Skip to content

What’s the truth behind the Lagerfeld quote about sweatpants?

Karl Lagerfeld’s alleged saying “Anyone who wears sweatpants has lost control over his life” is an example of how control over a quote can be lost. A search for clues to the origin of the cult statement.

He was the unmistakable Ästhet with the pointed tongue: Karl Lagerfeld. Three years ago, the longtime Chanel designer died, and since then his successor Virginie Viard has been responsible for the fashion house’s collections. Among the most famous Lagerfeld quotes is undoubtedly "Who wears sweatpants, has lost control üover his life". In many places it is written that this sentence was uttered ten years ago in the ZDF program "Markus Lanz" on April 19, 2012. But was that really the case?

Karl Lagerfeld and the sweatpants – a search for clues

In fact, there is a problem: That is not true, üabout the saying that has been circulating for at least ten years, control seems to have been lost. What is true, however, is this: For many years, Lagerfeld, who was born in Hamburg and chose to live in Paris, was a welcome talk show guest in Germany. Hardly anyone could parrot as quickly as the world-famous man with the white braid. Many of the designer’s bon mots are legendary.

Lagerfeld, for example, attested to "Germany’s Next Topmodel"-Präsentator Heidi Klum not being as important a model as Claudia Schiffer, Nadja Auermann or Tatjana Patitz. In the ZDF show "Johannes B. Kerner" broadcast on June 9, 2009, the longtime Chanel designer said he had seen photos of "this Heidi Klum", "that I don’t know. Claudia doesn’t know her either. She was never in Paris. We don"t know her;

The saucy statement in typical machine-gun language is well documented and can be found on the Internet on YouTube, Twitter and so on. Mostly it is reproduced correctly ("I don’t know her, Claudia doesn’t know her either. She has never been to Paris, we don’t know her).

Where does the sweatpants saying come from?

But what about the sweatpants saying, the wording "Whoever wears sweatpants has lost control üover his life"? With this, it is far more complicated. Both in April 2012 and in an edition of the talk show "Markus Lanz" a year earlier on March 17, 2011, the sentence does not fall in any case.

In the ARD pre-evening format "Gottschalk Live" on January 31, 2012, Thomas Gottschalk passed on a viewer question to the designer: "When Karl comes home, is the first thing he puts on his jogging pants?" Answer: "I don’t know how to let go." He doesn’t let go even in front of his cat, Lagerfeld emphasized. One must always stand behind him with the whip, so the credo.

Lagerfeld was also a guest on the first "Wetten, dass..?"-edition with Markus Lanz as host on October 6, 2012 in Düsseldorf. That was also about sweatpants. "Do you sometimes wear jogging suits like that?" asked Lanz, referring to Cindy aus 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 things made of stretch, elastic and all that nonsense. Should never be worn. Because tight clothes are better than ’n scales (…). The best discipline is: tight clothes, because a waistband, that can not lügen." So he means the waistband, added the fast chattering Lagerfeld.

So where is the abschätzig sweatpants remark to be found? According to archives, it has appeared again and again in the press for ten years, and has become a common word. The Genios press database spits out the first documented source, a newspaper in the summer of 2012, which published the sentence in its entirety with a reference to the magazine "Grazia". But at Klambt-Verlag in Hamburg, the digital archive of the magazine "Grazia" only goes back to 2014. According to information from the editorial office, it cannot be found in an old magazine archive from 2012.

Even Lagerfeld biographer is at a loss

Lagerfeld biographer Alfons Kaiser ("Karl Lagerfeld: A German in Paris") is also at a loss. For a long time, he also thought the sentence had fallen at Lanz in April 2012, says the journalist of the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung".

At least Kaiser knows that in the book authorized by Lagerfeld "Karl über die Welt und das Leben" there is the following quote: "Sweatpants are the sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you go out on the street in sweatpants.” Kaiser seems to have translated this quote freely from English ("Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants"). The book was published in German by Edel Books in 2014, in English in 2013.

Anyone who looks at several of Lagerfeld’s appearances knows that he often repeated his slogans, so there could be several original versions. Lagerfeld liked to repeat phrases that were well received, even in other languages, assuming that the self-quotation would then not be revealed,” says biographer Kaiser. One example, he says, is the often varied statement – about his hometown – from "Hamburg is the gateway to the world, but you also have to go through" to "Hamburg is the gateway to the world, but only the gate".

Caroline Lebar was a spokeswoman for Lagerfeld for many years, today she is the so-called Senior Vice President Image & Communications of the Karl Lagerfeld brand. She says she feels she has heard Karl say the phrase about sweatpants for 15 or 20 years ("I have the feeling I always heard Karl saying this…").

Sweatpants Conclusion

Lagerfeld could have said the sentence “Anyone who wears sweatpants has lost control over his life” without a doubt, but it is not so easy to find the original in this often quoted form. With the most famous quote from Lagerfeld, who did not like the term "Modeschöpfer" so much, because that sounded like "erschöpft", one should probably rather speak of having to do with an "attributed quote".

With material from dpa