Slang dictionary

hard pants

[ hahrd pants ]

What are hard pants?

Hard pants is an informal term for types of pants that are more rigid or uncomfortable than those primarily worn or designed for comfort. The term is typically applied to pants like jeans, khakis, and more formal pants in contrast to the kinds of pants informally called soft pants—those made with soft, stretchable fabrics, especially sweatpants and other forms of loungewear and athleisure pants.

The terms hard pants and soft pants were popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic—read more about that in the next section.

Example: I have to go into the office on Monday and I’m really not looking forward to wearing hard pants.

Where does hard pants come from?

close-up of back pocket of pants, yellow filter.

The term hard pants in reference to pants like jeans, khakis, and formal pants is thought to have emerged in the 2010s, but its use was initially uncommon.

The terms hard pants and soft pants were popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people began working from home and, consequently, choosing to wear more comfortable clothing. This especially included more casual and comfortable pants, since video conferencing typically only captures a person’s top half.

The popularity of the term hard pants is often credited in part to a March 2020 tweet by Buzzfeed writer David Mack that used the term hard pants to refer to all pants besides sweatpants.

The increase in people wearing more comfortable clothing during this time influenced the fashion industry, and terms like hard pants and soft pants also featured in discussion of fashion trends.

The term hard pants is an example of a retronym—a new variation of an existing term that has been modified to make a distinction based on a change in how the thing is used or perceived. In this case, the modification of the simple term pants with the modifiers hard and soft reflects the popular distinction between comfortable pants and the less comfortable ones people wear to work or to dress up.

There are other terms that use a modifier to distinguish what kind of pants are being referred to. For example, formal pants are sometimes called dress pants. It’s not uncommon for a person who has to wear dress pants to work to call them work pants, as in My new job has a dress code, so I have to go out and buy a few pairs of work pants.

Examples of hard pants

I put on "hard pants" (jeans) for the first time in a long time and wow these are leg prisons
@TheAshleyClem, May 5, 2020
Despite lofty pronouncements about sweatpants overtaking “hard pants,” the worldwide denim market is only getting bigger.
Haley Nahman, The New York Times, November 10, 2021

Who uses hard pants?

The term hard pants is often used in mild complaints about having to wear them, especially comments intended to be humorous.



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This is not meant to be a formal definition of hard pants like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of hard pants that will help our users expand their word mastery.