In this article
It’s been almost three years since the pandemic forced millions of people inside and sweatpants became the defining fashion of the early 2020s. But even before that, the loungewear basic had crossed over from something you wear only at home or at the gym to an acceptable and stylish alternative to jeans or other casual pants.
Sweatpants have been around since the 1920s and were first introduced to the world by the founder of the French sportswear brand Le Coq Sportif, Émile Camuset. The style was meant to keep you warm while absorbing sweat and was originally made of knitted cotton to allow for easy mobility.
Since then, humble cotton sweats have been remixed and reimagined by dozens of brands, so we talked to a panel of 15 stylish people to find some of the very best ones. According to David Bruno, owner of Départ Wine, sweatpants have never been more versatile. “There are a range of styles and uses that can make sweatpants an all-occasion affair if worn wisely,” he says, noting that not all sweatpants should be worn out of the house. His advice: Pay attention to fit and fabric when thinking about where and when you’ll be wearing your sweats. Thicker basics make better attire for lounging at home, riding your bike, or going on a hike. But some sweats made in more traditional menswear cuts and fabrics look nice enough to wear out to dinner or to the office — if you go to one.
Use the table of contents to skip ahead to the type of sweatpants you’re shopping for, or read on to find out what criteria we considered when making our picks and see the full list.
What we’re looking for
Sweatpants typically have a more relaxed fit by default, and many people find a loose fit most comfortable, but we’ve also included several slim-cut options if you’re going for a less baggy look. Most brands use general letter sizing (small, medium, large, and so on), where each size will have a corresponding range of waist measurements. Inseam lengths are typically more fixed with sweatpants than they are with denim or chinos and will usually get longer as the waist size goes up, but some sweatpants are available in short and tall lengths as well.
Sweatpants are traditionally made of cotton, but some brands blend the cotton with a combination of polyester, nylon, or spandex to enhance function. Nylon is capable of wicking away sweat, for example, and spandex adds stretchiness. Classic cotton sweatpants are usually made of soft and cozy French terry knit. You will also see a lot of fleece knit fabric used to make sweats or other loungewear. It’s made of polyester, and it’s lightweight, warm, and moisture-wicking with a soft and fuzzy look.
Below, we’ve noted whether each pair of sweatpants has an internal drawstring that’s hidden inside the waistband or an external drawstring that ties in front. We’ve also listed what kind of pockets each pair has and noted the design of the cuffs. Elastic cuffs are a more old-school style — picture something like a hair scrunchie but for your ankle — while jogger cuffs are a more recent trend, where the leg openings have snug, ribbed bands like you’d see on the wrists of a classic sweatshirt. (There are also some sweatpants that have a looser leg opening with no real cuff at all.)
Best overall sweatpants
Sizing: S–2XL, regular length only | Fabric: 50% cotton, 50% polyester | Style details: Side pockets, no back pockets, elastic cuffs, internal drawstring
When it comes to inexpensive classic sweats, you can’t beat a set from Gildan, says model and actor Miles Garber. “They’re just elastic ankle sweats that you can get on Amazon for like 14 bucks, and when they wear out. you can order more,” he says, noting that his girlfriend, model and actress Juliette Labelle, also wears Gildan sweats and ordered three pairs in navy and black for them to share. “They’re cool because they look vaguely ’90s, which is the best era of sweatwear, I think,” says Garber. Gildan’s sweatpants are made of a cotton-polyester blend and come in basic colors like gray, navy, and black. They’re a straightforward, no-frills style with side pockets but no back pockets, so there’s no extra fabric in the seat and they’re great for lounging around.
Best slim-fit sweatpants
Sizing: S–3XL, regular length only | Fabric: 90% cotton, 10% polyester | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, jogger cuffs, internal drawstring
Three of the stylish people we talked to recommended Uniqlo as their go-to brand for easy-breezy pants, with fitness instructor Patrick McGrath describing it as a “great place to look for pieces that have a more streamlined fit,” and artist Aaron Luckman telling us that these sweats are always in regular rotation. They have a sleek cut, side pockets, a single back pocket, and a jogger cuff. That last part helps make the legs look tapered, giving them a slim and sleek silhouette.
Best slim-fit casual sweatpants
Sizing: XS–2XL, regular length only | Fabric: 100% cotton | Style details: Side pockets, back pockets, jogger cuffs, external drawstring
“I can’t not mention the phenomenal sweatpants at Todd Snyder,” says Bruno, who owns several pairs. He loves that the brand offers “a type of sweatpants for every purpose and occasion,” from a pair with cargo pockets he says go well with a suit jacket to luxurious ones made of recycled cashmere. He recommends this slim-fit jogger style that is made in collaboration with Champion. They are sewn from 100 percent cotton with a tapered leg, jogger cuffs, and both side and back pockets.
Best slim-fit sweatpants to wear to work
Sizing: S–2XL, regular length only | Fabric: 100% cotton | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, jogger cuffs, external drawstring
“Everything Reigning Champ makes is unbelievably durable,” says Kevin Kafesu, senior menswear buyer at Norse Projects, which is important “because you won’t want to take it off.” It’s all about buying less and buying better, he explains. Reigning Champ’s sweatpants are also cut slimmer than the average pair, and the brand insists they are “a paragon of comfort without a hint of the sloppy sweatpant profile.” These sweatpants also have flatlock seams, which means the fabric doesn’t overlap, to minimize the chances of chafing or irritating the skin. They come in black, navy, or gray and have standard side pockets as well as one back pocket.
Best performance sweatpants
Sizing: XS–XL, regular length only | Fabric: 94% polyester, 6% Spandex | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, jogger cuffs, external drawstring
These Outdoor Voices sweatpants have been recommended by Great Jones founder (and former Grub Street senior editor) Sierra Tishgart, skin-care founder Linda Rodin, and members of our own staff. Strategist editor and Outdoor Voices aficionado Maxine Builder is a superfan of the line — formerly known as “All Day,” now “CloudKnit” — calling the women’s version of these sweatpants her “favorite loungewear” to wear “for any activity, indoors or out.” They’re sleek, soft, sweat-wicking, comfortable, and just as good for sitting on the couch, running errands, or working out. They have side pockets, one back pocket, and a slim tapered leg with jogger cuffs, and they come in five colors.
Best sweatpants for shorter or taller people
Sizing: S–6XL with short, regular, and tall lengths | Fabric: 52% polyester, 42% cotton, 6% elastane | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, hidden interior pocket, jogger cuffs, internal or external drawstring
The main appeal of Lululemon’s fleece City Sweat sweatpants is that they come in multiple inseam lengths to accommodate shorter-than-average or taller-than-average people, says former Strategist writer (and one of the authors of this article) Jordan Bowman. The short length has an inseam of 27 inches, the regular length has an inseam of 29 inches, and the tall length has an inseam of 32 inches. These sweatpants have two side pockets and a secure zippered back pocket as well as a hidden interior coin pocket. The drawstring can be worn internally or externally, as small openings in the waistband allow you to thread it either way depending on your preference. The sweats are cut roomier in the seat and thighs, but you will notice prominent seams and a strong taper toward the ankle for an overall tailored, slim look.
Best lightweight sweatpants
Sizing: XS–3XL, regular length only | Fabric: 95% modal, 5% Spandex | Style details: Side pockets, no back pockets, no cuffs, external drawstring
Jambys tees and pants are made from a proprietary modal fabric that is soft, stretchy, light, and more breathable than cotton, at least according to Strategist associate editor Louis Cheslaw, who has worn sweats in both fabrics and is a fan of Jambys in particular. Modal is a form of rayon made of beech-tree pulp that is known for its softness and resistance to shrinkage; it also has moisture-wicking properties and is often used to make underwear. Because of their lightness, Jambys are a solid choice for warmer weather. They come in 19 colors and prints with an external drawstring and side pockets but no back pockets. They’re lightweight sweatpants meant for relaxing, or they can work as pajamas. Pay close attention to the size chart, as the brand’s sizing is unisex.
Best heavyweight sweatpants
Sizing: XS–2XL, regular length only | Fabric: 100% cotton | Style details: Side pockets, no back pockets, elastic cuffs, internal drawstring
Standard Issue makes Bowman’s favorite pair of heavyweight sweatpants. They’re sewn from thick 24-ounce cotton, a substantial increase over our best overall pick — Gildan’s are made of 8-ounce cotton — and the Everybody.World sweatpants recommended below, which are made of 14-ounce cotton. You can choose from a variety of neutral and bright colors, the fit is (according to Bowman) “immaculate,” and they have pockets deep enough to hold keys, a phone, or a wallet without worrying they’ll fall out. The heavy fabric means they won’t lose their shape even after many wears, and they look crispier and less casual for wearing out of the house. “If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll trust Lebron James, who’s been spotted wearing them too,” Bowman says.
Best tapered heavyweight sweatpants
Sizing: XS–2XL, regular length only | Fabric: 90% cotton, 10% polyester | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, jogger cuffs, external drawstring
3Sixteen is known for its high-quality japanese denim but also makes a wicked pair of sweatpants, according to Christopher Echevarria, creator of the footwear brand Blackstock and Weber. “They’re made out of heavy fleece,” and the leg taper is “spot on,” he says. “I own every color of these, and they transition from in the house to out with friends super easily.” 3Sixteen’s sweatpants also have side gussets — a piece of material sewn into a garment to strengthen it — running down the thigh for extra durability and comfort. They have side pockets and one back pocket and come in four colors: black, indigo, oatmeal, and gray.
Best sustainable sweatpants
Sizing: S–2XL, regular length only | Fabric: 63% Lenzing modal, 32% recycled polyester, 5% spandex | Style details: Front pockets, one back pocket, jogger cuffs, external drawstring
Though his are six years old and the exact pair is no longer available, Strategist writer Jordan McMahon says he loves his Threads 4 Thought sweatpants so much he would definitely buy a new pair from the brand. This FeatherLoop Lounge style is the closest option to his beloved pair. “They’ve held up incredibly well, and they’re still my go-to sweats for lounging on the couch and watching TV,” he says, adding that he’s been trying to do more of his shopping secondhand, but when it comes to brands that focus on sustainability and transparency, like Threads 4 Thought, he’s willing to make an exception. “Everything I’ve bought from them has held up, and they share updates on their site about the changes they are making to further reduce their environmental impact, so it’s something they’re committed to improving, not just toeing the line on,” he says.
The sweatpants are part modal, part recycled polyester, and a tiny bit spandex, giving them an ultrasoft, moisture-wicking, lightweight, and stretchy feel. They have two front patch pockets, a single back pocket, jogger cuffs, and an external drawstring.
Best recycled cotton sweatpants
Sizing: 2XS–3XL | Regular length only | Fabric: 100% recycled cotton | Style details: Side pockets | No back pockets | Elastic cuffs | Internal drawstring
Nick Sugihara, founder of gender-neutral clothing company Ijji, is a fan of the sustainability focused Los Angeles brand Everybody.World, whose T-shirts are loved by Strategist editors and (other) fashion designers alike. “I’m partial to a classic sweatpants silhouette in lieu of a slimmer fashion shape,” says Sugihara. “These Everybody.World sweats fit the bill nicely, plus they’re 100 percent recycled.” The Everybody.World sweats have deep pockets, no side seams on the legs, and they are made of recycled cotton manufacturing waste, similar to the brand’s Trash Tee. Everybody.World is a gender-neutral brand, so sizing on these sweatpants is unisex and ranges from 2XS to 3XL.
Strategist writer Erin Schwartz is also an Everybody.World sweatpants convert, calling them “squishy and soft and also very cooling, like stepping into a cool day at the lake.” Schwartz even told us they’ve taken to packing the sweats for overnight trips because they’re comfy but also a little luxe and fancy. If that isn’t convincing enough, the sweats have also appeared in Schwartz’s dating-app profile picture.
Best organic cotton sweatpants with matching sweatshirt
Sizing: S–2XL | Regular length only | Fabric: 100% organic cotton | Style details: Side pockets | One back pocket | Jogger cuff | External drawstring
If you’re interested in organic-cotton sweatpants, writer and blogger Jordan Bunker recommends this sweatshirt-and-sweatpants set from Organic Basics. It’s a Danish brand that seems “to have a way of making really simple clothes quite appealing,” he says. The set comes in navy or gray, and the sweatpants have jogger-style cuffs, an external drawstring, side pockets, and a single, simple back pocket with no closure. Organic Basics is also a B Corp, which means it has higher standards of transparency and accountability around the clothing they make. “I featured the brand in my own loungewear round-up, and I’ve got to say, a navy sweat suit along with a pair of loafers is an easy win,” says Bunker.
Best made-to-order sweatpants
Sizing: S–6XL with regular and tall lengths | Fabric: 90% cotton, 10% polyester | Style details: Side pockets, no back pockets, elastic cuffs, internal drawstring
Both Brian Davis of Wooden Sleepers, an appointment-only vintage menswear shop, and Matthew Spade, a freelance writer and content creator at men’s fashion blog Buckets and Spades, recommend these heavyweight knit sweatpants from Camber. Spade says they are “pretty loose” with “traditional sportswear details.” He describes them as “all about comfort” with “lots of room in the leg and a very boxy top” without being too long or too oversized. After trying a wide range of sweatshirts and sweatpants, Spade landed on these as his go-to pair. They are made of a cotton-polyester blend that’s available in 11 colors and they come in a wide range of sizes that goes all the way up to 6XL. Camber also offers a tall length, which adds three inches to the inseam. Just note that there is an additional charge for sizes 2XL and above and for all tall lengths. Additionally, Camber’s clothing is made-to-order, so shipping times may vary.
• Aaron Luckman, artist
• Brian Davis, founder of Wooden Sleepers
• Jordan Bunker, writer and blogger
• Maxine Builder, Strategist editor
• Louis Cheslaw, Strategist associate editor
• Christopher Echevarria, creator of the footwear brand Blackstock and Weber
• Miles Garber, Model and actor
• Kevin Kafesu, senior menswear buyer at Norse Projects
• Juliette Labelle, model and actress
• Patrick McGrath, fitness instructor
• Linda Rodin, skin-care founder
• Matthew Spade, a freelance writer and creator of Buckets and Spades
• Nick Sugihara, the founder of gender-neutral clothing company Ijji
• Sierra Tishgart, Great Jones founder and former Grub Street senior editor
• Erin Schwartz, Strategist writer
• Jordan McMahon, Strategist writer
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.