Paul Galvin: Wardrobe workout
There's no excuse for not looking good as you exercise, says Paul Galvin
Published 12/06/2011 | 23:59
Gym bunnies -- by far the greatest by-product of Celtic Tiger Ireland. Pretty young women in Lycra Capri pants, jersey shorts and trainers embracing a whole new lifestyle and attitude.
Our newly discovered affluence opened our eyes to good old-fashioned exercise. Of course, being a nation of considerable means meant good old-fashioned exercise was never going to be good enough. We would need somewhere suitably impressive to do it in. Gyms mushroomed all over Ireland and we became the fittest generation since Cú Chulainn.
Women drove the movement in the main and men followed in their slipstream, as we do. Or maybe, this once, we can claim to be the market leaders in gym-going. With it grew a demand for stylish, attractive yet functional gym gear. Three mornings or evenings a week with the girls required a new wardrobe, with gear that was stylish enough to be worn afterwards for brunch or coffee. And it was great -- a sign of our physical health, mental wellbeing and confidence as a nation.
With the economic collapse, you just hope we don't retreat again into our pre-Tiger state of being, when going to the pub, complaining and walking the underdog were hobbies. Let's stay fit and play hard, Ireland.
So, girls got fit and got the look even better. Fellas suddenly realised they needed to keep up with these independent sisters doing it for themselves and joined gyms too, if only to ogle. Or even find a companion. It has happened, I'm told.
A very good friend once told me that I was lucky to be my age, as Irish women were so much more attractive today than in his time, as back then (the 1970s and 1980s) there were no gyms.
Simplicity really is the key to dressing for the gym, though the simple days of putting on a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and trainers didn't last long. Gym culture soon turned to yoga culture. Gyms were for sweaty brows, yoga for high brows.
So the gear became more and more stylish, body conscious and flattering. Stella McCartney's collection for Adidas is a case in point: a fusion of high fashion and active wear full of great pieces, from Capri pants to hoodies, tank tops, studio jackets and modern takes on T-shirts, all made from traditional or organic fabrics but finished with contemporary cuts.
So much active wear is available online now too. Sweaty Betty is a UK-based online shop for girls with a fantastic range of gear catering for yoga, Pilates, swimming, tennis, boxing, running and cycling. All very chic.
There are two looks I love on a girl in the gym. The first is three-quarter-length leggings or Capri pants with trainers, obviously, and a simple T-shirt and sweater with the hair tied up. Very elegant, even in the gym.
Or more simple again, running shorts and a vest top. Sweatbands can be stylish and practical.
It all depends on body shape and proportions, of course. Slimmer girls will go for more Lycra and Spandex blends in their gym gear, which cling to and sculpt the body. Not-so-slim girls may prefer looser cotton or polyester. The problem with these fabrics is they cling with sweat, unlike Lycra or Spandex which are breathable and manage moisture better. Regardless, the most important thing is to dress for your own comfort.
For men, it's best to keep it simple. Most sports shops will cater for our basic gym needs. New Balance does good, strong, supportive running shoes that look the part too. The right length shorts are important. T-shirts are best, too, in the main.
Never the cycling shorts, never the high tops, and never the raging BO, lads. Good personal hygiene is the only accessory you need.
The explosion of the gym culture has been such that active wear has found its way to the catwalk again. Lots of zip detail, mesh inserts, panelling and pops of fluorescent colour on dresses, skirts, shirts all nod to sportswear from the catwalk this spring/ summer.
Isabel Marant really nailed what is a tricky fusion of labour and love. From the gym to the catwalk, the look met on the streets. Drawstring tracksuit legs with heels and vests made for a great daytime look. Varsity jackets, chinos and court shoes became evening wear. Shorts and knee socks found their way to the clubs.
It's very easy to look bad in the gym. We can't all look like an extra from an Eric Prydz video, but the key is never, never overdo it physically. The only thing you'll pull like that is a muscle.
Whether you're a guy or a girl keep it classy. Things will work out.