The first thing I do when I get home to my apartment is put my hair in a bun atop my head, take off my bra and change into comfortable pants. It’s basically my own personal uniform of freedom.
“In general, I’m a big believer in how you dress and what you put on,” says Canadian designer Hayley Elsaesser, renowned for her bright and cheerful patterned clothes, who also changes into track pants when she’s not working. “And it can affect you whether or not you realize it.”
However, in the past few years, a new accessory has been added to my off-the-clock outfit—and it kinda clashes.
The one thing that carries over from my work-to-home outfit change is my phone. What originated as a device to call people has evolved into an extension of my arm, constantly in my clutches no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I no longer check my phone only when it rings, beeps or vibrates. Instead, I will find myself scrolling through Instagram, eyes glazed over as I “like” and comment on stories and pics of engagements, babies and puppies.
A 2018 survey found that Canadians millennials typically use their phones for more than two or more hours per day. Being the overachiever that I am, I have more than doubled that. According to my iPhone’s Screen Time tracker, in the past week, I spent an average of 4 hours and 19 minutes on my phone per day. (That’s approximately the duration of a train trip from Toronto to Ottawa and entirely too much time to be looking at pics of randoms I haven’t talked to in years.) But being constantly connected has made relaxing—like, truly giving my brain a break—impossible.
Elsaesser was going through a similar struggle. As a designer and business owner, she was “on-call” at on times. “I was like a dog with my phone, I would hear the noise and just go for it instantly,” she says. Using that personal experience, Elsaesser partnered with wine company Félix & Lucie to create limited edition “Wine Pants” ($98, available until May 31). In addition to easy-breezy-perfect-for-the-couch vibe, these pants also include a “lock pocket.” The specialized pocket is lined with conductive material, typically used for security purposes for instance to protect credit cards, that blocks cellphone reception.
There’s been plenty of options that help people disconnect from their phones, from hotels and resorts offering digital detox programs to Apple’s attempts to help customers be less addicted to their devices (you know things are bad when manufacturers want you to use their products less). What makes Wine Pants feel distinctly different is that you can still have your phone on you, and detox too.
“You’re putting it in your pocket with intent and you’re pulling the drawstring so it’s closed until you decide you want to access it and you won’t be bothered. You lock it away, [but] you know exactly where it is,” says Elsaesser, who is open to including lock pockets in future designs beyond the limited edition Wine Pants, which end sales on May 31.
Usually, I give up on most digital detoxes before I even start, resigning myself to my addiction. Lately, I started watching more Bollywood movies because reading subtitles meant I had to be off my phone in order to watch the TV (a feat which should be simple, yet proved to be challenging). Elsaesser provided me with a prototype of the Wine Pants and so one evening after work, I arrived at my apartment, took off my bra, put my hair in a bun and donned the limited edition loungewear, slipping my phone into the pocket.
It made me antsy at first, but that evening, I actually gave a movie my undivided attention. I listened to music while I cooked. And in those moments where my brain would remember/crave my phone, instead of feeling phantom vibrate, or searching around my apartment wondering where I put my device down, I would simply remember the weight in my “lock pocket.” It was like a new feeling of freedom.
And that’s exactly the point. “You’re kind of taking the power back in that way,” Elsaesser says.