhouse. She showed a pair of black leather track pants in her pre-fall 2012 collection (and was subsequently photographed in them for a Vogue interview.) And I was kind of into the idea. Not literally — I’ve long learned that if I’m going to wear something slouchy on my hips, it has to be a fairly liquid, supple material, or else it just doesn’t look right. But I loved the idea of taking this sporty, athletic item and luxing and toughing it up with unconventional materials, keeping the ease but making it fancier. It was just a matter of finding an accessible equivalent for me.

I mean, yes, I could run around in actual track bottoms. I actually did this in the late 90s when I first moved to NYC and was working in the film industry, mostly in various art departments on commercials, industrials and the occasional movie. You have to remember that streetwear and street style, of course, wasn’t the easily accessible phenomenon that it is now. Ha, even the Internet wasn’t the 24-7 thing it is now back then. (Gee, I am old.) So you actually had to be in a city and walk on the streets to see street style, or gasp, buy an actual magazine that would run street style photos. And in those days, there was a strand of NYC street style that was this amazingly insouciant mix of hip-hop/athletic, skater, rave, minimalism and kind of a Daryl K-ish, sleek elegant post-punk. The girls everyone was into were Chloe Sevigny and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and if you mashed those two together (with a dash of Kim Gordon and early 90s Sofia Coppola because she got all French-y), that was pretty ideal. That was the thing I remember the girls wearing: a nice, slightly sloucy Daryl K. trouser — kind of like a really great grown-up pair of Dickies, just cut waaaaaay better for a lady bottom — with a cool baby tee and maybe a skater shoe, Vans or something. Really clean, really functional. Cool but composed. That was kind of my jam, my sartorial ideal around the late 90s.

And it really worked, both for me and my body and my life in general. Sometimes there’s a time in fashion when the trend, your body type, your temperament and your life all align, and perhaps for me, NYC late 90s was it. That was a great look for a film set, which was my primary workplace at the time. I worked a lot with my mentor, a kind, beautiful art director who kept hiring me for projects, and she worked a posher, different angle of the same hip-hop/skater girl look: more A.P.C. jeans — the old-school really heavy dark rinse denim, straight leg — with really slick Nike Air trainers, maybe a cashmere turtleneck. (Interestingly enough, it’s kind of intriguing to see Phoebe Philo wear Nike trainers all over again now, with kind of a posh pant and simple top…same vibe as my mentor back then. I notice that’s starting to become really cool again now, too.) I can’t really remember a time since when street style married cool with functionality so brilliantly — maybe that is the difference between a discourse of fashion based primarily on motion and movement vs. one aimed at the lenses of a million different street style photography blogs. One is 3-D; the other is a flattened image.

One thing we ladies in the art department all wore were Adidas Firebird track pants. They were super-comfy for long days on set, and both cool enough for warm temperatures but kept you warm if you were out on set on a cold day. You could clamber all over a film set and do what you needed wearing these track pants; they were just super-functional. I’d wear mine with a baby tee from Liquid Sky or Triple 5 Soul or X-Girl and Vans, and for a jacket I just threw on a denim one. It was the kind of look that worked well for work but still felt true to my tribe.

I could run out and get a pair of Adidas ones now, but that doesn’t feel like evolution, if you know what I mean. So you can imagine how particularly psyched I was when I saw this pair of fancy track pants at Target, of all places. It’s kind of a tuxedo trouser/track pant hybrid — grey ponte knit, really comfy and relaxed, tailored just enough not to get sloppy, with strips of soft faux-leather at the waist and along the side of the leg. It just is a chill pair of pants. In the past, maybe I would’ve worn this with a t-shirt and a pair of trainers. But I don’t even think I own a baby tee anymore, and somehow wearing these with trainers won’t work with a t-shirt — something this relaxed needs a bit more formality at top, or else it feels too sloppy on me. (When I wear head-to-toe sloppy, I kind of just get really sloppy myself.) So this is how I’d wear it now, which is with a proper blue linen sweater from Uniqlo and some fancier shoes. (Look at the shoes! I did my best to “model” them above. They have a bit of neon green and a nifty pattern on the platform sole!) I also wear these with a simple white tank, a nicely cut boyfriend blazer and strappy black platform sandals, which makes for a sharper yet relaxed look. (I didn’t photograph that because that’s just way too much modeling. The pressure! The pressure!) Interestingly enough, this is closer to how my mentor would’ve worn the pants, I think: just a touch more grown-up. Interesting to think how those fashion influences cycle through — you spiral back to them again and again, but in different permutations.

3 thoughts on “Look of the Week: In Which I Re-Enact My Particular Version of My NYC 90s with a Pair of Fancy Track Pants

  1. Saw these last week on the last day of my vacation in California and didn’t have time to try them on. Have been obsessing about them ever since!! Now that I’ve actually seen them on someone, I’m going to have to go online and search them out!

    1. you will love them if they work on your body…they are super soft and comfy, and really feel like you’re wearing really fancy pajama pants! i feel like they’re cut pretty decently, it’s a very basic straight cut. but of course, pants are always such a mystery when it comes to actually trying them on…but i can vouch for the comfort and ease! xo k.

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