Michael the III’s Guide to Gym Fashion
Staying Fit and Flirty With the Instagram Influencer
- Text: Michael the III
- Photography: Michael the III
I know what you're thinking because I've thought it too: Why must we wear clothing at the gym? The long answer is that there are rules prohibiting errant dangling and excessive sweating on expensive equipment. I've reminded health club managers that the ancient Greek word "gymnos" means "naked," but it seems not everyone shares my desire for historical accuracy. They say, Michael, think of the other members! Actually, I've tried my best not to do that. I prefer to avoid social activity of all kinds at the gym. Instead, I let my clothes do the talking, so I can get to work. It's not any trouble at all.
To communicate a variety of messages over the course of a workout, you will be changing (burning calories) quite often. Bring a bag with enough room for all your clothes, few of which you should be wearing as you sprint into the locker room out of breath. This first presentation implies your workout is done. You're not arriving, you're leaving. And no one likes a quitter. Also, bring 10-12 locks to reserve a perimeter of lockers around you to create a buffer zone. Once protected by negative space, you'll want to change into your first outfit—one for stretching (also known as posing). For this stage of the workout, I am inspired by the iconic fashion of gymnastic coaches. Zip your zippers all the way up, showing you are sporty but not active enough to work up a sweat. This intimidates other members, leaving you with a quiet moment. If that doesn't work, fake a phone call and use phrases like, "Going to prom won't get her to the Olympics!", "What is the time difference in Romania anyway?", and "Hi baby, we're out of hand-chalk, can you pick some up on your way home?"
When you come across an unsavory soul who remains on a machine past their allotted time, it's time for a big fashion moment. They're too busy hogging the elliptical to notice you, so for this you'll literally want to turn heads. As always, wear something that best expresses your character, but make sure it also has a lot of drama and volume—like me. This will be how you metaphorically yell at them, since you prefer to avoid yelling in real life. If they turn around, look instantly away so as to not make a scene. That is not the type of relaxed gym experience you want.
Let's imagine for a moment you've actually done something strenuous; you're sweating. Adding a cut-out is a great fashion detail and ventilation technique. Generally, it is frowned upon to place cut-outs on the butt (academically referred to as "butt-outs"). An elegant lace underlay could turn that managerial frown upside down, but I haven't yet tried it as lace makes me itch. Cut-outs at the crotch are incredibly useful and visually appealing, but are too much of a conversation starter to advocate with good conscience. I prefer chest-baring cut-outs in support of the ongoing #FreeTheNipple campaign, which I think nearly everyone agrees on yet which still remains an issue due to unfair social constructs.
You are trying to completely avoid human contact, but you still want your besties at the gym to know a little about you. That's easy: wear clothing that expresses your interests. I like the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, so I wear Mapplethorpe to the gym. A few years ago I went to a Beyoncé concert, so I printed "BEYONCÉ TOUCHED ME" on every surface of my body. I ate spaghetti on a date last night in a brilliant white ensemble and I let everyone know by proudly wearing the tomato stains today. Over the course of one week, I conveyed the message that I have great taste in art, I am publicly adored by the publicly adored, and I am a passionate Italian lover who isn't afraid to get dirty. If someone engages with you over these personal advertisements, at least you've curated the conversation. After all, we don't hate humans here—we just hate not talking about ourselves.
The gym is not always a fresh environment and you will not always know where the smell originated. Still, there is a more pressing concern: if you smelt it, you may have dealt it. Your proximity to the inelegant fragrance makes you a suspect! I don't often advocate for humility, but here a humble cut is encouraged. Anything with a frayed or open hem will do nicely. The democracy of life means that no matter what you wear, anyone is capable of being the smelly one, so you must take this outfit to the next level with posture. Express a comfortable, "life smells sweet," pastoral vibe. Your body language therefore should convey happiness, but please avoid aggressive joyousness if you're partaking in sports like boxing or karate. Choose it confidently, though, if you're doing synchronized swimming or teaching a spin class. If you're at Zumba, it could really go either way.
It may happen from time to time that someone spots you from across the gym. He'll give you a nod, maybe even a wink. You've dressed to repress for your entire workout and this is the first welcomed human interaction you've had. What will your life be like now that you're in love? Which side of the bed does he like? Don't be fooled by a wink and white spandex shorts! He did not spot you—he wants you to "spot" him at a workout bench! These men are out there, and you certainly didn't come to the gym to be made a fool, nor a personal trainer. You must avoid situations like this by using a classic technique for evading responsibilities: being so bad at the job that no one wants you for it. For safety reasons, you can't be bad while performing this task, so you need to convey that message beforehand. An easy way to do this is to struggle while using inappropriate amounts of weights. You won't get a great workout, but it’s better than dealing with a broken heart once he leaves you as fast as he's come.
The arrival of a rival gym-goer isn't as glamorous as in the movies. There's no menacing fanfare, and I've yet to share a scene with Melanie Griffith. These opponents arrive, poke your shoulder, and ask how many sets you have left and if you'd mind sharing. You could tell them off. You could shout about how rude it is to ask strangers personal questions, how they've interrupted your TED Talk on how to maturely deescalate situations, or expostulate the logistics of sharing a Swiss Ball when one person can barely balance on it by themselves. There is not much you can do here but act oblivious, pretend you don't understand what they mean by "share," and wear a typographic headpiece that asserts your right to take your time: words like “Manager," "Icon," or just "Go away, I'm almost done."
They say that grunting actually helps your workout. But until I see a study proving a physical advantage in identical twins with identical workouts whose only difference is that one grunts while the other is considerate, I'd rather not hear grunting while listening to the Hannah Montana soundtrack. Similarly, I'd rather the couple stop hogging the mirror as they take turns taking pictures of themselves, and so we must divert attention from their tasks by presenting a visual distraction meant to confuse them. For this you must wear something extremely comfortable. You need to find a piece of nearby furniture and place your body onto it in such a way that is avant-garde, but also completely natural and alluring. Hold the pose and wait.
Now that you've been at the gym for several hours, you will start to see people you know from the outside world. This is generally complicated by the fact that while you do know them, you don't actually want to see them. This person may take many forms: the 250-pound trainer you forgot to pay last year, the co-worker who always wants to show you videos of concerts they've attended, or worst of all: your ex's best friend. This creature has all the best intentions (for your ex), so you want to avoid small talk at all costs. If you cannot, your clothing and demeanour should remain casual so as to not show fear. How have you been? No complaints. Have you guys spoken since the break up? There's no hard feelings from me! Are you seeing anyone? No one special. Who was the guy you were pinching last Saturday? My orthodontist. Where did you meet him? Jury duty. These questions are rude and cannot be tolerated, but their alliance to your ex is your secret weapon. Threaten this by rolling up your shirt, exposing the two-pack you've spent months achieving and your name-brand underwear which gives a pelvic focal point. Wipe the sweat off your face. Is it hot in here for you? A little bit. Do you come here often? Sometimes. It shows in those biceps. Thank you. I always thought you were cute. Oh really? Okay well, I'm going to take a shower now. And just like that, you've won.
You've avoided a great many people today and have even done some light exercise. Returning to the locker room, you may suddenly feel social. This is normal. Put on a robe and relax. Play some Chinese Checkers in the sauna, do some people watching, order a protein pizza! This is your time to unwind and prepare for your final gym event: bath time! Remove all your clothing. This is a time when nudity is allowed and you can be decidedly less fashionable. Still, don't be afraid to wear fun accessories that express your interests. People like to see you having fun with fashion in a steamy public bath—a fashionista's work is never done.
- Text: Michael the III
- Photography: Michael the III
- Model: Michael the III
- Styling: Michael the III
- Hair and Makeup: Michael the III