men's apparel

The Very Best Men’s Sweatpants

Including budget-friendly classic cuts, slim-fit joggers, and a pair made of recycled cotton.

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

In this article

Long before sweatpants and joggers became the defining fashion of the early 2020s, the loungewear basics had already crossed over from something you wouldn’t wear in public to an acceptable and stylish alternative to jeans and other casual pants. Back in my earliest days as a menswear writer in 2015, John Elliott’s skinny sweatpants were the height of loungewear innovation and a fashion status symbol. Now, it’s not uncommon for most men — and teens especially — to have a collection of different sweats they keep in constant rotation. Menswear brands that sell sweatpants make this easy by offering multiple styles and fits — slim, classic, relaxed — just like you would expect to see with chinos or button-down shirts. And the range of men’s sweatpants available in 2024 caters to every situation you could possibly imagine. (Should you decide you want a pair of cashmere dress sweats, they are surprisingly easy to find.)

The sweatpants you can buy today range in price from under $20 for the most basic of basic pairs to upwards of $200 for more tailored styles made from high-end materials by statusy brands. But if you just want something nice, within reason, generally speaking you get what you pay for — and sweatpants priced at $150 and up do feel and fit much better than the extreme cheapies. But there are lots of pairs that balance relative affordability with comfort and good quality starting at around $75.

So to recommend the very best pairs of sweatpants, I talked to a panel of 15 stylish people with strong opinions on athleisure. Then I tested as many pairs as I could get my hands on, wearing them on long walks, on vacation, to the grocery store, to work, and in many cases to bed. And while I firmly believe most sweatpants are unisex, even if they aren’t labeled that way, I also asked my husband, Jacob; my father; and several of my friends and colleagues to try them on and give me their feedback.

What we’re looking for

Fit

Classic sweatpants, which were originally worn by athletes and soldiers, have a relaxed fit that many people find comfortable. But many brands are now specializing in slim-cut and tapered sweats with an eye toward style. I have also been seeing more and more open-cuff, trouser-style sweatpants that mirror current menswear trends. Thinking about where and when you’ll be wearing your sweats will help you choose the best fit: Roomier classic cuts are best for lounging at home, while slim or tapered jogger styles are fitness-friendly because they don’t flop around or get in the way of your workout. They also look a bit more polished if you’re wearing them out of the house.

Fabric

Traditional cotton sweatpants are usually made of soft and cozy French terry knit, which you will recognize by its signature looped weave. As with other products like sheets, towels, and bathrobes, the weight and density of the fabric used in sweatpants is measured by the number of grams per square meter, or GSM. The higher the number, the heavier the fabric (for example, mid-weight sweats are around 350 GSM, and heavyweight sweats are more like 500 GSM). In general, and especially when it comes to all-cotton sweats, the heavier the knit or weave of the fabric, the warmer it will be. Not all brands list the GSM of their sweats online — you’ll most likely see it when a pair is made of 100 percent cotton — but if they do I have noted it below.

It’s also common to see sweatpants made of cotton blended with synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, or spandex. Nylon helps to wick away sweat and resists odor, and spandex adds stretchiness. Polyester is quick-drying and durable and is often blended with cotton to create fleece, which is fuzzier and warmer than French terry but also less breathable, so it can feel too hot in certain situations. For that reason I have prioritized sweats made of French terry or fabric blends that are specifically designed to breathe. For example, modal and Lyocell fabrics are known for their soft texture and breathability, and for being more sustainable than petroleum-based fabrics like polyester.

Sizing

Most brands use general letter sizing (small, medium, large, and so on), where each size will have a corresponding range of waist measurements. I have prioritized sweats with the widest range of sizes when possible. 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. In the cases where sweatpants come in multiple inseams, I have noted it below.

Style details

For many people the type of drawstring, pockets, or cuffs on a given pair of sweats will cement them as favorites or relegate them to the back of the closet. So I have paid close attention to these style details for each pick below. Every pair of sweatpants on this list has either an internal drawstring that’s hidden inside the waistband, or an external drawstring that ties in front. Elastic cuffs give sweatpants a touch of vintage appeal — 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 sweatshirt. There are also some sweatpants that have a looser leg opening with half-cuffs or no real cuff at all. In some cases you will find ankle zips to allow for easier on and off, or even stirrups to help keep the sweats from riding up during a run. And because not everyone wants to wear the same color all the time, I have prioritized sweats that come in multiple colors.

Best sweatpants overall

Fit: Slim | Fabric: 100% cotton, 390 GSM | Sizing: S–2XL, regular length only (30.3” on size M) | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, jogger cuffs, external drawstring, available in 15 colors

Reigning Champ’s classic fit mid-weight sweatpants are vintage inspired with classic details like elastic cuffs, a ribbed-gusset crotch for added durability, and a single back pocket. The fit of these sweats is roomy enough to be comfortable but not so baggy as to look sloppy. They are the best modern version of prototypical cotton sweatpants that I have found, and I have tried (or had Jacob try) a lot.

They are cut with a straight leg from high-quality cotton terry that is on the heavy end of mid-weight at 390 GSM. This means they are more durable than many other mid-weight sweatpants and have more structure, which makes them look a bit more put-together than lighter-weight pairs. The fabric feels sturdy on the outside and soft on the inside. The pockets are lined with fleece — a handy detail for wintertime dog walks. They are cozy without feeling stiflingly warm and surprisingly breathable considering the fabric weight. And they are constructed with flatlock seams, meaning the fabric doesn’t overlap, to minimize bulk and reduce the risk of any chafing. If the elastic cuffs aren’t your style, the brand also makes a version of these sweatpants in a slimmer fit with jogger-style cuffs, or a relaxed fit with open cuffs. Lastly, and this is one of the things that secured them the top spot, they come in an impressive range of colors including black, navy, and gray, as well as a bunch of jewel tones like aubergine and lapis.

No pair of sweatpants is absolutely perfect, however, and these have a couple drawbacks you should consider before buying. First off, they only come in one length, where some of the other options on this list come in short, regular, and tall. The inseam on the size medium is 30.3” and scales up or down according to the size. This makes them great for men who are average build, like my father and my husband who are slim but not skinny and five-nine and five-ten, respectively. The XXL has a 34-inch inseam, which fits people slightly over six feet decently well. But for someone who is tall and skinny, the inseam would probably be too short.

Second, there’s the price, which at $125 is on the higher end for a pair of sweatpants. But according to Kevin Kafesu, senior menswear buyer at Norse Projects, everything Reigning Champ makes is unbelievably durable, from the sweats to the T-shirts to the throw blankets. And as someone who owns several of the brand’s products and has given them as gifts, I don’t mind investing a bit of money for them because I know they will look great and last a really long time. Plus, because they are pre-shrunk after being sewn, you can be a little carefree with how you wash and dry them, and conveniences like that are another reason I find them really worth it.

Best (less expensive) sweatpants overall

Fit: Classic | Fabric: 47% polyester, 44% cotton, 9% rayon, GSM not listed | Sizing: S–2XL, regular length only (30” on size M) | Style details: Side pockets, no back pockets, jogger cuffs, internal drawstring, available in 4 colors 

There is no rule that says a pair of sub-$50 sweatpants won’t look good or last a long time. But, if you are going to go the budget route, it’s best to stick with a well-known brand like Hanes. This pair is a variation on the sweatpants that celebrity stylist Law Roach can’t live without, which he has been wearing for over a decade and regularly requests as a gift for Christmas and birthdays.

Though they are quite similar to the Hanes that Roach recommends, my Hanes pick is made from a cotton, polyester, and rayon instead of Roach’s beloved 50-50 cotton-polyester fleece. While the fleece ones are cozy, I find that the fabric on this pair is more comfortable and better for working out and year-round wear. Both pairs have jogger cuffs, which Roach prefers over elastic as they pull the sweats out of gym-rat territory and make them more versatile should he want to pair them with a Birkin bag. And he prefers to wear them oversize so he can cinch the waist or style them in other ways. The main differences between these and my top-pick Reigning Champ sweatpants is that these won’t hold up as well and the fabric doesn’t have the same squishy, luxurious feel, plus they are only available in four basic colors. After that it’s all in the details like conventional seams versus flatlock seams and no gusset crotch.

Best slim sweatpants

Fit: Slim | Fabric: 100% cotton, GSM not listed | Sizing: XS–2XL, regular length only (29.5” on size M) | Style details: Side pockets, back pockets, jogger cuffs, external drawstring, available in 6 colors

The designer John Elliot may have introduced the menswear world to skinny sweats, but Todd Snyder perfected them. His slim (rather than skinny) take on classic cotton sweatpants, made in collaboration with Champion, are a reliable wardrobe staple for anyone who wants to look good even when they’re just lying around. The mid-weight, 100 percent cotton sweats feature a tapered leg, jogger cuffs, and both side and back pockets. They come in six expertly faded-looking colors and are garment dyed, meaning they’re dyed after the fabric has been cut and the pieces sewn. This results in a softer fabric and slight, unique variations from pair to pair. As with the Reigning Champ sweatpants, these are made with 100 percent cotton French terry that has a sturdy feel and gets better with age. Just note that they tend to run small, so you should plan on sizing up.

Best performance sweatpants

Fit: Slim | Fabric: 94% polyester, 6% spandex, GSM not listed | Sizing: XS–XL, regular length only (31” across all sizes) | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, jogger cuffs, external drawstring, available in 3 colors

Outdoor Voices’ sleek, supersoft, lightweight sweatpants are just as good for working out as they are for sitting on the couch. Breathable, moisture-wicking, and incredibly soft, they also feature UPF 50+ protection, which makes them a great choice for sunny outdoor activities like running and hiking. They are cut slim (but not tight) with a tapered leg and jogger cuffs. They have side pockets and one back pocket, and are available in three different colors. Jacob was skeptical at first, because of how thin the fabric felt, but he has since reached for them over and over again. He says they are even comfortable enough to sleep in. They have also been recommended by Great Jones founder Sierra Tishgart, skin-care founder Linda Rodin, and multiple members of our own staff. Strategist editor and Outdoor Voices aficionado Maxine Builder is a superfan of the sweats, calling the women’s version her favorite loungewear to wear for any activity, indoors or out. The only real drawback is that they have the smallest size range of all the sweatpants on this list, with the same 31” inseam for all sizes.

Best cotton performance sweatpants

Fit: Slim | Fabric: 95 % Micro-brushed French-terry cotton and 5% Lycra, GSM not listed | Sizing: S–2XL, regular and tall lengths (29” on size M regular) | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, one hidden zipper pocket, half-jogger cuffs, external drawstring, available in 7 colors

While reporting for this story, I asked my father, George Corsillo, if he has a favorite pair of sweatpants. Next thing I knew, he was holding this pair of Mack Weldons in front of me. “I’ve been wearing them for five years, and they still look great,” he said, enthusiastically pointing out the soft fabric that has held its shape and the sneaky side zipper pocket he uses to carry small amounts of cash. His favorite thing about them, though, is that they’re slim but not too tight, so they don’t look zhlubby but don’t make him feel too exposed. He wears them to the gym several mornings a week and around the house, too. Because the fabric isn’t as bulky as traditional French terry — these are made using a blend of fine-gauge cotton and Lycra — they keep him cool while he’s working out, and the Lycra makes them easy to move in. My dad has them in the regular length, but they also come in tall.

Best merino wool performance sweatpants

Fit: Slim | Fabric: 59% Merino wool, 38% lyocell, 3% spandex, GSM not listed | Sizing: XS–2XL, regular length only (28” inseam across all sizes) | Style details: Side pockets, jogger cuffs with ankle zips, reinforced internal drawstring, available in 3 colors

I first came across the brand Nobull via its sneakers when I was reporting on pickleball fashion trends in Central Park. Intrigued by the loyal following, I decided to have Jacob test a pair of its merino wool track pants. From the minute he pulled on the slim jogger-style sweatpants, I have been impressed. They are made with a stretchy and lightweight fabric that’s soft enough to wear to bed but sleek enough to wear in front of guests. He has been wearing them at least three days a week since he got them two months ago, and because they are made from a blend of mostly merino wool, they keep him warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. This, plus the addition of breathable Lyocell and stretchy spandex, makes them a great choice for layering under his water-repellent cycling pants for early-morning bike commutes. The tapered fit shows off my husband’s athletic cyclist build — toned but not skinny, muscular but not bulky — while still giving him a comfortable amount of room in the waist and thighs. They are so nice-looking I have been considering buying him another pair so that he can wear them more often and still be able to wash them from time to time. And while he doesn’t normally wear slim sweats, I can tell he feels confident and likes the way they look too.

Best performance sweatpants with multiple inseam lengths

Fit: Slim | Fabric: 52% polyester, 42% cotton, 6% elastane, GSM not listed | Sizing: XS–5XL, short, regular, and tall lengths | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, hidden interior pocket, jogger cuffs, internal or external drawstring, available in 4 colors

While they are beloved for their soft texture and four-way stretch, 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. They are also the most size-inclusive sweats on this list, with waist measurements ranging from 29 to 50 inches, to ensure you get the best fit with your inseam of choice. They are intended to hit just above the ankle, so the short length has an inseam of 27 inches, the regular length 29 inches, and the tall length 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 than other slim-fit sweatpants, but prominent seams and a strong taper toward the ankle create an overall tailored look.

Best lightweight sweatpants

Fit: Relaxed | Fabric: 95% modal, 5% spandex, GSM not listed | Sizing: XS–3XL, regular length only (31” on size M) | Style details: Side pockets, no back pockets, no cuffs, external drawstring, available in 14 colors

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 former 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 how lightweight and breathable they are, Jambys are a solid choice for warmer weather. They come in more than a dozen colors and prints with an external drawstring and side pockets but no back pockets. They are primarily designed to be worn as loungewear, but they are also comfortable to sleep in, and many customers wear them as pajamas. Pay close attention to the size chart, as the brand’s sizing is unisex.

Best mid-weight sweatpants

Fit: Classic | Fabric: 60% cotton, 40% recycled polyester, GSM not listed | Sizing: S–2XL, regular length only (inseam length not listed) | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, jogger cuffs, external drawstring, available in 4 colors

Jacob and I have long been fans of Richer Poorer’s T-shirts and polo shirts, because they fit well, look nice, and strike a good balance between quality and affordable prices. So I am not surprised that the brand’s sweatpants are just as good. I know I said above that I prefer French terry over fleece, but this pair of sweatpants is the exception to the rule. They are so soft, but they don’t make me feel hot or claustrophobic in the way cheaper fleece sweatpants do. They look great on both of us (we share a size medium), but they look really good on Jacob, fitting his taller five-ten frame better. And because the fabric is sturdy and on the thick side of mid-weight, they hold their shape and aren’t too revealing to wear out of the house. My only complaint is that the pockets are not quite as deep as I would like them to be.

Best heavyweight sweatpants

Fit: Tapered | Fabric: 90% cotton, 10% polyester, 500 GSM | Sizing: XS–2XL, regular length only (28.5” on size M) | Style details: Side pockets, one back pocket, jogger cuffs, external drawstring, available in 4 colors

3Sixteen is known for its high-quality Japanese denim but also makes a phenomenal pair of sweatpants, according to Christopher Echevarria, creator of the footwear brand Blackstock and Weber. They’re made of heavy 500 GSM fleece, and the leg taper is subtle but noticeable. “I own every color of these, and they transition from in the house to out with friends super easily,” Weber says. 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 core colors: black, indigo, oatmeal, and gray.

Best recycled-cotton sweatpants

Fit: Relaxed | Fabric: 100% recycled cotton, 444 GSM | Sizing: 2XS–3XL, regular length only (31” on size M) | Style details: Side pockets, no back pockets, elastic cuffs, internal drawstring, available in 6 colors

Los Angeles brand Everybody.World, whose T-shirts are loved by Strategist editors and fashion designers alike, is known for its simple classic designs and sustainable production practices. Nick Sugihara, founder of gender-neutral clothing company Ijji, recommends the brand’s recycled-cotton sweatpants for anyone like him who is partial to a classic silhouette in lieu of a slimmer fashion shape. They are lightly brushed to increase softness, have deep pockets and no side seams on the legs, and are made of 100 percent recycled-cotton manufacturing waste. (Fun fact, they are also fully biodegradable, minus the elastic.) While they are technically made of heavyweight knit fleece, Strategist writer Erin Schwartz, who is an Everybody.World sweatpants convert, says they don’t run hot and are actually somewhat cooling in addition to being squishy and soft. Schwartz told me that they often pack the sweats for overnight trips because they’re comfy but also a little luxe and fancy-looking. Everybody.World is a gender-neutral brand, so sizing on these sweatpants is unisex and ranges from 2XS to 3XL.

Our experts

Maxine Builder, Strategist editor
• Jessica Cadmus, wardrobe stylist
• Louis Cheslaw, former Strategist associate editor
• Jacob Cohen, fourth-grade teacher
• George Corsillo, graphic designer
• Brian Davis, founder of Wooden Sleepers
• 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
Aaron Luckman, artist
Patrick McGrath, fitness instructor
Linda Rodin, skin-care founder
• Erin Schwartz, Strategist writer
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

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.

The Very Best Men’s Sweatpants