profile of jonnoseidler

Sweat, fashion and exercise inequality

Sweat, fashion and exercise inequality

So I’ve been trying out this new thing lately where I wear exercise gear in normal situations. It hasn’t really been going very well. People at coffee shops look at me sort of strangely when it’s clear that I didn’t just scoot past to pick up a takeaway and that I’m going to be sitting my sweaty ass there for real. When I meet mates for lunch, or hell, even to go for a walk, which is a form of exercise anyway, they unconsciously do that thing where their nose wrinkles slightly and their face says ‘Seriously, mate, what is wrong with you?’ I have crossed the divide between personal or group fitness and the outside world, and this, I have been informed in not so many words, is completely and utterly unacceptable. And the worst part is, I got the idea from most of the women I see in the street every day.

If you live in the ‘burbs, where everyone is always in a rush all the time, you’ll have noticed the same phenomenon I have. It’s something Nadine already picked up on a while ago with her Do’s and Don’t of Exercise Attire, but somehow over the last five or ten years, ladies have surreptitiously managed to turn gym gear into everyday wear and completely get away with it. The high priestesses at Lulu Lemon, Lorna Jane and Running Bare have turned the art of a brisk jog into a catwalk that has no endpoint. At almost any point other than Saturday night on a weekend, it’s possible to meet a woman in cute little Nike Frees and matching yoga pants and you’re going to have to treat it like it’s completely normal. Nobody says to a lady “That is freaking gross, as if you didn’t go home to change!” And yet that’s what I’ve been copping, even at the times when I didn’t even go to the gym at all.

Nobody likes double standards less than I, which is why I embarked on this new plan of spending the whole of Saturday and Sunday dressed like a total schlock to see what people would say.  As the strange looks kept coming over the course of the afternoon, I realised that the primary reason women get away with wearing jogging clothes in public is that they spend significant amounts of money to make sure they actually make them look better than regular duds. Seriously, there’s not one pair of pants at Lulu Lemon under $109. I don’t think God pays that much to do yoga.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but the whole point of exercise gear - unless you do this kind of thing for a living - is that you sweat through it and eventually destroy it, so it’s meant to be those embarrassing slogan T-shirts, old shorts and Balinese beer singlets all the way. The idea of spending more money than I would on a pair of jeans on trackpants seems just a bit ridiculous, even if they were designed by Jeremy Scott and managed to offend three different racial minorities just by existing. If you have three pairs of sneakers to match your colour-coded shorts and tanks and you only really work out properly twice a week, there are some charities in Africa you should be talking to.

Part of this, I feel, has to do with the dramatic increase in public forms of exercise and our subsequent obsession with appearing healthy. I’ve lived in the same area my entire life and never have I seen so many packs of runners on the street, boxers by the beach in the morning and cyclists pulling over en masse to stop for a coffee as I have in the last five years. We’re not stupidly buying Ab-Dominators and getting fit in the privacy of our own homes or small local gyms anymore (have you been to a Fitness First lately? It’s like the boys wax their hair especially before they go in). Rather, physical health has become a visible part of existence, and with it comes the inevitable need to look better when shvitzing than that other skank from down the road. This includes when you have no intention of doing anything but walking down said road with a latte to your car parked twenty metres away.  

After being belittled one time too many, I asked a friend of mine who was heading down to Bondi for a jog in exactly the get-up I just described what the deal was. “The reason girls love to wear this stuff is it gives them an excuse to be casual,” Jodi explained. “When you have trackies and runners on, you don’t have to worry about putting on make-up or doing your hair. You can just roll out of bed and do whatever you want.” She confided that she and her friends often wore their Exercise Uniforms without having any intention of actually exercising at all, just so they didn’t have to think about what to wear. I told her that I had tried for the exact same philosophy, and nosedived spectacularly.

“But of course you did!” she laughed, “You’re a boy!”

(Images via Shutterstock)

6 comments so far..

  • genevieverosen's avatar
    Commenter
    genevieverosen
    Date and time
    Wednesday 21 Nov 2012 - 4:18 PM
    I feel like this is directed at me and I can't decide if I'm offended or flattered that you wrote your whole column about my weekend get-up.
    This comment has been flagged.
    This comment has been marked for removal.
    This comment has been marked as spam and will be purged.
  • ScarlettHarris's avatar
    Commenter
    ScarlettHarris
    Date and time
    Wednesday 21 Nov 2012 - 6:34 PM
    I agree with the last paragraph: while I actually work out in my work out gear most days, there is something so easy about chucking said gear on to run to the supermarket or work in the garden. When my feet are sore, unpedicured or it's too cold to wear thongs and I can't be bothered picking out a respectable outfit, I default to trackies and a jumper. Provided there are few holes and unsightly stains, I say more power to the gym clothes for gym clothes' sake trend - for both girls and guys.
    This comment has been flagged.
    This comment has been marked for removal.
    This comment has been marked as spam and will be purged.
  • SuzTucker's avatar
    Commenter
    SuzTucker
    Date and time
    Wednesday 21 Nov 2012 - 10:12 PM
    Wow. This is all news to me. I just thought it was commonly accepted that people wear workout gear in public because they are working out in public? I've never been remotely conscious of a double standard. JJ: maybe your friends just don't like singlets/are meanies?

    PS Don't begrudge someone their chic exercise gear! Exercising is typically not an attractive activity, so there's no need to get judgmental about a nice hoodie or pair of trainers.
    This comment has been flagged.
    This comment has been marked for removal.
    This comment has been marked as spam and will be purged.
  • Panzypants's avatar
    Commenter
    Panzypants
    Date and time
    Thursday 22 Nov 2012 - 9:03 AM
    I don't understand the whole Laura Jane thing, from where I stand, it just makes you look like a sucker for paying top-dollar for trackies and jumpers with a giant name-tag on them. I don't look at a girl in "work-out gear" from target or LJ any differently as far as attraction. I just assume she is either going to the gym, or she is one of those chicks who only owns workout gear, work uniform and night-club dresses (with no apparel in-between).
    This comment has been flagged.
    This comment has been marked for removal.
    This comment has been marked as spam and will be purged.
  • TheGoreTheMerrier's avatar
    Commenter
    TheGoreTheMerrier
    Date and time
    Thursday 22 Nov 2012 - 3:07 PM
    Why do you feel the need to wear a singlet when you work out? That is your problem, not the rest of the double-standard. Singlets keep in no stink, are often way too big (I mean for F$%ks sake - did you try it on first or just buy the XXL because it shows off your pecs) and look like crap.
    Wear a slim-fitting technical t-shirt and see what happens. I exercise outside 6 times a week in shorts, technical t-shirt and runners. Not a single sideways glance or scrunched nose when I do shopping before/after, sit down to get something to eat/drink at a cafe/sandwich shop. Why? Cause I don't look like an idiot in an ill-fitting singlet vain enough to try and show the world my stunning physique.
    This comment has been flagged.
    This comment has been marked for removal.
    This comment has been marked as spam and will be purged.
  • jseidler's avatar
    Commenter
    jseidler
    Date and time
    Thursday 22 Nov 2012 - 4:55 PM
    That is honestly hilarious. If you knew what I looked like you'd know that I could use an XXL singlet as a doona.
    This comment has been flagged.
    This comment has been marked for removal.
    This comment has been marked as spam and will be purged.

Next article