Athletic clothing

I sometimes walk to the coffee shop, when the weather is not too wet, or too warm, or when I don’t need to carry anything too heavy and so on. Sometimes, I will ride my bike. Walking or riding, I find I’m often chastised for not wearing the exercise-appropriate clothing.

Certainly,  I see people arrive for a flat white latte or perhaps a chai tea looking like they’ve just completed a stage of the tour de France. From head to toe, they have clearly and unthinkingly taken some athletic clothing salesman’s advice and fallen for the likes of super aerodynamic helmetry, what look like dentists’ mirrors stuck to their heads, biliously fluorescent shirts, horribly revealing nylon shorts, and — of course — shoes designed only for cycling, certainly not for walking around in Starbucks. And all festooned with the advertisements and endorsements garnered by their chosen athlete — those endorsers would surely have grounds for legal action if they saw what I’m looking at — and a variety of blinking lights that they inevitably neglect to extinguish when they dismount. As if they needed any more attention drawn as they clack around the place in their special shoes, they overcome the recent effects of the wind in their ears by raising their voices to add aural to the visual annoyances they cause.

It used to be just skiers, didn’t it. And I can still excuse skiers their exotic collection of clothing and equipment, for historical and geographical reasons mostly. But now the need to dress and equip in gaudy and useless mimicry of televised professionals has come to touch almost all activities you might engage in.

Anyway, and with this in mind,  I’m asked how I can possibly ride a bicycle without wearing a pair of nylon shorts or at least a shirt that Lance Armstrong may have favored (at least that one wouldn’t have too many commercials on it). “You can’t possibly be comfortable,” they say. “You look ridiculous in your jacket and walking shoes,” they may add. Clearly, there’s a new twist on the term ‘ridiculous’ at play here.

I can try assuring them that if I ever attempt to cross the alps on my bicycle, as opposed to riding a couple of miles to the coffee shop, I’ll certainly take their advice to heart. I might even suggest that in the time it would take to “dress properly” I could be here, half way through my first cup and into the tenth clue in the crossword.

But none of that works, because in this day and age we have been conditioned to expect that every aspect of life requires its associated equipment. Athletic clothing falls into this category, and it’s emblematic of a more general sickness we have developed as a society; if you don’t have the equipment, you can’t be doing it right, and these days we all expect to do everything right all the time.

Doing it right trumps all else; comfort, convenience, doing it at all in the first place. The correct equipment is an indicator that you’re doing it right, and you better do it right because otherwise someone will notice and you may appear ridiculous. In the 21st century we have evolved to the point at which all the equipment that can enable us to do correctly whatever it is we’re thinking of doing is available to us. If you are unable or unwilling to take advantage of that, you are a 20th century dinosaur.