The Furore about Fitness Fashion

I am a big lover of fitness fashion. A cute flicky edge on a running skirt, graphic patterns in jewel colours, mesh detailing on the edge of shorts. I am willing to pay a little more for nice cut and an eye for pattern design. This may appear a rather superficial or trivial stance in the eyes of some running enthusiasts but, if Asics, Nike, New Balance, Saucony, Inov8 or any other of the hundreds of brands that design, manufacture, and distribute running apparel want in excess of £50 for their wares, regardless of how functional or essential it is, I have to like how it looks. Obviously, function is still paramount. But most brands take care of that. That isn't enough anymore. For me, fitness is meant to be fun. I have more fun if I feel I look cool. I like it, thats the goddamn truth. 

This applies equally for clothing wear and for shoes. Obviously, the function is of even higher importance in the footwear, whereas for clothing as long as its comfortable its usually no problem. If you get a group of runners together they will still be discussing stability, cushioning, weight, studs and so on. However, that doesn't really excuse just how ugly most shoe design is- whats with the colours?! Why has it somehow become unacceptable for shoe manufacturers to still offer a running trainer in a a nice sedate black and grey combo? At least that would go with more things (fashion is not necessarily divorced from practicality).

Current favourite climbing top- a) open for plenty of movement b) looks bloomin' cool

Now this may all seem shallow as muck, but there is some evidence that what you wear effects how you feel and more importantly how you perform. A 2012 study (1) found that people performed better on attentional tasks when wearing lab coats*. They also found that attention was not aided when the exact same coat was described instead as a painter's coat. Basically, who your clothing implies you are (a smart person), changes who you actually function as, even if you are totally aware that you are not in fact a doctor. Wearing activewear is therefore likely to subtly imply that you are an active person, and that could have impact on how much activity you really end up doing. We've all used this to a certain extent- wear leggings and it seems more likely that you will go a run that day at some point. You're already dressed- the battle is half won!

It is important that the function is there. You don’t want to be worrying about neatening a skirt or pulling down your top when you’re pushing physical boundaries. But there is a multitude of running gear nowadays that is both. Running skirts, for example, attract a poor reputation. People seem to think you are prioritising looking cute over being a 'real runner'**. But this is the reality- good running skirts are very, very comfy. they protect the inner thigh in a way that shorts do not, and are wonderfully breezy. Wearing particular items of gym fashion is a choice, it doesn't mean you don't love your sport and doesn't mean you're just there to wink at the boys. It just means you prefer it.

Then you have to add the fact that I wear fitness gear a lot. Like, all the time. 6 workouts a week. And even when I'm not working out. On most Sundays. At my desk sometimes. I therefore don't really see the issue in spending a little more on it. I'd get far less wear out of a nice 'nights out' dress. Activewear gets more use, and more is required of it. I'd wear fitness gear to clubs if those dang bouncers would let me in anyway. Luckily for me, fitness is also crossing into mainline clothing. The sleek, Tron-esque look you get in gym wear is a cool addition. This stuff doesn't necessarily have the function that dedicated fitness wear does, but I like how it looks. I quite often wear one of my yoga vests as a fashion piece- comfier than most tops for a start. Again, this gets it double wear and makes the more expensive pieces worthwhile.

There's also no need to go top dollar- I head for sales for my pattern lust, as often the most insane patterns don't sell well. There are also beautiful items from brands like H&M and Kalenji (see Goldilocks' review here for some great patterns for a tenner). 

I don't have much time for the opinion that a true fitness enthusiast would be, "too busy working out". You're allowed to care, about anything you care about. Don't let other people tell you what to be enthusiastic about. Whilst wearing particular fitness gear may not make your training physically better, if it'll make you feel better, you go for it. Its not like making my ass look better will make my running worse. The same scathing attitude appears towards the brands sometimes too, 'their stuff is too pretty focused, not functional'- why not both? There are brands getting both right, though they may cost a bit. You're also allowed not to care.  Its not a fashion parade, and whilst there shouldn't be backlash against those who do care, there should not be a requirement to dress up either.

You want to wear a full face of make up? Do it. want to wear none? Do that. Want to wear a running skirt with a matching patterned top? Do it. Want to wear your most reliable shorts and top, whatever the colours? Do that. If you are comfortable and enjoying movement, then you have won

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Where do you fall- Do you care? Do you not? Why?

If you do have an aesthetic preference, what is it? I'm all about the graphic prints. 

* wait, I actually AM a scientist... where's my lab coat?!
** Real Runner can go do one as a phrase, along with Real Woman/Man

16 Comments:

  1. SARAH CRANDON said: Yes yes YES! I love new kit and am all about the patterns. I totally agree with you: when I've got an important day at work I dress for it, so why not when I'm running or racing?! I do it for me and how it makes ME feel and act. Dressing the part might not make me perform like a pro but sure makes me feel like I could! Thanks for a great read!

    [comment was accidentally published on another post, so I have moved to here!]

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    1. Hey Sarah, glad it makes you feel badass, love this: "Dressing the part might not make me perform like a pro but sure makes me feel like I could"!

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  2. Big HELL YES to this. Why should fitness clothes be any different from normal clothes in terms of wanting to look nice. I 100% agree that it puts you in the right frame of mind to work out and work out hard. Getting up at stupid o'clock to go to the gym can be made marginally better, in my opinion, if you have a nice set of clothes to go in and look bad ass (my opinion obviously - I don't think anyone has ever thought I look bad ass but me, ha!)
    And on the subject of running skirts, I love mine. It's breezy and AMAZINGLY comfy to run in.

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    1. Definitely puts you in the right frame of mind, and brightens up the early starts. Im sure you do look badass- always love the booty shorts you wear to races (they look cool- not trying to creep on you ;-)!)

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  3. YES! Fab post! Being heavier than most runners, and queen of stupid facial expressions and a red face, I'm very aware of how I look when running and sometimes I want to put a flower in my hair, wear make up, wear funky socks or run in a skirt. I'm not prioritising looking cute. It makes ME feel good. That does wonders for my mental state and in turn, helps me physically.

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    1. That's exactly it- it helps you in your head. A run can be made or broken in your head, so every little helps!

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  4. Love this! I'm all about dressing in active wear that makes me feel comfortable and awesome! I've heard a lot about running skirts/skorts recently too - am tempted to try one... :)

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    1. Do it! Lululemon ones are good, and I've heard good things about the Nike ones too! I also like my Sweaty Betty one.

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  5. Great post :) I definitely thing what you wear can make a difference. I often get jibes at crossfit for being "very coordinated today George" haha! But it makes me feel more confident and when I feel confident I work harder. I keep meaning to get a running skirt but never tried one! Definitely on my to-buy list!

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    1. Definitely buy one! I always love your taste in leggings (and those reebok shorts you have!)

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  6. Fab article. I don't care particularly about "fashion" per se, but what I wear is very important to me when I run. If I'm struggling for motivation, I might dig out that tshirt from a really tough race I finished, and wear that to remind me what I can and have achieved. Did a quad a few weeks ago that I wasn't really enjoying, and for the third marathon wore my Um Bongo vest as it's bright and silly and I needed to be cheered up and stop taking it all so seriously. I spend much, much more money on fitness gear than "normal" clothes and when I find something that makes me feel confident wearing it, because of the cut or the pattern, as well as having good technical properties, it's like the holy grail :P

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    1. I love the idea of wearing a tough race shirt to remind yourself of what you can, and did, do!

      The Um Bongo vests are cool, but also really hilarious!

      Everyone has that holy grail piece that they just love. :-)

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  7. I'm half and half on this. If I'm getting new kit, I need it to be lovely (being a Sweaty Betty ambassador obviously helps with this!). BUT on the other hand, I am totally fine with being seen in my oldest, crappiest, shorts I got from Sports Direct ten years ago. Now that I'm climbing, too, I've noticed I care a bit less about a 'nice outfit' as it always ends up covered in chalk, or even worse, snagging on the wall. If I'm doing yoga that I want to really relax in, I actually find that a really beautiful outfit can be a barrier - I keep looking at my leggings thinking 'aw' when I should not be...

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    1. Mixed opinions are completely welcome :-). You're definitely lucky with all that gorgeous team SB kit!

      I do find that I prioritize the practical with climbing- not necessarily because of the chalk but because of all the massive stretches. Shorts really wont do! I do however still wear a lot of black vest tops. Never before had I realized how often I touch my own boobs (get phantom chalk hands on my chest!)... Its actually because I hold my collarbone when 'm thinking but it looks well dodgy!

      The idea that you get distracted in yoga by pretty kit is really funny. However we have ALL had that day where we are meant to be in the zone but can't stop thinking, 'Where did she get that top?!'.

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  8. Great post! Well, you probably know my thoughts on this...I love FITNESS FASHION and new apparel can be a huge part of my motivation.

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    1. Yes, I think I know you do ;-)! I always look forward to your RightFits Friday posts!

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