Friday, January 03, 2014

Do the rich not sweat?

I get that Maggie Lange's "In Defense of Disgusting Gym Clothes" is meant to be contrarian. But is it, really? Isn't the idea that if you're truly hardcore, you skip the 'performance' fabrics in favor of comfortable old clothes, pretty standard? While yes, people do dress up for the gym (or so I've heard - I'm usually the only person in the one I go to, and use the disintegrating regular-shirt approach), who's announcing that they do so, loud and proud? At best, you might get a defensive answer, about how whichever pants were on sale, or, conversely, that spending $90 on leggings guilts you into going to the gym. And sure, there's some shaming of those who work out without the proper sports bra or sneakers, because they are, according to onlookers, injuring themselves. But no one wants to announce that they put on ass-lifting pants so people will check them out. OK, not no one, but few, few. (And even that woman says she doesn't want attention!)

Lange does make a good point, though, about sweat and more accumulating on workout clothes in a way it doesn't on regular ones. It's not so much that sweat would ruin these clothes, though, as Lange suggests (shirts, maybe, but black leggings?), and more that they'd render them unwearable until the next laundry cycle. Which is something I'd long wondered about 'investing' in clothes for the gym. If you've spent $90 on your leggings, do you wear them more than once before washing them? (I may be finicky about this sort of thing, but unless it's really cold at the gym, I'd advise against.) Or is this part of the status-symbol aspect of these clothes? As in, not only do you put a lot of $$$ towards your workout-wear, but you have enough $90 leggings to make it through a laundry cycle.

6 comments:

caryatis said...

Are people announcing that they dress up for the gym? Well, no, but you can see so by looking at them. It seems to be a big thing in yoga, signaling your seriousness by having special yoga clothes, and often a different special yoga shirt for every class.

In defense of fancy gym clothes, however, gym clothes are not *just* gym clothes. In my past life as an employed person, I often went from the gym to work, or to do errands, or to a social event. The more clothing items I can get to serve a dual purpose, the lighter the bag I need to carry. You can't wear "field hockey shorts" to a date or a stained sweatshirt to work.

"No matter your choice of gym routine, the thing you're most likely to be doing is sweating..."

Disagree with this. Weight-lifting and yoga aren't aerobic enough to produce sweat.

Britta said...

Are people really concerned about sweating in expensive gym clothes? I thought a main selling point for $90 performance clothing is that it's supposed to survive being sweated on and still hold up for decades, while a t-shirt won't. Also, not relevant for the gym, but it's not safe to hike or ski in (only or mostly) cotton, since you need clothing that retains warmth after it gets wet.

I also agree that there's nothing wrong with wearing cute gym clothes simply because you want to, same as for any other aspect of life. We could all dress as utilitarian as possible to meet minimal social standards of appearance, but generally we like to do a little more. Also, now you can buy cute gym clothes at Target, Old Navy, etc so it's not like it's a choice solely between Lululemon and free men's XXL t-shirts you get at volunteer events. I bought $15 Old Navy yoga pants that I love wearing because I think I look great in them, even though strictly I can do yoga in old running shorts or stretched out leggings.

Phoebe said...

Caryatis,

I'm trying to picture which clothes could be for office and gym, apart from tank tops.

And, I have no idea re: yoga, having only ever gone twice to the free classes at my husband's postdoc. But all I've ever heard/read about it seems to be from women who feel that everyone else is in Lululemon while they, more noble, are in sweats.

Britta,

"I also agree that there's nothing wrong with wearing cute gym clothes simply because you want to, same as for any other aspect of life. We could all dress as utilitarian as possible to meet minimal social standards of appearance, but generally we like to do a little more."

Exactly. Which is why I didn't get how this piece was actually contrarian. As a rule, no one wants to be seen trying too hard, and gym-wear is the extreme version of this. Maybe because it's the opposite of formalwear? Or because of the presumed vanity involved in gym-going to begin with - working out and wearing flattering pants/lipstick would be somehow overkill?

caryatis said...

"I'm trying to picture which clothes could be for office and gym, apart from tank tops."

Yoga pants (alone or under a dress). More for errands or socializing than for work, but still more attractive than running shorts.

fourtinefork said...

I go to hot yoga, and I sweat buckets. (After class, my clothes are as sopping wet as if I just came out of a swimming pool.) I emphatically do not wear them again! I end up handwashing things, which involves a pre-soak in Borax to de-stink and then a vigorous scrubbing with Tide, because I try to go at least 3 times a week and don't have that many hot yoga-appropriate clothes. You cannot wear cotton t-shirts or old sweatpants to such a class and be comfortable.

For less sweaty classes, I'll rewear pants. When I was taking barre classes, which require the nubby socks, I ended up having to buy more socks, because I don't have a washing machine of my own.

As someone who goes to yoga & those so-called boutique fitness studios where one encounters lots of Lulu-decked women, often with insane engagement rings and perfectly blown-out hair, I understand both the desire to fit in and the desire to give them all a big F-U. I end up looking kind of schlubby anyway, no matter if I'm wearing Target or the one Lulu top I own (bought on sale, of course), so in the end, I don't think it's just the clothes.

Phoebe said...

Fourtinefork,

Totally agreed that the specialized gear (which, as you and Britta correctly note, need not be high-end) can be related to functionality. I have one activity, basically, which is running, both inside and outside. Will any pants do? Technically yes, but sweatpants mean overheating, PJ-type lounge pants (don't ask, and obviously from Old Navy) may slip down, and regular leggings have too narrow of an elastic band around the waist.

And also agreed re: those women, who seem to have it together in a way that transcends brand of yoga gear. I have no experience with the fitness world beyond gyms made available to students/academics, but I remember the women from when I lived in Battery Park City and, to avoid Gristedes, was a regular at the Tribeca Whole Foods. Shiny hair, Lululemon, huge ring, along with a Chanel purse and a gorgeous child in a stroller.