Not A Lazy Move: Making Sweatpants Work For Work

Mar 15, 2014

The online magazine Ozy covers people, places and trends on the horizon. Co-founder Carlos Watson joins All Things Considered regularly to tell us about the site's latest feature stories.

This week, Watson talks with host Arun Rath about the prevalence of high-end sweats acceptable for office wear. Not the semi-tacky, rhinestoned wear of the 1990s, but fancy items — like leather sweats — that might not actually work at the gym.

They also discuss the rise of a religious group called the Hebrew Roots Movement, which fuses elements of Christianity and Judaism.

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It's time now for The New and The Next.


RATH: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. Each week, he joins us to talk about what's new and what's next. Welcome back, Carlos.

CARLOS WATSON: Arun, always good to be with you.

RATH: First up this week, you have a story that took me right back to a classic moment from "Seinfeld."


JERRY SEINFELD: Again with the sweatpants?

JASON ALEXANDER: (As George Costanza) What? I'm comfortable.

SEINFELD: You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world I give up. I can't compete in normal society. I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.

RATH: So that was, of course, Jerry Seinfeld lecturing George Costanza on why it's a really bad idea to wear sweatpants out in public. But apparently, George was part of the wave of the future, huh?

WATSON: Hey, you know what? He was right in the '90s and even more right today. Marc Jacobs and Gucci and Macy's and Lululemon and everybody else now seems to think that sweatpants are OK.

RATH: Now, this piece introduced me to a phrase I'd never heard before - and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it - leather sweats.

WATSON: Don't you love that? Or even - they call them leather joggers sometimes. Now they've kind of gone even a little up-market, if you will. And last year at New York's Fashion Week, you ended up seeing people doing that. Now the sales of upper-end sweatpants, sweatshirts kind of fitness wear is up some 9 to 10 percent versus 2 percent for the rest of the clothing market. So there's a little pop.

RATH: The piece comes with a great warning. With the democratization of sweatpants style comes responsibility.

WATSON: Well, you know, the author of it had a funny line at the end. She said the best way to make these work is one, don't wear them overnight, and number two, be in the best shape you can be. So that's our responsibility.

RATH: All right. I'll work on it before I get to those leather sweats then.


RATH: Finally, you have a piece about a religious movement - this is really interesting - that's getting momentum around the world. Tell us about the Hebrew Roots Movement.

WATSON: So today, maybe some quarter million people around the world are neither discernibly Christian nor discernibly Jewish but in fact are adopting portions of both. So these are folks who are keeping kosher, observe the Sabbath, celebrate Passover, wear the Star of David, speak Hebrew even, but they wouldn't call themselves Jewish, and in fact, they celebrate Jesus referencing his original Hebrew name Yeshua.

RATH: So this is interesting. So it's kind of like the opposite direction from Jews for Jesus. These are Christians who adopt Jewish/Hebrew traditions, right?

WATSON: Correct. So for example, we told the story of Rico Cortes, who when he started to do his research about his roots found out that he had some ancient Jewish ancestry, started to read Torah and felt like there was more there for him. So he's not prepared to call himself a Jew. He feels like that would involve putting Jesus aside, which is not what he wants to do.

Now, on the flip side, when you asked him, OK, well then why don't you call yourself a Christian, he said because he feels like the Christians are too Pagan, that they're not observant enough.

RATH: Now, they're all over the world, apparently. How are they keeping the community? How are they staying in touch?

WATSON: Online. There are about 10 or 15 fairly significant ministries, and maybe a couple hundred other that are very small, but most of them are online. So the communing that people do together is often very virtual.

RATH: Wow.

WATSON: You've got people who are very spirited, very committed, gathering any way they can, looking to gather in larger numbers. Could be interesting to watch what happens to the Hebrew Roots Movement, not one we're used to hearing a lot about.

RATH: Wow. It'd be interesting to follow. Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. You can explore all the stories we talked about at Carlos, thanks again.

WATSON: Arun, always good to be with you.

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