Wide-Leg Active Pants Are Apparently Back—and Giving Me Major 2003 Flashbacks

Photo: Getty Images/Corey Jenkins
Way before leggings became a force of fitness fashion, there were what my college friends and I called "yoga pants"—you know, those stretch cotton bottoms with a wide fold-over waist and bootcut legs. (Yes, I'm one of those old millennials.) We'd put them on for class with a hoodie, to run errands with flip-flops, and, naturally, to yoga classes in the student gym, usually with the spaghetti-strap tank tops we wore out the night before.

Soon after I graduated in 2004, my beloved yoga pants went the way of low-rise jeans and bedazzled trucker hats, soon to be replaced by second-skin leggings in high-tech performance fabrics. But, to my surprise, wide leg yoga pants appear to be on the way back in—at least, if a handful of popular activewear labels have anything to say about it.

While online shopping the other day, I came across several examples of the look with serious throwback vibes. On-the-rise brand Celestine is making the old-school style modern with wrinkle-proof fabric and a high, vertically-seamed waistband. Year of Ours' wide-leg sweatpants share the same silhouette, but in a soft cotton material that's better suited for recovery days. And there are plenty of options that more closely resemble the yoga pants of my youth, perhaps because the brands never discontinued them in the first place. (Hard Tail, I'm looking at you.)

If you ask Year of Ours founder Eleanor Haycock, it makes sense that this early-'00s activewear style should be making a comeback now—an era in which athleisure is appropriate for all situations and we're constantly hungry for new options. "People are wearing activewear outside the gym as much as they are wearing it in," she says. "Wide-leg styles offer something different [than leggings]." She recommends styling them with a bodysuit, a button-up shirt knotted at the waist, or a cropped hoodie "for an updated sweat set look." 

Of course, wide leg yoga pants also pair nicely with any kind of sports bra or workout top for Pilates, barre, yoga, or any other workout where you won't be in danger of tripping over the flared hems. I suppose they're also appropriate for the elliptical, if you're really set on channeling Y2K...

If shorts are more your thing, check out Girlfriend Collective's new collection. And keep these doctor-approved tips in mind when you're buying shoes to go with your new yoga flares. 

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