I read that sportswear is now in fashion. Does this mean I can describe my old Man United shirt as vintage?
Anonymous, by email
No, it does not, for two reasons. First, ugh, Manchester United? Please. Second, when people say sportswear is in fashion they don’t mean ACTUAL sportswear. They mean sportswear designed by fashion designers, because although designers love to talk about taking inspiration from the street, they don’t mean that people should wear clothes from the street. GAWD, no. They mean they should wear the expensive copies made by the designers, and sometimes this is because they’ve improved them (believe it or not, even an old football shirt has room for improvement) and sometimes it’s just because they want your money. Swings and roundabouts in the crazy ol’ world of fashion, eh?
Clothes for exercise have been fashioned-up in the past few years, which means that, should you wish to spend over a hundred quid on a stripey sports bra with a designer name on it, you can! Truly, what blessed times we live in. This is not really new – Adidas and Nike have been jacking prices up on their sportswear pretty much since they first started swooshing and striping their clothes. Adidas in particular picked up which way the capitalist wind was blowing with its hugely successful designer collaborations with Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto, which enabled it to charge even more for its already overpriced clothes. Net-a-Porter, one of the canniest fashion websites in the world, joined the party with the launch last year of its Net-a-Sporter category, where women can spend £135 on yoga pants and £380 on something that describes itself as a “hooded tunic top”, which is absolutely essential to everyone’s exercise routine.
It’s not exactly difficult to see what is going on here. Regular exercise has become about more than the pursuit of good health – it’s a lifestyle statement, akin to doing a daily shop at Whole Foods. It might be good for your health, but it’s also proof that you have money and time on your hands, and probably a certain amount of smugness to spare. Exercise takes time, time plenty of people do not have if they have inconvenient things such as full-time jobs and families. I love it when celebrities such as Stella McCartney and Madonna insist that “everyone” can find time to exercise and then, in the next breath, talk about their personal trainer.
This is one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s favourite topics – yes, you knew she’d come up here – and she writes often about how it’s TOTALLY possible to be a great mom, a hard worker and in possession of “a smokin’ hot bod”, as Gwynnie would probably put it. Sweetly, she does not seem to realise that most women do not have the freedom that she does to exercise daily – according to her – from 10am to noon. I know celebrities think their lives are, like, CRAZY BUSY (Gwynnie writes a lot about how INSANE her life is), what with all those dress fittings, appearances on The Voice and photoshoots with Annie Leibovitz. But they don’t quite get that this is not really the same thing as having a boss and not having childcare. To be able to fit an hour of exercise into your week, let alone two a day, is a privilege – not proof that you are morally superior.
And then there’s the expense. Sure, going for a run is free (if you don’t have to pay for childcare), but what if you hate running because you want to have knee joints when you’re 50? Well, you can get a personal trainer (££££), join a tennis club (£££), go to some kind of exercise class (££) or spend an hour gulping down old sticking plasters in a communal swimming pool (£). And that’s all before you fork out for the overpriced exercise clothes. So, as I say, it’s not really a surprise that an ability to exercise has become a lifestyle statement. As one journalist wrote in the Times last year: “In West London, you do the school run in yoga-wear and, after drop-off, head to yoga, Pilates, Zumba, or all three.” Whither the revolution?
The theory behind expensive exercise clothes is that if you know you look good in them, you’ll exercise more. But speaking as someone who is lucky enough to be able to exercise occasionally, I can tell you that this is gold-plated nonsense. People worry about what others think of them far too much as it is (rule to live by: no one’s thinking about you because they’re too busy thinking about themselves). But there are two times in a person’s life when they really mustn’t think about how they look, as it will only work to their detriment: during sex and during exercise. If I spent more than £300 on an exercise outfit, I would, after seeking medical help, never use it. How could I? The thought of getting a £300 outfit all sweaty and gross makes me feel faint. No, a pair of £15 leggings and a £5 vest top from Topshop is what I wear, and that’s all you need, too. You’re not Jessica Ennis-Hill, so stop talking about how you need special weave fabrics to wick away the sweat, or whatever tosh the salesperson told you (and that goes doubly to all those cyclists out there who dress up as if doing the Tour de France for their daily commute. Chaps, please. Look at yourselves. And stop shaving your legs to “make better time”, OK?)
Exercise is nice: it cheers you up, it makes you feel a bit better about yourself and it can make you healthier. But it is not a lifestyle statement and it most definitely does not require hundreds of pounds of expenditure. Only poseurs wear fancy exercise clothes, and posing is simply terrible for your biceps, darling.
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