Holy $hit! Being Athletic Doesn’t Mean Wearing Strictly Athleisure? Rethinking Style Cues.
It’s funny, I’m just now coming to a pretty major realization that, despite the fact that my life does revolve around athletics—writing about them, doing them, supporting them, being around almost exclusively athletes—I don’t need to always have the athlete identity at the top of my mind. I won’t look ridiculous wearing a dress, I’ll look like a (slightly more muscular than average) person wearing a dress. It seems ridiculous saying it now, and I’m going to explore it a lot more later, but I realize that I’m annoyed that I’ve let my entire identity get wrapped in one facet of my existence. Who cares if I’m wearing a nice sweater while surrounded by team- and sponsor-correct sweaters, or a leather jacket when everyone else is in puffy coats?
So, I wrote this first paragraph in early December, saved it in drafts for later. Then, mid-December, I picked up “I’ll Eat When I’m Dead,” an AMAZINGLY written novel by Barbara Bourland, and a) I am obsessed with it and if you love fashion journalism, I highly recommend it; and b) THIS paragraph stopped me in my tracks:
“Cat didn’t like any outfit, accessory, aesthetic, or genre that reduced women to what she considered to be traditional female prisons: the happy homemaker, the sexy librarian, the bitch in a power suit, the carefree athlete, the sophisticated socialite, the bad girl, and so on. These tropes were only done to death, but they weren’t, she felt, modern; they didn’t account for the global diaspora of cultures and pressures that affected how women chose to present themselves each day. All those old hats did was show a woman how to occupy a place she’d already been hundreds of times before.”
Holy $hit. I read it, and immediately thought about this post, which I’d started writing as we were sitting in a cafe in London and I was starting to realize that being in all athleisure, all the time, wasn’t something I had to do. Maybe it was because Ellen and I had gone to Rapha earlier that day and seeing all the people who work at the London HQ, I noticed that most of them weren’t dressed like they were cyclists. Then, in Paris and Antwerp (I know, it’s been an INSANE trip), I realized that every stylish woman I noticed was a) not wearing athletic clothing, but b) was wearing an absolutely fantastic long wool coat with skinny jeans or leggings, a great sweater, and cute booties or sneakers.
It was active, you could walk all day in it, but it wasn’t pretending to be athletic.
As an athlete, especially when it’s what you do as a career (even when you’re writing about it, not being a pro athlete!), I think there’s a pressure to look athletic at all times, to fit this idea that you’re an athlete. That’s how you define yourself. The same way a lawyer wears a suit to the office, you’re supposed to look ready for a workout at all times. At least, it can feel that way.
In Paris, I chopped my hair off. More on that later, but it was partially in deference to this idea. I had grown my hair long originally in order to be able to put it in a ponytail for—you guessed it—working out. But that was patently ridiculous. (For a lot of reasons.)
I joked about it on Instagram, going with the Dr. Dre lyric, ‘Turn me back to the old me.’ Because, while me in the early 2000s had some style issues, she f-ing got dressed. She had a distinct style—not always great, admittedly. But I miss that, so much.
I’ve changed over the last decade, obviously. (Ellen put it hilariously when she pointed out that I was “married, but has tattoos.”) My style is a bit more muted than the ludicrously short plaid skirt with spiky hair and insane amounts of black eyeshadow (not eyeliner. eyeshadow.). I do need to dress to move around during the day, and I do prefer a more athletic-focused style. But I didn’t need to swap the leather jacket for a sponsor-correct puffy coat. (Well, I do need a puffy coat right now. It’s freaking cold in Ontario.) The most “me” that I felt all season? Oversized black tshirt with the white Rapha logo, sleeves cut off to make it a muscle-tee, black and white sports bra showing, shiny black leggings, black sunglasses. Athletic, sure—I could run the course taking pictures all day. But at the same time, it felt like something I would have worn to a basement show, no problem.
These tropes are done to death—and I want to be whoever I wake up as, any day.
What’s the point of this post? I guess it’s to give myself—and you!—the permission to be an athlete without needing to shout it out every second of every day. To wear something on a hike that you could also wear to brunch. To wear whatever the F you want, to be whatever style suits you the most, regardless of how athletic you are. I’ve spent so much time subscribing to one-lifestyle = one-style (the same was true when I was a punk kid, really.). It’s time to break that mold and embrace what I like, not what showcases the fact that I like running and ride bikes and lifting heavy things. Yoga teachers and runners and cyclists can be punks too, right?
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