Autumn means different things to different people. For some, it’s a crisp chill in the air, cutting through summer’s humidity. Even in Vermont we have a lot of humidity. I did not escape it when I moved from Alabama, but it’s still not as bad. For others it’s the abhorrent cinnamon sweetness of a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. Here in Vermont and much of New England, it’s the dreaded season for “leaf peeping” when tourists crowd our roads stopping at random places to take pictures of the leaves. It can actually be quite dangerous because the “leaf peepers” will stop anywhere even if they are blocking traffic. They don’t seem to care. And yet, for a shockingly large number of people, especially gay men, fall, and it continues into winter, is also the time of year for a very specific, very horny delight: gray sweatpants, and the outline of the wearer’s dick they can showcase.
It’s what is lovingly referred to on social media as Gray Sweatpants Season. For the uninitiated, this is the time when the climate finally mellows enough for men to pull those bottoms out from the back of their pajama drawer. Once an innocuous casual pant option, in recent years it’s become linguistic shorthand for the type of person who much prefers peeping peen over the kaleidoscopic colors of autumnal foliage. For those not in the loop, Gray Sweatpants Season is definitely a thing. It has not one but four dick-centric definitions at Urban Dictionary. “Just a Bunch of Hot Guys in Sweatpants to Warm You Up,” reads a headline from Elle magazine. It’s been fetishized to the point that there is a gay porn site called GuysInSweatpants.com.
It’s a titillation unique to our post-athleisure, post–Casual Friday era, where workout clothes are no longer relegated to gyms, but worn proudly in public. Gray Sweatpants Season also speaks to the fact that social media has lifted the curtain on the ways that sex is no longer just an activity for getting off but getting likes and shares, all you need to do is check out Instagram or TikTok to see this trend on full display. According to Twitter’s own statistics, since 2015 there have been more than 1.5 million tweets about Grey Sweatpants Season. According to its data, the conversation peaked in 2016—though, anecdotally, that conversation may have just migrated to platforms like Instagram and TikTok in recent years. But how—and, more importantly, why—did we get here? Why are grey sweats, of all articles of clothing, the unofficial symbol of fall horniness? The most obvious answer is because you can see the outline of the penis in sweatpants, especially gray sweatpants. Other colored sweatpants often hide the visible penis lines (aka VPL in gay slang). Their greatest appeal may be their sexiness is unexpected.
Some people enjoy being exhibitionists while other enjoy being the voyeur. Those who like to show off in their sweatpants gets the plausible deniability that they’re “not showing off.” You see this trend on TikTok a lot. Guys are able to basically tout their OnlyFans site without showing any actual nudity. For those who enjoy watching guys in gray sweatpants, they get the thrill of witnessing something, like a dick, that they’re not supposed to be seeing. People have always fetishized tight clothing. In the Renaissance era, men wore cod pieces. Initially, the item of clothing was meant for modesty, but it became a way for men to advertise their attributes to others signifying their sexual prowess. Henry VIII was apparently famous for his rather large cod pieces.
Sweats, rightfully, have gotten a bad wrap for being shlumpy clothes you wear when you’ve given up and just don’t care. However, there can be something sexy about a guy in sweats. Even if they aren’t gray, it can show off a guy’s assets really well form behind. Sweatpants, which have a current trend of being worn too tight, hug a guy’s backside in a way that accentuates the roundness of their butt. Trust me, as sweatpants season hits, and it gets closer to the end of the semester, guys have a propensity to wear sweatpants around campus more and more when heading to class. Every morning when I open the museum, I see guys heading to class wearing sweatpants that accentuate their butts. It would be one thing if it was always the same guy, but it’s usually different guys. I work on a campus that, if it isn’t, should be well-known for their guys’ butts. They are in great shape and when in uniform, the pants really accentuate the roundness of their behinds.
To add to the sexiness of sweatpants, there’s this very I-just-got-out-of-bed-and-threw-it-on sort of thing that says, “I’m tired of this semester. I want it to be over and done.” The supposed effortless sexuality of sweatpants is part of the appeal. Guys often seem to just pull them on without wearing underwear. I’ll be honest, when I am wearing sweats around the house, I’m not going to wear underwear under them, though I probably would if I went out in public, but young guys don’t often think much about modesty, especially on a college campus. They want to show what they have usually in an effort to get laid. College students are not just here for an education, they are also in college to broaden their horizons and experiment, often that includes sex as well. The more you can do to look attractive, the more you’ll get laid. All you have to witness is guys coming from the gym when the weather is warmer. Their clothing is skimpier and skimpier. When the weather is cooler, the sweatpants come out, and they have a new way to “accentuate the positive.”