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Ask Chris Black: Ideas for Slightly Elevated Sweatpants I Can Wear in Public?

Photo: Christy Bush

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair dryer or the handiest chef’s knife, those things can be easy enough to find. Other objects of desire are a little more taste-based. What’s the next status water bottle or hand wash, for instance? Chris Black (he’s a partner at brand consultancy Public Announcement) is here to help, in the form of a regular column. If you have a burning question about the next fanny pack or Noah rugby shirt, drop us an email with the subject line “Ask Chris” at

Now that summer is over and it’s time to bundle up, I am looking for a clean pair of sweatpants. Something slightly elevated that can be worn out of the house, neutral enough to go with everything, and ideally less than $300. What do you suggest?
First, we must tackle the most significant issue that comes along with this historically beloved garment. We have all seen it, some of us have even suffered from it: The Dreaded Outline™. Unfortunately, the humble cotton sweatpant can show off, well, more than you’d like to. It happened to Steve McQueen, and it will happen to you if you aren’t careful. I will suggest some chic pairs — but wear them knowing you must do your best to spare your friends, family, and colleagues from seeing more than they would like. Comfort can come with a price!

This loopback cotton-jersey pair from A.P.C. is tapered, making them a little easier to wear in public. It also has a subtle, retro-inspired logo, if you are into that sort of thing.

Sunspel always does it right. These slim-fit, fleece-back sweatpants are cut from a very luxurious-sounding cotton-and-cashmere-blend jersey, come in a fall-appropriate army green, and are within our budget. Go ahead and get the extra scone. You deserve it.

Both of the above pairs are great, but this navy pair from Dries Van Noten is probably my favorite in the $300-and-under category. The key is the polished silver zippers on the pockets, which will ensure personal effects stay secure. There’s nothing chic about losing your wallet.

If you are willing to splurge, I’d strongly consider these simple black drawstring sweatpants made with buttery Japanese cotton-jersey from The Row. You could even wear them to the opera!

Or, get LOUD baby. These garment-dyed Pepto pink sweats from my guys at Stone Island will for sure have heads turning at the dog run. They’re straight leg, with an anti-drop, water-resistant coating, and zipper pockets. Sometimes you gotta flex!

I recently upgraded to the iPhone 11. It’s a lot larger than my old iPhone, and I’m terrified of a cracked screen. Can you recommend some cases that are sleek enough to fit in Levi’s 501 pockets, but also offer some protection?
I hate phone cases, and have often said that they comprise the aesthetic of the device’s excellent design! But when your phone has three cameras and costs $1,000, you would be a fool not to protect it.

A few years ago, I discovered Peel via a targeted Instagram ad (SMFH), and I copped. It is the definition of “barely there,” the price is right ($29!), and it fits in the pocket comfortably. If you fumble your phone and the case gets dinged, you buy another one, and it’s like new! Peel also makes a great glass protector.

Apple’s leather version isn’t bad. If you have a green phone, green leather will complement it nicely. Don’t spill your oat-milk latte on it, though! Leather stains :(

If you are a real klutz, I guess you need a big boy Otterbox. It does not fit nicely in the pocket, but chances are your jeans are less expensive to replace than your shiny new phone.

As we head into fall, can you recommend the chicest sneakers for women? I’m looking for pairs to wear while running errands/hanging with friends on the weekends, not for working out.
Instead of boldly attempting to mansplain sneakers, I thought it would make more sense to once again call on my deep bullpen of brilliant and tasteful friends. To answer this query, I went all the way across the pond to tap London-based editor and consultant Emma Hope Allwood — who is currently the head of fashion at Dazed Digital, and a contributor to Strategist U.K. And I must say … she killed it. Emma, take it from here!

Shox are back, baby. After Comme des Garçons released a now sold-out take on the discontinued early aughts silhouette, the style is having a comeback. Get this silver and white pair if all black makes you feel too much like a “goes to Berlin once” starter-pack meme.

Technical sneakers — the kind that look like they were made for people who actually enjoy going outside in all weather conditions — are having a moment. Spotted everywhere at Fashion Week, Salomon’s S/Lab models marry the French outdoors brand’s nerdy knowledge with a sleeker silhouette. [Editor’s note: The sneakers at the link below are listed in men’s sizes, but according to Salomon, the S/Lab Xt-6s are unisex, and SSENSE is one of few retailers with multiple sizes in stock.]

Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

A last gasp of dad-shoe mania, this version of the New Balance 991 by London slacker-chic legends Aries comes in winter-blues-busting neon yellow. [Editor’s note: These sneakers will be released on October 25, and you can sign up to “shop first” once they’re available via the link below.]

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.

Ask Chris: What Are Some Slightly Elevated Sweatpants?