The most interesting thing about this debate is our tendency to oversimplify it into a mere question of categorization. We all have that aggressively opinionated friend (Deanna): "I don't care how skinny you are. Leggings are not pants. They just aren’t." I hate to break it to you, haters, but leggings are pants. Dictionary.com defines pants as "an outer garment for covering the body from the waist to the ankles, divided into sections to fit each leg separately," so by definition, leggings are an acceptable pants substitute. You heard it here: leggings are literally pants. Case closed.
But the question, then, takes a far more inward turn: should I wear leggings? Is it in my best interests (and the best interests of the innocent bystanders who are going to have to look at me all day) to do so? It would be ridiculous to say that pants with tapered ankles aren't pants, or that pants a size too small for you aren't pants. But do I recommend that the unfettered masses take those looks out for a spin? Hell no. The key to looking chic has always been to wear what flatters your body, and leggings happen to offer a little less leeway than, say, an A-line skirt or a pair of straight-legged jeans.
So let’s instead define that boundary with a simple litmus test. Stand up. Jog a few steps. If you can feel the cushiony part of your rump bounce independently from the rest of your body, the only place you should be wearing leggings is to the gym. (And that’s not to say your lady lumps aren’t hot. Is Christina Hendricks gorgeous? Duh. Does she run around in leggings? No, and to her credit.) The line is a fuzzy one: in-between territory can be tough (holla atcha, sixes!) and becomes more of a matter of confidence. If you think you “can’t pull off” leggings as pants, you probably can’t. If you have a feeling you just might be able to rock the look, wear them with heels for a little extra lift.
Having said all this, I love the look of leggings when worn appropriately (that is, with a shirt that’s not a crop top; the ‘80s may be back in vogue, but they are definitely over). Like skinny jeans, leggings provide an excuse to play with more billowy upper-body proportions, and, as such, pair well with the boyfriend shirts/tees/jackets we’ve been seeing these past few seasons. Texture is another variable ripe for experimentation (I’m a major proponent of the Shiny Leggings from American Apparel in Lamé Matte Black; their visage hovers somewhere between leather and sparkly mica). As for spring's jeggings? Use your judgment. Personally, I think jeans and leggings are great, but I’d rather wear them separately. Don't all those seams and rivets look lumpy in such a tight cut?
I’ll leave you with a few inspiration shots from "collective fashion consciousness" Lookbook.nu. For day:
And for weekend:
However, even by modern standards, wearing leggings to the office might be a bit of a stretch.