Designer: Lagerfeld and the jogging pants slogan: Time to search for clues

Karl Lagerfeld’s alleged saying “Whoever wears sweatpants has lost control of his life” is an example of how control over a quote can be lost.

He was the unmistakable esthete with the sharp tongue: Karl Lagerfeld. The longtime Chanel designer died three years ago. Since then, his successor Virginie Viard has been responsible for the collections of the fashion house.

One of the best-known quotes from Lagerfeld is without a doubt “Who one sweatpants wears has lost control of his life». In many places it is written that this sentence was made ten years ago – in the ZDF program “Markus Lanz” on April 19, 2012.

Time to search for clues

But there’s a problem: That’s not true. Control seems to have been lost over the flippant statement that has been circulating for at least ten years. time for one search for clues.

For many years, Lagerfeld, who was born in Hamburg and has moved to Paris, was a welcome talk show guest Germany. Hardly anyone could parry as quickly as the world-famous man with the white braid. Many of the designer’s bon mots are legendary.

For example, Lagerfeld certified that the “Germany’s Next Top Model” presenter Heidi Klum was not as important a model as Claudia Schiffer, Nadja Auermann or Tatjana Patitz. On ZDF, the longtime Chanel designer said in the show “Johannes B. Kerner” broadcast on June 9, 2009: He had seen photos of “this Heidi Klum” that “I don’t know. Claudia doesn’t know them either. It was never in Paris. We don’t know them.”

The cheeky statement in typical machine gun language is well documented and can be found on the Internet, for example on YouTube, Twitter and so on. Most of the time it is smoothed out (“I don’t know her, Claudia doesn’t know her either. She’s never been to Paris, we don’t know her.”).

Where does the jogging pants saying come from?

But what about the jogging pants saying – in this wording “Whoever wears jogging pants has lost control of his life”? It’s far more complicated than that. In any case, neither in April 2012 nor in an edition of the talk “Markus Lanz” a year earlier – on March 17, 2011 – the sentence was not mentioned.

In the ARD pre-evening format “Gottschalk Live” on January 31, 2012, Thomas Gottschalk passed on a viewer question to the designer: “Does Karl put on his jogging pants first when he comes home?” Answer: “I don’t know how to let go.” Lagerfeld emphasized that he would not let himself go in front of his cat. One must always stand behind oneself with the whip, so the credo.

Lagerfeld was also a guest in the first “Wetten, dass..?” edition with Markus Lanz as moderator – on October 6, 2012 in Düsseldorf. It was also jogging pants. “Do you sometimes wear jogging suits?” Lanz asked there, looking at Cindy from Marzahn.

Lagerfeld’s answer: “No. Because you can’t control that. I only wear clothes where you know exactly how far you can go. Nothing is more dangerous than stretch, elastic and all that nonsense. Shouldn’t be worn. Because tight clothing is better than scales (…). The best discipline is: tight clothing, because a trouser belt cannot lie.” So he means the waistband, added Lagerfeld, who was chattering away quickly.

So where is the derogatory sweatpants remark? According to archives, it has been appearing in the press again and again for ten years and has become a household word. As the first documented source, the Genios press database spits out a newspaper in the summer of 2012 that published the sentence verbatim with a reference to the magazine “Grazia”. But at the Klambt publishing house in Hamburg, the digital archive of the “Grazia” magazine only goes back to 2014. According to the editorial team, it cannot be found in an old magazine archive from 2012.

Lagerfeld biographer is at a loss

The Lagerfeld biographer Alfons Kaiser (“Karl Lagerfeld: A German in Paris”) is at a loss. He also thought for a long time that the sentence had fallen at Lanz in April 2012, says the journalist from the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”.

At least Kaiser knows that there is the following quote in the book “Karl on the World and Life” authorized by Lagerfeld: “Sweatpants are the sign of defeat. You’ve lost control of your life and then you just go out on the street in jogging pants.” Kaiser seems to have freely translated this quote from English (“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants”). The book was published by Edel Books in German in 2014 and in English in 2013.

Anyone who watches several of Lagerfeld’s performances knows that he often repeated his sayings, so there could also be several original versions. “Lagerfeld liked to repeat sayings that were well received, also in other languages, assuming that the self-quotation would not be exposed,” says biographer Kaiser. An example is the often varied statement about his hometown – from “Hamburg is the gateway to the world, but you also have to go through it” to “Hamburg is the gateway to the world, but only the gateway”.

Caroline Lebar was a spokesperson for Lagerfeld for many years. Today she is the so-called Senior Vice President Image & Communications of the Karl Lagerfeld brand. She lets it be known that she has the feeling that she has heard Karl say the sentence about sweatpants for 15 or 20 years («I have the feeling I always heard Karl saying this…»).


Of course, Lagerfeld could have said this sentence “Whoever wears sweatpants has lost control of his life”. But it is not so easy to find it in the original in this much-quoted form. When it comes to the most famous quote from Lagerfeld, who didn’t like the term “fashion designer” very much because it sounds like “exhausted”, one should probably speak of having to do with an “attributed quote”.


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