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Cycle shorts and yoga pants.
One of the features of my working life is that I get to travel throughout New Zealand and as such, I have a large list of cafes that I visit throughout the country. As well as feeding my coffee habit, these cafes are an opportunity to take a break from driving and use the wifi to check emails and send quotes.
Recently while thinning the blood out of my coffee system, I was struck by the conversation on the table close to me, where a group of women were commenting on, and hypercritical of, a couple of guys who came in for coffee dressed in cycling gear. The object of the women's derision was the humble cycle shorts that the men were wearing.
Apparently, according to the women, cycle shorts are not appropriate attire for a cafe and shouldn’t be allowed. I assume that they expect people to have a change of clothes with them, change into more cafe-friendly outfits and then change back again as they continue exercising.
Whatever your views about this topic, the conversation was not particularly noteworthy until the women got up to leave. Three of the four were wearing Yoga pants, and in two cases the fabric was stretched so thinly that both the patterns and style of underwear being worn could be seen clearly.
The hypocrisy of the women's comments was incredible. It was ok for them to sit in a cafe in skin-tight see-through activewear, but guys in padded cycle shorts, whom I might add were actually exercising and had stopped in for a coffee, were inappropriate.
I believe that everyone should be free to wear what they want.
I would go as far as to say that everyone should be free to wear as much or as little as they want and that wearing nothing should be an acceptable option, but I understand that may be a step too far for much for society. I don't agree with calling someone out for wearing any item of clothing, even if you might consider it inappropriate, especially while wearing something similar yourself.
I am sure that many of the people, often but not always women, who wear yoga pants in public, work extremely hard to maintain the carefully crafted callipygian figure, exercising and following strict dietary regimes.
I am also sure, although not through first-hand experience, that yoga pants and leggings are far more comfortable, otherwise why would they be so prevalent out and about.
It is entirely possible that the people out and about in activewear are on the way to the gym or have recently finished their exercise, and are just going about their day without feeling the need to change.
I wonder if many who wear fitting activewear are conscious of the curves and undergarments (if any) displayed as they go about their business. I am sure that some people will be empowered by the display in a positive and affirming way, but I fear some may be horrified if they were alert to the revealing nature of these garments.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a more accepting and tolerant attitude to nudity and a relaxing of dress codes. I am not offended by anything anyone wears, but I am confused by the apparent need to cover up, and the number of people in revealing and sometimes see-through clothing that seems to defy the social pretence of decency.
I think that society has some fairly conservative views about gender and appropriate dress codes and I celebrate people like Grayson Perry and Eddie Izzard, who challenge those norms. To be fair, those challenges are more about choosing to wear items not usually associated with society's idea of gender-appropriate clothing rather than pushing any boundaries of exposure.
Western society is far more forgiving about women's fashion than they are about men’s. Women have a vast range of styles and colours available to them, but if a male goes out in a dress, then he is often held up for mockery and abuse. Even in activewear, there are gender biases. A guy in active cycle-wear may be called a MAMIL (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra), a mildly derogatory term used to ridicule, but I am not aware of a similar term that applies to other genders out in public wearing activewear.
I don’t think that we should dictate what people choose to wear, and with regard to cycle shorts and yoga pants, I celebrate the fact that so many people are confident to go out in public in such figure-hugging outfits. I like to think that it is a sign of increased body confidence rather than a lack of awareness about one's appearance.
In the conversation that started this rant, men were criticised for being dressed, while taking a break from exercising, in clothing designed for exercise, by women dressed in clothing designed for exercise, who may have been taking a break from exercise, but might just have come out wearing something comfortable.
It would seem that gender equality still has some way to go.
I shouldn’t be surprised, it's another case of “do as we say, not as we do”, that society seems so fond of demonstrating.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.