Ode to a Pair of Black Leggings

These beloved bottoms have stood up for nearly a decade. Now they must retire.

black leggings

Getty Images / Zachary Miller

Nine years ago, a fellow Treehugger writer shared a promotional code for anyone who wanted to order some clothes from Prana. I wasn't familiar with the brand at the time, but after reading about its sustainability mandate and seeing some positive reviews about the performance of its products, I placed an order. I remember cringing at the price, even with the promotional code, because I'd forgotten about the U.S. to Canadian dollar conversion rate, but I went through with it. 

It turns out, that was a smart move. One of the items that arrived was a pair of black leggings. They weren't anything fancy – just solid black, but with a slightly nicer and thicker jersey feel to the fabric than that glossy, plasticky sheen that so many leggings have. I loved them as soon as I put them on.

Those leggings have been a staple in my wardrobe ever since. I have worn them 3 to 4 times a week (apart from July and August, when it's too hot) for the better part of a decade. I've worn them with skirts, I've worn them dressed up with heeled boots and fancy tops, I've worn them to the gym, on multi-week camping trips, and on long hikes up treacherous mountain paths. I've put them on for meetings, parties, and funerals (with a long belted tunic, of course). I've traveled with them and hand-washed them in hostel sinks. I've air-dried them faithfully all the while.

They've snagged on things, but never ripped. They've had food spilled on them, but never stained. I've worn them through a pregnancy, pulled low on my belly, but they've never stretched or sagged. They continue to fit me perfectly. They're the only pair of leggings I own that stays up on my athletic frame; every other pair needs constant yanking upwards to keep them in place. 

Those leggings have never failed me. They are, without a doubt, the most versatile article of clothing in my closet. I've received numerous compliments on them, as well as questions from friends and strangers who ask where I got them – even as recently as a few months ago, which goes to show how well they've stood the test of time. 

Earlier this year, a hole appeared on an inside seam. I tried to sew it up, but it didn't hold. The hole is getting bigger, which means I'm no longer comfortable wearing them in public. This has been a distressing discovery because I cannot imagine life without these leggings. The few other pairs of workout leggings I own cannot even compare. 

Unable to find them on the Prana website, I got in touch with customer service. They asked for the style ID number, which was thankfully still legible on a crumpled inner tag that fell off as soon as I stretched it out to read. They informed me that the style had been discontinued (my heart broke), but that another pair existed with the same fabric blend. I ordered them immediately and they arrived today.

It felt like a betrayal of sorts, peeling off the old leggings after my gym workout and pulling on the new ones after a shower. But lo and behold, they did feel the same! The fabric looks and feels the exact same as my old ones, and the waist is snug and stays in place. It's too soon to say with absolute certainty, but I'm pretty sure I'm set for the next decade when it comes to owning a fabulous pair of basic black leggings. 

There's something to be said for finding that ideal piece of clothing. And there's value in maintaining it, wearing it to the very end, and then replacing it with something that's as close to it as you can find. Why mess with perfection? I will never buy another pair of black leggings until I have to replace these ones, hopefully not until 2030.

I tell this story because we live in a society that throws away 60% of the clothing it buys within a year of purchase. That's heartbreaking and appalling, and it needs to change. So, please take this message away with you: Buy only what you know you'll wear endlessly and love forever and what makes you feel great. Buy high-quality and versatile basics because that's where the greatest value is found. And remember that the most eco-friendly clothes are the ones you wear for a long, long time. That counts for more than any clever fabric innovations or recycled plastic content.

Now, for those who are wondering what the leggings are, they're Prana's Transform Leggings. (Please know that I am in no way affiliated with Prana, nor receive any sort of compensation or benefit from promoting these. This is just a genuine, time-proven account of a product I love.)

View Article Sources
  1. Birtwistle, G., and C.M. Moore. "Fashion Clothing – Where Does it all End Up?International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, vol. 35, no. 3, 2007.