Both sweatpants and jeans have become some of the most popular styles of pants in recent times. But how do you choose between sweatpants and jeans?
Sweatpants are better suited for cold weather and loungewear because they are flexible, stretchy, and are good at keeping you warm. Jeans are more versatile and can appear smart when dressed up, therefore are better suited for casual parties or gatherings.
In brief, that’s the answer.
But let’s dive into how to choose between these two staples of menswear in some more detail.
If you’re in two minds about when to wear sweatpants vs when to wear jeans, then this is the article for you.
Sweatpants Vs Jeans: 5 Differences
Before we go on to talk about how to choose between sweatpants and jeans, we should go through the main differences between these two pant styles.
Most people will have an idea of how these items of clothing are different aesthetically, but there are some practical differences that affect when you might choose one over the other.
Let’s get into it.
An obvious difference between sweatpants and jeans is the material they are made of.
Sweatpants are usually made of cotton, or a cotton/polyester mix. This gives them a soft feel with some flexibility.
Jeans, on the other hand, are usually made of denim, which is a cotton twill fabric that is tough and hard-wearing.
There are obviously many variations within sweatpants and jeans in terms of fabric; for example, some jeans are made of thinner denim that is more flexible, and others are made of more rigid denim.
But overall you can expect that these are the materials that sweatpants and jeans will be made of most of the time.
Another more obvious aesthetic difference between sweatpants and jeans is the color they tend to come in.
Nowadays you can get jeans in almost every color of the rainbow, but most commonly you’ll find people wearing them in classic blue, black, grey, and beige tones.
Sweatpants can also be found in an array of colors, the most classical color being light grey, although people are often quite experimental with the color of their sweatpants.
You are more likely to see people wearing colorful sweatpants than wearing bright-colored jeans, such as in burgundy, light and navy blues, greens, and even brighter oranges and yellows.
When it comes to which has more stretch potential, sweatpants will usually win time and time again.
This is probably something you already know intuitively or from experience.
The cotton or cotton/polyester blend fabric that sweatpants are made of is simply more elastic and therefore more flexible than the more rigid denim cotton twill material that jeans are made of.
Even the newer stretch jean fabrics available on the market are less flexible than sweatpants.
As a result, it’s safe to say that sweatpants are on the whole more stretchy than jeans.
A question which is commonly asked is, which is warmer, sweatpants or jeans?
Sweatpants are on the whole warmer compared with jeans.
This does depend to some extent on the thickness of the jeans compared to the sweatpants, but sweatpants are usually made of a double layer of material, naturally making them better at insulating.
Sweatpants usually have a soft, downy inner fabric layer, sometimes wool-lined, which makes them good at trapping heat and hence keeping your legs warm.
Denim, on the other hand, lacks this inner layer, and jeans, therefore, allow more heat to escape from the body.
So in terms of insulation, sweatpants are better at this than jeans.
An interesting difference that not many people consider when choosing between jeans and sweatpants, is how they age.
Different types of clothes will have different lifespans, and a lot of this depends on the fabric they are made from.
Obviously, quality is a big part of this, but assuming you have a pair of jeans and a pair of sweatpants of equal manufacturing quality then what you’ll find is that jeans tend to age better than sweatpants.
This is because the hard-wearing cotton twill of denim fabric is less likely to stretch out over time than sweatpant fabric. Denim also looks good when it becomes slightly faded after multiple washes over time, compared with sweatpants which tend to get looser and baggy in areas that are prone to repeated stretch, such as around the kneecaps.
How quickly this aging process occurs can vary, but the take-home here is that denim looks good even as it reaches the end of its lifespan.
Sweatpants Vs Jeans: Which One Should You Choose?
Now that you know the main differences between sweatpants and jeans, we can get to the meat of the discussion – specifically, which one should you choose?
A lot of your decision-making will depend on what occasion you want to wear these pants for.
Here, I’ll go through some of these situations to help guide you when deciding which to choose.
1. Sweatpants Or Jeans For Cold Weather?
In cold weather, sweatpants are better at retaining heat and therefore at keeping your legs warmer than jeans. Jeans are better at offering wind protection than sweatpants but will allow heat to escape more quickly.
When it comes to cold weather, wearing pants that will keep your legs warm becomes the utmost priority for most people.
Sweatpants are undeniably warmer to wear than jeans in cold weather because of their superior insulating properties. Therefore in winter, choosing sweatpants over denim jeans may be the better option.
As I mentioned earlier, sweatpants usually have a double layer of fabric, the inner layer often being fleece or wool-lined, meaning that your legs will be kept warm.
Jeans, on the other hand, usually have a single layer of fabric that allows heat to escape, meaning that your legs will feel the cold more quickly.
Interestingly, jeans are actually better than sweatpants at offering wind protection, due to the sturdier denim fabric. Sweatpants are not as good at protecting you from the wind, even though they are better at retaining heat.
On the whole, however, sweatpants are better at keeping your legs warm in the cold weather, so if this is your priority, then choosing sweatpants over jeans is the best decision for you.
2. Jeans Or Sweatpants In The Rain?
In rainy weather, neither jeans nor sweatpants are ideal. However, it is usually better to choose sweatpants over jeans, as sweatpants generally dry more quickly than jeans.
When deciding between jeans and sweatpants based on how well they do in the rain, it’s important to know that neither of these types of trousers does well in wet weather.
Sweatpants, which are usually made of cotton, or a cotton-polyester blend, quickly lose their ability to retain heat when they get wet.
Jeans will also conduct heat away from the body much more quickly when wet.
So, which, if any, is better for rainy weather?
Although neither are great, sweatpants, which have a lighter fabric than jeans, tend to air dry more quickly than jeans do.
Therefore even if they get wet, they’re likely to dry off more quickly than jeans and hopefully regain some of their heat-trapping abilities faster.
So if push comes to shove and you only have jeans or sweatpants on hand but it’s rainy out – sweatpants just outrank jeans in this situation.
3. Jeans Or Sweatpants For Hiking?
Both jeans and sweatpants are not suitable for hiking, due to their cotton fabric which is slow to dry. It is better to choose synthetic pants for hiking, as synthetic fabrics dry more quickly.
When choosing pants to go hiking in, considering the climate you’re hiking in is important. If you are hiking in a warm climate somewhere on the equator, you probably want to wear shorts as opposed to joggers or jeans.
However, let’s assume you will be hiking somewhere that has a temperate climate with the chance of a few showers and a bit of wind.
In this scenario, neither jeans or sweatpants are ideal hiking pants, because both of them are usually made of a cotton-containing fabric.
As I alluded to before, when cotton gets wet, it loses its thermal insulating properties pretty quickly, meaning you will get cold faster.
It’s also not as quick-drying compared to most synthetic materials.
Some might argue that sweatpants are more stretchy and flexible so may be more comfortable on hikes than jeans.
Equally, jeans are more wind-resistant, so will protect you from windy weather better than sweatpants.
The answer here is, neither jeans nor sweatpants are ideal hiking pants, and at the end of the day, it’s your choice which to choose depending on what you feel you will be more comfortable in as I wouldn’t recommend one over the other for hiking.
Ideally, you should be looking to wear pants which are made of synthetic material, as this will be quick drying and comfortable to wear, whilst also having some stretch.
4. Jeans Or Sweatpants In The Home?
These days, we’re all looking for some comfy pants that we can put on at the end of a long day at work or wear on a cozy Sunday at home.
Sweatpants, being flexible, warm, and having a soft inner lining, are usually better as loungewear compared with jeans which tend to be less stretchy and more restrictive.
Having a drawstring adjustable waistband compared as opposed to a zip and button fastening like jeans also adds to the comfort of wearing sweatpants.
People vary in their preferences, and some will say they use jeans as loungewear, particularly those of the modern stretch fabric variety.
But in most cases, sweatpants are more suited as loungewear than jeans, which isn’t surprising seeing as this is what they are known for.
5. Jeans Or Sweatpants To A Casual Event?
You might be thinking that, in most of the situations we’ve gone through so far, sweatpants keep coming out on top.
But one situation where jeans are usually better to wear than sweatpants is if you’re attending a casual event.
Although lots of people are choosing to wear sweatpants as a fashion statement, it’s still hard to completely rid yourself of the idea of sweatpants as loungewear.
So, wearing sweatpants to a gathering, casual as it may be, might still be seen as not making an effort and can run the risk of you looking like you’ve just rolled out of bed.
Jeans, on the other hand, although they are casual, can be dressed up with other items of clothing to look pretty smart, and at least like you’ve made an effort when choosing your outfit.
So, if you’re choosing between sweatpants and jeans to wear to a casual party, then I’d recommend jeans.
So, there you have it – hopefully you now have a better idea of when to choose jeans instead of sweatpants and vice versa.
At the end of the day, both are popular trouser styles that are likely to stick around, so I wouldn’t blame you if you’re tempted to invest in one of each.