denim in the gym

Jeans in the Gym versus Athleisure on the Town

I’ve never really been a jeans person. This is almost sacrilege in the state of Texas. For me, jeans are coarse, restrictive and uncomfortable. I only owned one pair of jeans as recently as two years ago. I now own three pairs as we are allowed to wear them at the office. Since everyone else wears them to work, I don’t want to seem like some sort of deviant, non-team-player, so I wear them too. Ironically, my jeans are never worn outside of the office, which is funny to me because jeans were adopted for their durability and affordability. The miners who originally bought them probably never envisioned wearing them whilst sitting in a chair all day and staring at a screen.

That being said, I’m also not sure why jeans are outlawed at most gyms. My understanding is that the coarse material and rivets could cause damage to some of the equipment, specifically the vinyl benches and seats that are prevalent in today’s modern fitness centers. There’s also quite a bit of trolling by gym goers when it comes to the fashion statement being made by people attempting to workout in denim. I get this as well, as I also find it weird. But I wouldn’t go so far as to outlaw a pair of Levi’s if you’re simply going to run on a treadmill. Sure, it makes you look crazy, but to each his own.

My own weirdness is that I prefer to adorn myself in activewear/athleisure apparel even when I’m not working out. This all started in my youth, when I participated in organized sports. I found it to be much easier to simply wear workout clothing all day as opposed to constantly changing in and out of “street” clothes. Keep in mind this was more than twenty years ago, before the current athletic apparel craze. I have always preferred a nice set of athletic pants as opposed to whatever brand of denim happened to be trending at the time. This is not to say I was walking around in a full blown track suit, but it was somewhat unusual that I preferred a soft hoodie as opposed to an actual stylish jacket.

Living and working in the South, things still tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to dress code. Despite the startup culture prevalent on the West Coast, I still get weird looks at work if I wear a zip-up hoodie with my jeans and collared shirt. It reminds me of my wife as well, who finds it appalling if I wear athletic apparel to a social event where other people will most likely be wearing jeans. To me, it’s funny to see a bunch of people wearing a uniform from the late 1800s.

I also don’t get the denim in summer thing. If it’s a hundred degrees out, why wear jeans? I get it if you’re doing something that would benefit from protective clothing, but outside of that, it just seems unnatural to me. There would be those who would say that shorts aren’t appropriate in some of these settings, but surely there are dozens of material options that would cover the entirety of your legs in a much more comfortable fashion. Heck, I’ve been known to wear a nice pair of summer-weight golf pants (they look just like slacks) to some of these events and seemingly go unnoticed.

There’s even a company now that specializes in implementing fitness clothing materials into actual business wear. I haven’t tried any of their shirts yet, but I am intrigued by the products offered by Mizzen+Main. Morgan Stanley recently published a marketing piece titled, Athletic Lifestyles Keep Apparel Sales Healthy. It’s just cursory information targeted at trying to get you to invest in the sector, but it does point out that, “Sports apparel and footwear sales have jumped 42% to $270 billion over the past seven years.”

As the athleisure bubble will eventually bust, leaving me subject to even more fashion ridicule, I simply ask that we try and have more tolerance around the choices people make regarding something as superficial as clothing. Is it really that big of a deal if I feel like wearing a comfortable tri-blend t-shirt and a nice pair of athletic pants outside of the gym? Conversely, when I see someone go into a gym wearing denim pants and cowboy boots, I too will try and hold judgement (as long as they’re not damaging the equipment). The clothes I choose to wear fit my lifestyle and don’t necessarily represent whatever is in vogue on today’s runways. As the great George Michael once said, “Sometimes the clothes do not make the man.”

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