Sure, you can­wear leg­gings on a plane

But that doesn’t mean you— or any­one— should

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Robin Givhan

Do it for your fel­low long- suf­fer­ing air trav­el­ers. Do it for that seat­mate who is feel­ing a lit­tle vi­o­lated af­ter the in­dig­nity of a TSA pat- down. Do it for all the good cit­i­zens who, just like you, wish that their knees were not prac­ti­cally tucked un­der their chins, whose seat backs don’t re­cline and whose tray ta­bles are too small to hold a lap­top.

Do it for the thought­ful va­ca­tioner who re­sisted the urge to buy that com­fort­ing black- bean bur­rito and in­stead pur­chased a non- odor­if­er­ous mixed­green salad to sus­tain her on a three- hour flight though she knows full well that a few cups of mesclun will leave her more than a lit­tle hangry.

Dress not for your­self but for the strangers whose per­sonal space you will be forced to in­vade.

The con­ver­sa­tion about air travel at­tire once again rose to a roar af­ter United Air­lines re­cently de­nied board­ing to two teenage girls wear­ing leg­gings. A third girl was also stopped at the gate but had a dress with her and pulled it on over the of­fend­ing span­dex. When a nearby pas­sen­ger tweeted about it, the in­ci­dent went vi­ral.

In the midst of a thun­der­storm of protest, United Air­lines ex­plained that the girls were trav­el­ing on an em­ployee pass. Thus, they were ex­pected to ad­here to the com­pany’s dress code for em­ploy­ees, which does not al­low leg­gings or flip- flops or cropped tops but does al­low the equiv­a­lent of walk­ing shorts, T- shirts, sun­dresses and san­dals.

The dress code bars mini- skirts, which are fa­vored by women— but it also bans clothes that re­veal any type of un­der­gar­ment, pre­sum­ably in­clud­ing low- slung jeans, which are fa­vored by men. It also bars folks trav­el­ing on these passes from wear­ing pa­ja­mas, which are fa­vored by peo­ple who sim­ply don’t care.

But what re­ally seems to have struck a nerve is the ban­ning of leg­gings. The out­cry sug­gests that be­fore leg­gings were pop­u­lar­ized as streetwear, women had ab­so­lutely noth­ing com­fort­able to wear and were rou­tinely forced to truss them­selves into gir­dles and pet­ti­coats be­fore wedg­ing into a coach seat.

It should be noted, how­ever, that if you’re flying on your own dime, United has ab­so­lutely no prob­lem with you wear­ing leg­gings. But should you?

There are dressy leg­gings, af­ter all, that are meant to be worn out­side of a gym— paired with sweaters or jack­ets, as part of fash­ion’s un­re­lent­ing ath­leisure trend. There are cash­mere leg­gings, for ex­am­ple, and jeg­gings, if you must

. Re­cently, the de­signer Gi­ambat­tista Valli paired his lux­u­ri­ous, elab­o­rately de­signed, jack­ets with Nike leg­gings— on the run­way in Paris. In many cases, leg­gings look in­cred­i­bly chic and so­phis­ti­cated and cool.

But that’s not why most peo­ple are ob­sessed with them. It’s be­cause they’re com­fort­able. And easy. And when air­lines are mak­ing travel as mis­er­able as pos­si­ble, many trav­el­ers feel the air­lines should be happy they’re not just show­ing up naked.

But dress­ing for an air­plane isn’t the same as dress­ing for Satur­day morn­ing er­rands or Sun­day brunch. It’s not the same as dress­ing for any other pub­lic space. It’s tight quar­ters and a sealed en­vi­ron­ment, which is why most of us un­der­stand it’s hor­ri­bly rude to freshen up with per­fume, cologne or scented lo­tions on a plane. ( What are your try­ing to do? As­phyx­i­ate your fel­low man?)

On a plane, clothes reg­is­ter dif­fer­ently than in other places. Who has not re­ceived an un­wel­come, em­bar­rass­ing eye­ful when a fel­low pas­sen­ger— in a short skirt, an un­tucked shirt or baggy jeans— reached into the over­head bin to store a bag?

On an air­plane, pas­sen­gers reg­u­larly and in­escapably find them­selves look­ing di­rectly into an­other trav­eler’s back­side and crotch.

This isn’t to say that air trav­el­ers should never wear leg­gings. But it’s to re­mind you that when you do, it’s likely that peo­ple are go­ing to get an up­close and per­sonal view of your rear end. A view that, de­spite their best ef­fort, they prob­a­bly won’t be able to avoid.

At least make sure those leg­gings aren’t seethrough; that they aren’t so tight that you re­sem­ble a walk­ing anatomy sketch. Make sure they do not smell like day- old yoga sweat. Wear them with in­ten­tion, not res­ig­na­tion.

This has noth­ing to do with sex­u­al­ity or gen­der. It’s not about body- sham­ing. It’s just be­ing po­lite. When noth­ing else about air travel is.

Ba­len­ci­aga shoe- leg­gings at Paris Fash­ionWeek on March 28. Jonas Gus­tavs­son, MCV Photo

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