The dust has settled after a gate agent at Denver International Airport prohibited two teenagers Saturday morning from boarding a flight to Minneapolis wearing — gasp — leggings.
And after the social-media furor — which included finger-wagging tweets from Chrissy Teigen, Nick Bolton, and Patricia Arquette — ended, we had reached a rational consensus. United Airlines was well within its right to enforce a dress code that does not allow passengers flying free on a "buddy pass" to wear Lycra or spandex anything.
But questions remain. First of all, why is this archaic rule even on United’s books?
Airline spokesman Jonathan Guerin spent the better part of his weekend explaining to the enraged masses that buddy-pass travelers are held to the same business-class standards as employees because, not only are they traveling free, they are representing the airline. (For the record, flip-flops, ripped jeans, and bare midriffs also are on the no-no list.)
These rules can be traced to the earliest days of commercial airline travel, when we were a much more dressed-up nation, said Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Washington trade publication Airline Weekly.
It’s also why the friendly skies weren’t always so friendly to women — especially flight attendants, who for years had to adhere to strict beauty rules that required heels and makeup. You couldn't be overweight, and black women could forget about wearing their hair in natural styles if they wanted to keep their jobs.
This brings me to the second issue. Though airlines — as well as most workplaces -- have relaxed the dress codes that once unfairly targeted women, we are still a society that thinks it’s OK to discriminate against leggings.
Leggings' bad rap goes back to the the 1950s, when tight pants were the outfit solely of sexy women (think Catwoman or a transformed Sandy in Grease).
Over the decades, even as leggings transitioned to dance attire, workout attire, or everyday attire (athleisure is everywhere), they haven't been able to shake their vampish past. I can't think of another item of women's clothing that is as vilified as leggings, or their closely related cousins, yoga pants and the jeans-plus-leggings combo, jeggings. The leggings-as-dress-slacks that the fashion-forward call ponte pants had better watch their backsides, too.
I’ve heard it all: Leggings aren’t dressy enough. They aren’t appropriate for the workplace. They are too revealing. Men find them distracting because they hug curves.
Yep, they do. If you can't handle it, look away.
Even women who wear leggings have a lot to say about other women who wear leggings. Have you ever been at the hair salon or at a mani-pedi spot and a woman walks in wearing, say, a hip-grazing moto jacket with leggings?
How dare she not wear a long sweater with that!
I'm loath to admit it, but I've said it to myself, even grumbled it to a friend who high-fived my cattiness.
For the record, I’m wearing leggings right now with a long sweater.
It seems we don't like seeing women comfortable. Yet women are at ease in leggings. And leggings are powerful: When worn with a blazer and heels, they look businesslike, but when paired with knee-high boots and a dress, they are artsy. When we hit the park in leggings and Asics, with earbuds snug in our ears, we're about to take mileage very seriously, and, yes, we might just dust you.
But, as a nation of body shamers, we often think leggings are just lazy.
The thing is, in 2017, today's heavier fabrics and blends have elevated leggings to pants — tight pants, but pants nonetheless — the same as tight jeans and wool trousers that hug the tush. They're really OK to wear most places.
No one — not even other women — has the right to legislate what kind of pants people get to wear.
When we do, women — including the teenagers who no doubt were trying to catch a few zzzs on an early-morning flight in gear as comfortable as possible — are left feeling embarrassed and ashamed.
And that’s not fair — even if they are flying free.