Sweat Pants Almost Killed the Lindy Hop

A really famous lindy hopper once said to me, “Sweat pants almost killed the lindy hop.”

You may be thinking…WTF?

Think about it though, when swing dancing originated, everyone was dressing up and trying to look good. It was a night out, to say the least. Saying “Sweat pants almost killed the Lindy Hop” may sound completely ridiculous, but I’ve been thinking about it recently.

Let me bring your back to my beginning. I vividly remember the first dance I was invited to. I had learned a few moves at my High School swing club and now it was time to go out dancing. However, there was a big problem.  I couldn’t go cause I didn’t have any vintage clothes. How funny is that. I actually didn’t go, and that next week I was compelled to go buy some dress pants, suspenders, and some shoes. Ridiculous…………..ly Awesome, now that I think about it. Not the suspenders, but there was a time where you actually had to think about what to wear. Fashion mattered and peer pressure combined with the image of Swimg made people care about what they went out in. Then everything changed.

If you have been dancing for a while, you might remember years back when people were wearing sweat pants to social dances. I remember, cause I used to wear them!

Take one guess at what type of pants I am probably wearing!

It was right around the time when social dances were being moved to dance studios because real venues were kicking Lindy Hoppers out for bringing water bottles. I am surprised that we didn’t end up with yoga mats and stretching sessions by the end of the night talking about how the only important part of the dance is how it feels.

What Happened?

Why did many people stop dressing up? Why did I stop dressing up?  Obviously many continued to keep swing stylish, but those aside. What tipped the decline of swing fashion?  How did all this happen?  I don’t really know, but I speculate that maybe workshops, with 5 hours of classes a day, caused people to start dressing in athletic gear. Fair enough, but this sort of “comfort first” mentality started to trickle into the social nights. Soon the line between what was appropriate blurred when it came to style. Personally, I know I also started to focus more on just the dance, and not what the dance was part of. I think this happened for many people. We became so focused on Lindy Hop as only a dance and forgot the bigger picture of Jazz Culture, Music and Fashion and History.

I really think this affected my dancing, and probably a lot of other people. With this more casual approach to what we wore, came a more casual approach to how we danced, how we looked while dancing, and the tempos we preferred to dance to. Groove music soon took over, the stretched swing out died, charleston was “not cool”, and live music wasn’t worth the extra 5$ cover charge.

Is Fashion Part of Understanding the Dance?

I wish I got my act together much sooner when it came to fashion. It all started to click when when I realized that Lindy Hop was part of something bigger…that there was more to the dance then just learning how to dance well.

Lindy Hop, if removed from the influences that were present when it was originally developed, is awkward and lacking. As I get better at dancing, I enjoy listening to better dance music. As I listen to better music, I get better at dancing. As I move better and swing harder, I want to dress more vintage. As I start to dress more vintage I begin to move better and swing harder. Funny how this all comes together.

My Lindy Hop is so much more complete now that I am 1) dressing better, 2) playing swing music on my guitar, 3) listening to better dance music and 4)watching more old clips from the 20s, 30s and 40s. I can finally see how it all works together and feeds the rest. Over the past few years, I have seriously become more interested in all things that swing; looking beyond just the dance technique.

So, in case you missed the message going round town; Classy Is Cool. Vintage is cool. I even feel it may be a critical part to understanding the dance better.

If my wardrobe progressed along side my dancing over the past 10 years I would be set, unfortunately it hasn’t and now I am having to catch up.  I wish I could go back in time and dress well so that all the pictures floating around didn’t look so silly.

More and More People Are Dressing Well!

Over past few years, I see more and more people bringing style to their Lindy Hop. I am also starting to recognize the people who have kept Vintage Influenced Style alive over all the years and taken it to respectable  levels. I am not saying you should dress vintage, but if you think that lindy hop looks better in a T-shirt and Jeans over being decked out is some classy attire…I am asking you to think again. Would the Nicholas Brothers be a legend if they wore sweat pants? Would the Spirit Moves documentary look so badass if they were wearing polyester comfort clothes and Adidas shell toes? Hellzapoppin in jeans and t shirts? Seriously…?

Time and Place: There is a time and place for all attire. If you can rock that outfit, do it. Just be aware, and don’t let laziness send you out looking 1/10 as good as you could with a bit more effort.

A quick shout out to Peter Loggins, who is the ultimate male icon of Swing Dance Fashion. You would never find him in a cheap suit, and can go through every single photo for as long as he has been dancing and you will see him dressed well. He has heavily inspired me to get my shit together. Thanks Peter!

Here are some pics I grabbed of some couples who always inspire, letting the world know that “Classy is Cool!”

I may be totally wrong, but dancers dress WAY better in Europe. I think we need to pick up our game here in the states. LA used to own swing fashion, now I go out and things sure have changed. Game ON!

Where are you with your fashion? Have you been oblivious so many years like me? Have you been rocking vintage the whole time laughing at us who dance in jeans and t-shirts? Do you think that not vintage attire looks better for Swing? Are you aware, but to lazy to dress the part? Do you shop at Mens Wearhouse, wear tennis shoes with your suits and spike your hair?