Most would agree that the student body of NYU is consistently stylish. Pajama pants in class are an uncommon sight, and a significant portion of the Washington Square Park crowd always seems photo-ready. It shouldn’t be surprising then that this investment in looking put-together on a regular basis even extends to their appearance at the gym.
More than a few NYU students have dropped $50 on a pair of bedazzled yoga pants or a pastel racerback tank top. One may wonder why anyone would spend so much money on clothing that is made to perspire in. Very few people — aside from Nike models — can actually look attractive while working out, so the question remains as to why people make the effort when regular sweatpants would suffice.
CAS freshman Nicole Winograd is prone to wearing pretty but pricey Lululemon or VS Pink gear, but she agrees that a bit of a paradox exists.
“You’re supposed to [look] your worst when you work out, yet we keep trying to look our best,” she said. “Looking good while you work out shouldn’t matter, but it does.”
Winograd points to self-consciousness as a contributing factor.
“I personally just always like to dress to impress because I feel like people still somewhat judge what you’re wearing at the gym,” she said. “My main reason I dress up is because if I run into anyone I know, I wouldn’t want them to see me looking gross.”
It’s only logical for NYU students to want to look their best at all times, given our culture of stylishness and individuality, but when it comes to the gym, it’s hard to confirm that anyone really cares about appearances. The principle is similar to being on the beach — chances are, most people are too concerned with their own bodies to judge yours. The pressure to look good may be internally imposed.
“People like to look attractive in an area where people are literally there to become more attractive,” said CAS senior Jenna Haines, who works at the Palladium Athletic Facility. “I don’t think, necessarily, the gym forces that upon people, but the gym by nature has a lot of fit, attractive people in it already, and so I could imagine how you might want to look a certain way because the attractive people at the gym look a certain way.”
Body consciousness, however, may not be the only factor. Farren Allen, a sales associate at Victoria’s Secret Pink in SoHo, suggested that displays of economic status are the major priority for those dropping cash on expensive sweats and sports bras.
“Everyone wants to seem expensive,” Allen said. “Everyone wants to seem like they’re buying something expensive, and expensive things are often pretty and flashy.”
Given our modern, consumerist society, it shouldn’t be surprising that some people would find it desirable to spend a lot of money simply to show that they have the money to spend, even on gym clothes. Still, this breeds a unique variety of competition that has no place in the gym — no one should feel the need to worry about their financial situation while trying to improve physical health and fitness.
When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if the social pressures to look good — or wealthy — at the gym are real or imagined. If students simply feel more comfortable in muscle-baring cut-off shirts or hot pink shorts, they will enjoy their workout more. The reverse, however, is true as well — no one should feel pressured to look picture-perfect for the gym. After all, you’re just there to sweat.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 16 print edition. Ariana DiValentino is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]