Are leggings pants?

If you've been keeping up with recent news, you’re no doubt aware that America finds itself staring down an issue so substantial and divisive that it threatens to alter the very fabric of the nation.

That issue, of course, is pants.

Once considered a rather straightforward and bipartisan clothing item, pants have suddenly found themselves a lightning rod for philosophical, and even ethical, debate. Earlier this week, students at Boston Latin School revolted after the school vowed to enforce a no-leggings policy. (Administrators later backtracked, so long as they aren’t see-through.) And after a Rhode Island man recently penned a letter to his local newspaper arguing — apparently jokingly — that women over 20 should stop wearing yoga pants in public, hundreds of yoga-pantsed women marched past his home in protest.


It’s no wonder. As the women’s clothing market has been flooded in recent years with an array of new and sometimes curious pant styles, many have come to exist in a kind of sartorial gray area: not quite pants, but not quite not pants, either. There are yoga pants and leggings, not to mention footless tights. There are culottes and capri pants and something called “jeggings,” which can be either a legging made to look like denim or a pair of jeans so stretchy they might as well be leggings.

All of it has led to widespread confusion about what does and doesn’t constitute pants.

But fear not. To assist you in navigating this ever-evolving pants-scape, we offer a handy chart of the pants/not pants continuum. Are shorts pants? Where do snow pants fit in? And what’s the deal with culottes, anyway?