The year was 2020. Women — in the midst of a pandemic, stuck at home for months on end — took a break from demanding beauty routines. They stopped wearing makeup. They proudly wore sweatsuits to the grocery store, pairing slouchy tie-dye versions with matching masks.
And then, as the new year approached, a garment emerged that took this new, relaxed approach to clothing, kicked it in the paunch and called it a prude. Behold, the first viral fashion trend of 2021: the Amazon legging.
“Amazon legging” is a catch-all description for a particular style of workout pants. Sold by a number of different manufacturers on the behemoth shopping site, they’re inexpensive, colorful, textured compression gear that cost anywhere from $12 to $28. But it’s their signature, cheeky design feature that has everyone talking on social media, most noisily on TikTok. The leggings have a dart-like waistband, which points directly down at a ruched seam that cuts straight through the backside.
In other words, a built-in butt-crack.
Has there ever been a more revealing piece of clothing? A grosser arrow? A more intentional wedgie?
Seriously, these pants make skinny jeans look like PPE.
The bawdy britches — which have been called “butt-perfecting” by Cosmopolitan — owe their popularity to TikTok. There, users such as Devin K. Olson, a self-described “leggings queen,” try on the snug bottoms and show off their backsides for the camera. “Oh my god, please go buy these,” she says while flipping her hair and admiring her booty-liciousness in close-up.
I had to try them, right? I snagged a highly rated $22.99 pairin green from Amazon Prime. I slipped them on and slowly turned around in front of the mirror, waiting for my ego to inflate by a power of, er, two.
Honestly, I was underwhelmed. The look was a mix of Jane Fonda’s workout — the butt dart resembles an ’80s-era over-the-pants thong — and Swamp Thing (maybe I should have picked a different color). The storied “scrunch” was kind of flattering, but in a way that made me never, ever want to wear them outside the house.
Overall, I felt less Kim Kardashian and more, “Kan you put that thing away?”
I strolled past my husband, doing my best EmRata impression. He looked at me curiously. “I mean, you look good,” he said. “But I wouldn’t call them pants.”
In fact, the leggings’ ability to drive partners insane is one of their selling points on TikTok. There’s now an entire genre of video devoted to women parading in front of their spouses in their new revealing workout wear. User @raniaclayton posted a sequence of herself trying them on, then strutting over to the kitchen where her husband is eating dinner to a soundtrack of Christmas music. The wholesome scene ends with him describing them as “like a bullseye to your butthole.”
Look, I’m no sartorial pearl-clutcher. I get that we’re all looking to mix things up after almost a year of hiding out at home. But is a pair of cheap, pervy pants really the look we all need for this current moment?
After months of sitting on our tushes, the Amazon leggings feel like the strangest mix of trying too hard and totally giving up on style. They also aren’t the least bit durable — my pair had sliver-like holes in the knee after a half-assed, 30-minute workout. And haven’t we learned our lesson from the Amazon coat, which became so ubiquitous that after a point, no one wanted to be seen in it?
Personally, I can’t wait for the pandemic to end so I can show off my most beguiling feature: the bottom half … of my face.