There are times I’ve been ridiculed for wearing tights, bandanas, and crop tops on runs, but I have since grown comfortable stepping outside prescribed norms in the name of performing at my best
Photos by Samantha Ong, RG Medestomas, and Miguel Aldeguer
We’re all victims of prescribed norms.
Sitting at home, working indoors, possibly bored out of our mind (and that’d make us pretty lucky), stuck in a pandemic. That is, a pandemic that has arguably proliferated through prescribed business, social, and ideological norms.
While that might be a bit abstract, there are norms that govern much of our daily behavior—and these are just as befitting of keen inspection. What you wear, the words you decide to use, and even the food you eat at any given time of day. I mean, whoever said you can’t eat a banana and a bowl of oats for dinner?
Even what you wear
Now, this may be closer to my own experience than the truth, but there are prescriptions of what a typical man does not wear. As the kind of man who dons bright patterned bandanas, wields tote bags, and wears plastic and pearl rings, I’ve had my hand somewhere near the pulse of this notion of “what not to wear.” By that, I mean I wear clothes that don’t evoke a “man’s man” image—and in a context that, to me, says each man should be a man’s man.
As years have tumbled by and I’ve gone from floral shirts to skinny jeans and onto cropped pants, I’ve begun to worry less about prescribed norms and have renewed my focus on what is most genuine to myself and the type of energy I want to throw out into the world. I value engaging in things that extend my sense of self—and that includes what I wear.
This has naturally merged into my running
Running has become a key focus in the constellation of things holding up who I am. Naturally, the most important focus requires granular attention, as our most cherished interests deserve the most suitable environments and most effective tools. Running hence demands from me the following: that I shell out a bit more money on the most comfortable running shoes available to me, that I set aside requisite time to engage with my sport, and that I wear the most comfortable clothing per my standard.
And my standard?
Cropped cotton tops, an unnecessary patella strap, and the occasional pair of tights (typically for recovery).
Where this sidesteps the norm
In tights and on a run, there are numerous occasions in recollection of extended looks, chuckles, and on one striking occasion, finger-pointing. Tights aren’t, in our cultural milieu, typically worn by men. But frankly, they’re comfortable—with adequate compression to aid my legs on my slower recovery runs.
The patella strap hangs just under my right knee for no reason other than the one I’ve designed in my head. It’s the assurance that an old injury sustained in college won’t come back. While I raise my hands and admit that it’s unnecessary, I’ve run personal bests in the thing and it’s here to stay.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP), I’d argue, are also here to stay—as is my favorite RHCP crop top. While I could attempt to veer in the direction of some sort of pseudoscience urging you to believe that the crop top allows better air circulation or that the challenge of half-drowning in a sweaty cotton shirt is the secret to faster running, I will step back and admit: There’s no secret sauce. I just run better in these clothes.
Your standard should be what makes you comfortable
I suppose that’s an ironic thing to say. I’m telling you what your standard should be, whereas the whole point of this was: Wear whatever you are most comfortable in, that which helps you perform at your absolute best. While there will be no shortage of the latest sweat-wicking, breathable, and aerodynamic running kits, there will always be the classics you’ve worn and loved that help you be the best athletic version of yourself.
There are those moments when I feel the frustrated eyes suggesting that what I’m in is “what not to wear” and glow with an anger that asks, “Why can’t I just wear what I like?” It is in these that I am most pressed to grow the mental fortitude required to carve my own path.
I’ve grown warm to the notion that our values are most truly our values once they have withstood difficulty. Perhaps, our most genuine selves shine through when they’re provided friction too.
Now, I’m well aware that there are those among us who wear all the gear and follow all the prescribed norms. I’m not positing that this makes one any less genuine nor am I establishing some sort of hierarchy of authenticity. Rather I am writing for the individual who’s too shy or ashamed to wear what they want to wear on account of it deviating from a prescribed norm.
Everyone should be allowed to perform their best and be themselves while doing so, working on the things that matter to them in their environments, and wearing the clothing they’re most comfortable in.
Running is a gift, a sport, and a medium of self-expression. And I do it best in my cotton RHCP top and my “useless” patella strap.