A quick inventory of my closet is all the evidence you need to know that exercising is merely a thing I told my doctor I’d start doing more often. I spend a lot of time (and money) on the rest of wardrobe: wearing new clothes lets me try on different kinds of costumes, from tech ninja to martini-swilling teddy bear. But if I wanted to go for a run, the only items at my disposal were ratty old T-shirts with graphics referencing my high school water polo team or marketing agencies where friends of friends work. They were the sloppy and lazily-put-together clothes of someone whose workouts patterns could be described the same way. I had a lingering feeling in the back of my mind that by not working out I was doing invisible and not-so-invisible harm to my body—and I also just started to feel sluggish and lethargic on a day-to-day basis. Something needed to change.
So I started thinking about my workout clothes the same way I do my everyday clothes. I bought a swishy metallic Nike shirt seemingly made out of Alex Mack goo. A pair of the extremely aggressively named COMPRESSION PANTS (they’re leggings!) looked so cool under my sleek new Lululemon shorts that sometimes I would linger around the apartment to make sure my fiancée could get a good look at my tightly contained gams. The final touch: Adidas Ultraboost sneakers with that thick Jet-Puffed sole. Even when I felt terrible inside, I was convinced that I appeared to be on the verge of going step for step with Usain Bolt.
In buying all this stuff, I unknowingly (maybe subconsciously?) set a trap for myself. In order to wear my brand-new gear (which I really wanted to do; I love wearing new clothes), I had to work out. These were not clothes made to laze around the house in or even sneak out to the bodega in—they were meant for gyms, workout studios, or at least long runs outside. So I started using them. I started waking up in the morning to run. I bought a couple of SoulCycle classes. I wore a pair of loose Nike pants to my first-ever yoga class and loved it.
I don’t know if my new clothes acted as a placebo effect or if they actually enhanced my runs through, like, science, but they genuinely did make me feel better (faster, stronger, etcetera). The shirt’s fabric supposedly “wicks” sweat and spreads it throughout the fabric to keep dry. During my runs, I trust that my shoes will bounce me wherever I’m going.
Sure, this is a workout plan that only works for a special kind of moron, but I am exactly that moron—and maybe you are, too. There’s a long history of clothing affecting the why and how we work out. Think of Karl Lagerfeld pumping iron so that he could fit into a Hedi Slimane-slim suit. Or recall Deion Sanders’s words of wisdom: “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good.” Even Valdimir Putin works out in $3,200 Loro Piana sweats. The least I could do was procure a workout shirt that wasn’t shot out of a cannon at a sporting event.
I felt better, faster, stronger wearing my new gear, but performance enhancement was never really the point—I liked these clothes simply because they looked cool. Cool enough that I wanted to wear them as much as I did the limited-release sneakers I pined after or new weird pair of pants that were really going to change my life. (It’s always the next pair, I’ve discovered). I love to get a fit off. Why shouldn’t that extend to the outfits I put together when I really want to feel at your best?
There are serious bonuses here, too. When you start considering your workout clothes, you open up yet another opportunity to wear a great outfit (and when you get home: loungewear; add that to whatever else you wear during the day). And if you’re running, think of all the people you’ll blow by who will think: Wow, that blur looked really terrific!
After a hard-charging couple months during which Kevin Hart’s automated Nike Run Club app voice did not stop telling me how great I was doing, I’ve been less dedicated to jogging. My shoes feel a little less gravity-disabling and all the fun layers I had an excuse to wear during the winter have been melted away by the oncoming heat. Luckily, I know just the jolt my workout needs: I’ve got my eyes on a new, even radder pair of running shoes.
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