One year away from my 30s, I’m quickly becoming fearful that kids will soon not care to know about the 90s, a decade that I attribute to be the most influential during my 29 years on the planet. When I think of jogger pants, I wander back to those days in 1997 when Lugz were poppin’ and kids were cinching their pants with rubberbands so they wouldn’t step on their jeans, which was outclassed the next year by the rolled up leg look, courtesy of one James Todd Smith. Trends like these tend to come and go, always reincarnated in a slightly different way and weirdly enough, more refined upon their return. So, will the jogger pant be the next to fall in line? or will it become a staple in a stable of menswear that hasn’t changed all that much in… forever.
With so many brands putting their spin on what is essentially a cinched chino, I caught up with my friend Michael Huynh, owner and creative director at Publish Brand for his take on the explosion of the jogger and to tell the story of how he trademarked the term and developed what has now become an often mimicked design in just about everyone’s catalog.
I remember a few years ago, when I came with Brad to your office that one time in Santa Ana. I think that’s when you were showing me the cinch pant. Right? You were talking a little bit about it.
And you might have talked shit about it.
Well, I was like...
What the hell! [laughs]
Yea, I thought it was kinda stupid [laughs]. You were telling me at that time that it was gonna be big. That it was gonna be THE next thing. That was a while back. How did the idea for the Jogger Pant come about? How did you even predict that it would do as well as its done?
Alex James, a culture savvy and long time friend of mine had came to down to visit my office/studio to chop up design and what was going to be included in our first collection. Him and I talk culture a lot and so we bounce around ideas all the time. That day Alex James had worn a really dope pair of sweat pants - I believe they were by Marc Jacobs - and he was like, “Mike, you gotta do a silhouette like this!” and I was like, “James, sweat pants though? Do you know how many there are out there?” and he’s like, “Yea, you just gotta flip it and make it yours. A sweat pant... there’s not enough dope sweat pants out there. Either they’re very droopy, very big, very baggy or very slim.” This was the perfect fit. I’m like, “OK, cool. But we have to make it distinctively unique.” So we re-designed that Marc Jacobs pair of pants in a fleece material. It was like a comfortable, brushed fleece material. Little did we know what was going to happen, catapulted our brand completely... in ways we did not imagined.
We had sent it off overseas to get done in black, heather, maroon, and navy. Four colorways.
What year was this?
This was like 4 1/2 , almost 5 years ago, when we first started the brand.
So like back in ’09?
Yea, back in ’09. Like July of ’09. My factory misinterpreted the tech pack and made a big mistake. Instead of sampling in fleece they sampled in stretch twill. And when they came back I was like, “What the hell!” But then we sat back and were like, wait a minute, there’s something here! There’s something very, very unique here! We couldn’t really distinguish what it was, but there was something there. With men, we only have x amounts of silhouettes that we can wear. We can wear: shorts, denim, chinos, swim trunks, etc. You don’t see a typical jogger type pant in twill. So the idea stuck with us and we were like, “Dang, this is fuckin’ sick!, let’s roll with this.” I was sure the rest of the world wasn’t gonna get it, so we rolled it out slowly to see where it went from there.
How did you do with that initial drop?
The first season sold and we got like 20, 30, 40 units ordered on these pants and it was such a failure. We knew we shouldn’t have done it, you know? The lucky part is that I have a factory that’s able to produce really small units, so we said, “Let’s just go with it.” A lot of my fashion-forward accounts understood it. A lot of the guys still on the streetwear tip were really iffy about it and it didn’t do too well, so I took it back. I was like alright, something has to change here. We have to portray this new style in a light where more people will understand it.
It had to be done through visuals. So we came up with multiple photo campaigns where the jogger pants could be easily understood. We hired an extremely good-looking black guy, walking down La Brea... shopping. He’s wearing a black jogger pant with Concords and a black shirt pushing a baby stroller, holding his hot wife’s hand. This was intentional. We wanted to portray that a guy as masculine as him can pull something like this off, right? Had he been by himself walking down La Brea wearing something like this, people would either deem him gay or very, very fashion-forward. It would not translate to a general consumer. But he’s pushing a stroller and holding his hot wife’s hand... there’s no way this guy is deemed gay. He’s very, very fashionable. Now, if you’re a person on the street and see him wearing Concords and you like Concords, that’s automatically a conversation starter. And the fact that it looks good with the jogger pants and he’s wearing it, its almost like “if he’s pulling that outfit off, I can pull that outfit off as well too”.
We started training people on what [the jogger pant] looked like on Huaraches, Stan Smiths, all various types of shoes that were current. We employed that in the first catalog. We went out and did sales again and people started getting a little bit more and more of it. Sales had jumped up crazy, left and right, so we’re like, “There’s something here that we can expand on.” So we just kept on marketing. I’ll be honest, I did not see what would be the outcome of the jogger pant today. I did not see that. I just knew that there should be more silhouettes offered to men, but the thing is, we can only pull off certain outfits in certain fits. I thought this would be a new thing that guys can go to. Staying fit it hot, looking dapper was something all guys should evolve to, you know what I mean? People are maturing, guys are maturing, kids are maturing. When we believe in something, we stick with it, through thick and thin. We stand by it. We push it. We educate. I think a lot of the time people may not understand something because of lack of knowledge, but if you educate them and you show them that this can be an everyday, casual item and not just something that’s super fashion-forward, people will adapt to it. So, that’s what happened. That’s the origin of what we call the jogger pant.
An exclusive first look at the new Legacy Jogger Pant featuring stain and water-proof construction
So, at that time, there was no one, at least in streetwear, with anything remotely close, or similar?
I know that a lot of European brands were on [the] whole drop-crotch pants. You know, those droopy... what we call the diaper bag pants. That was really hot at the time, and the silhouette can come off looking as if the bottom hem of the pant looks cinched, but its actually straight legged. So, there were some similarities there. We took the idea of the comfortness of it and applied the whole cinched cuff to it. In our realm, what we call casual-contemporary, no one was doing it at the time. It was a hard push because no one understood it. Mind you, it came off of the whole chino roll up, when everyone was doing it. Everyone was rolling up their pants at the time, so… it was like a unique alternative to that.
Obviously, if something becomes popular, for business that’s good. You get to sell more, reach a wider audience, you get to create more variations, etc. But how does it make you feel when there’s something you brought to the table (at least as far as streetwear goes) and other brands and even mass retail chains start mimicking that style and start profiting off what Publish [initially created]. How does that make you feel?
I mean, dude, it’s a very cutthroat world out there. It’s business. I definitely understand that. When something is hot, people jump on it. I don’t think it went against us. If anything, it helped us a little bit in a sense where, like, we were a new category. Us being new at the time, we did not have the reach like a lot of established brands do. We do not have the clientele the way these established brands do. Think of it like this: streetwear was not hot until 10.Deep, Mishka, King Stampede, Mighty Healthy. All those guys on the New York side pushed it. It took a lot of people to really make a category grow and that’s what happened with the jogger pant stuff.
A lot of other brands contributed to pushing this whole movement of the jogger pant. It helped us. It helped us establish our grounds and [know] that we were the first few that really pushed this category to make it happen. To me, I don’t find it wrong for anyone to jump on a trend that’s hot. It’s business. Especially with menswear and streetwear being very stale at the moment, something new has to happen and I feel like this was the IT category. Now you have guys like Matix and Volcom on this, all the way to smaller, independent brands that are emerging. For me now, it just gives us the ability to take over this category and show that we were the first brand to really make this a huge movement. If there were jogger pants before us, that’s fine, but I think that how you make it yours is important.
We have huge plans on how we can make it ours coming up pretty soon. We’re not offended, we don’t hate anybody that does the jogger pant. It’s business. If a category is hot and we didn’t jump on it, we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot. We love creating. We like being able to see our clothes on people. The idea is to globalize this category and make it acceptable to the everyday guy. There’s still a very small percentage of guys that can wear a jogger pant. There’s a shit load of people out there that have no idea what a jogger pant is. It’s our duty to show that it’s normal. You have to be comfortable in your own skin. The idea this year is to show that an everyday guy can pull off this look and not look like you’re dressed down because you have a cinched cuff.
So there are certain styles that will always come full circle, right? I remember back in the late ’90s, camo pants were the shit and then they disappeared just to re-emerge, albeit with a more tailored cut. And then they left again. I don’t really know where they are right now... I think they’re turning them into jogger pants...
Do you see the jogger pant as something similar that will go away and come back eventually? Or do you see it as a trend that’s going to fizzle out once people get bored or tired of it?
I think with men it gets a little tricky because there’s only so many silhouettes we can wear. Remember when baggy pants were hot? And then it went to skinny jeans and now Japan is trying to go back on the baggy look. That’s why you have brands like Engineered Garments and nonnative with those [baggy] silhouettes that they do. I’m not sure where jogger pants are gonna be. I don’t know if it’s a thing that’s going to stay around a long time. It’s our job to figure out how to make this a staple item in a man’s wardrobe. Playing around with the silhouettes, playing around with different seam placements. Stuff like that. Engineer it in a sense where it can be tailored for different bodies. With women, there are so many silhouettes they can do: they can have an overall onto a blouse, a pair of shorts that look like a skirt… you know what I mean? With guys, we don’t have that ability. We have to find ways where we can look masculine, but still be different.
You’re right, trends do come and go, but I think they do moreso with patterns rather than silhouettes and fit. We have a lot more life when it comes to silhouettes. Polka dot prints, camo prints, Navajo prints… they’re all seasonal. It’s almost like a yearly trend, whereas fitting can last a lot longer. How long did it take tailored jeans to make a dent in this industry? It took a very long time. People didn’t understand why a guy would want to wear tight denim that crunches their crotch. You can’t breathe, right? But look at it now. Baggy pants don’t sell well at all. It’s why Levis 511s and 514s do such damage. Because they fit well. It’s all about tailorness. I feel like the jogger pant has a comfortable upper, tailored legs, and a casual menswear feel to the cuffs.
A green colorway in the Legacy Jogger campaign, which drops May 1 online and through global retail accounts
I feel like the recent running shoe craze has really helped this category. Runners are being worn with anything and everything. Suits, chinos, jeans, sweatpants... Whatever it is, the running category is, once again, cool. How beneficial has that been for the growth of the silhouette?
Definitely. It’s funny because, technically, our jogger pants aren’t made for running. People accidently interpret it in a way where it should be paired up with running kicks. I remember some years ago when a friend told me Undefeated was going to remove every lifestyle shoe brand in their roster and start carrying more athletic shoes. I was like, “Athletic running shoes... when was that last time someone wore that?” At the time, Common Projects was hot, Converse was hot, any classic court shoe was hot. Why would you want to go back to running shoes? It doesn’t look good with normal clothes. When I heard that I was like, What’s going on? Whos doing this? Who’s causing all [the] surge? I later found out it was Nike doing this push and you know when Nike makes a push towards something… it’s gonna grow and it’s gonna get big.
When Nike started pushing that category with the Free and then the Flyknit and the Roshes and stuff like that, that’s when jogger pants were hot. So people pretty much took the two biggest trends and paired them together. That’s why it allowed us to go with the flow. So we rolled with that whole wave of running shoes that Nike was working on and it just exploded. It just went nuts. That’s why when you go on Instagram and search jogger pants, you’ll most likely see it paired up with a pair of Nike kicks. Most likely. I would say at least 80% of the time. But now that that whole craze has taken it’s course, we’re going back to show that you don’t have to wear running shoes with jogger pants. We actually prefer court style shoes, like your Chucks, your Common Projects, your Tretorns, stuff like that. Simple silhouettes. I think people took it too literal, but at the same time we wanted to capitalize on a trend that was popping off. How can you not? Those wovens and those Flyknits look so dope. We needed to ride the wave for people to understand it more.
I see you guys push a lot through social media, but what do you feel has been the biggest platform for your success?
Honestly, it’s been through our global partners. A lot of the big guys who have a household name and have a strong voice. Working with you in the very beginning. You helped give Publish a voice on Hypebeast and that helped catapult us. A few years ago we did not have a clientele. We had maybe 2-3 thousand followers on Instagram. 2-3 thousand people on Twitter. 2-3 thousand people on Facebook. That was not enough, you know what I mean? For you to go out there and do it through word of mouth? That’s too do-it-yourself. Too homegrown, too startup. We needed to partner with someone that believed in this category the way we believed in this category. I’d like to thank you for giving us the ability to portray and display our creation to the world.
Absolutely. I walked into a store recently. I don’t remember which, but I remember them calling their version of the jogger pant… the “jogger pant.” From what we spoke about before, you guys actually own the trademark for the jogger pant name. Right?
[laughs] Yeah. We actually trademarked the name “jogger pant” the moment it started getting really hot. We knew that we were onto something and had to do something to protect ourselves. The intention wasn’t so that people wouldn’t be allowed to create a jogger silhouette, but for us to be able to brand ourselves. How would you like it if, say, another major shoe company called their shoe a “flyknit”? Nike would be like, “What the heck?” So this is a silhouette that we developed and we want to make sure that it’s branded properly. Everything nowadays is about branding, right? If you have a certain design with a drop rise and it stacks well on your cinch cuff you’re gonna wanna call it something that’s unique to your brand. We wanted to call it a name that’s marketable and easy to be understood. We coulda called it the cinched cuff, but it was too generic. Or a pant with a cinch, but that’s too long. We wanted something that was easy. So we call it The Jogger or Jogger Pant, so people can identify the silhouette. So we went off and trademarked the name “jogger pant.”
Interesting. Everything is absolutely about branding these days and I think that’s a good thing. It promotes more accountability for quality product. 2014 has been a great year for Publish Brand. What’s in the pipeline for the upcoming seasons?
Going into 2015, we have a ton of silhouettes we’re working on, outside of the jogger. Like everything else, we’re going to make sure things are trademarked and patented before we release them to the world. I think at this moment right now, we’re being looked at under a microscope. We’re currently on a lot of trend mood boards of other brands that I’ve visited, which is a good thing and we’re very humbled and flattered to be on their trend board. But with that being said, we’re being looked at closely. With anything we do, we want to make sure we’re protected and make sure we go into these new developments intelligently. We have high hopes that they’ll be as strong as the jogger pants are today. We feel like no one is engineering enough bottoms, so that’s our goal: to develop more options for the everyday guy.