Have you wanted to wear spandex to the gym? Have you ever had complaints issued about you to the management for wearing it? Do you see people give you the side eye? We have heard this from some guys, while others have no issues. We asked the expert in Runners about this, Cesar Torres owner of LED Queens. Here is what they said about the issue:
There has been a growing movement of guys wearing spandex to the gym over the last few years, why do you think guys, gay and straight, are taking to spandex again?
If we pay attention to the history of fashion, we can easily recognize cycles that repeat. I would say that we are currently experiencing one of those cycles in fitness wear. The last time body-hugging legwear for men was this popular was probably the late 80s and early 90’s, which also happens to be a high point in the cycle for nylon/spandex in both culture and fitness. But I don’t think a historical cycle tells us the whole story. I think what we are seeing now is a movement of more personal and sexual expression as LGBTQIA people become more visible in out societies all around the world. A pair of tights can be a powerful tool for expression to say fuck you to the gender binary while also being fashionable in a fitness context. It’s a way to break some very silly rules about gendered clothing traditions and to also express yourself. I think the rise of Instagram also has a lot to do with the new popularity of leggings. People want to show off their goods on camera and get approval from their followers for those looks. Instagram, has a dark side, though, and that’s a much more complicated issue. Instagram can generate a lot of anxiety for people and also create false images of what reality is really like. But it doesn’t take away the fact that tights for men and male-presenting people can help one feel very proud of one’s physique. And we should all be proud, regardless of gender or sexuality. History has indeed repeated itself in many ways, but in 2018 this repetition of the cycle has extra meaning because we are living in the digital/machine learning age. The photographic image and video part of everyday life, and there’s no going back. Most moments of our lives (and fitness activities) are now captured into digital storytelling that is published on a daily basis.
Along with this rise in popularity, we have head from readers and our own on writer Shawn, that there has been some backlash from gyms against men wearing tights/runners, have you seen this from your customers?
In general, LED fans and customers have told me the opposite. They have said that their friends and acquaintances at their local gyms have embraced their leggings and tights, especially when the designs are very colorful or bright. They act as icebreakers for many people. However, I also have had a few customers tell me that they have gotten looks of disapproval or heard comments behind their back about wearing them. Many of those anecdotes have come from the United States. I think that the United States culture at large still has a lot of difficulty dealing with sexuality and the human body, and it drives me mad when I see people giggling over a man in tights at the gym. There is nothing to laugh at, in my opinion, and in fact, men pioneered tights. It was in Europe over several centuries in the past where men wore stockings and tights before women ever did. People who snicker and comment are usually doing so out of their own insecurities, and that’s nothing new. Customers from countries outside the U.S. aren’t experiencing as many anecdotes like these, and that also reflects the different attitudes to men’s bodies and sexuality in other regions of the world. It’s very contextual. At the same time, if you live in a community where your safety is threatened if you wear such fashion items, I hope you are cautious and also ready to fight for your own safety. We don’t live in a paradise, and I don’t want people who follow LED Queens to think we are living in a utopia. Things are still difficult for anyone who sticks out or doesn’t fit the typical mold. Stay safe, but never forget to stay fucking strong, too. Be a Queer Punk.
I feel this is a total double standard that women can wear them but men can’t. What advice do you give guys who want to wear these to their gym, when the gym says they have “complaints” about you wearing them?
The days of that double standard are over, by the way. Tights for men are here to stay, and the men who love them have spoken! Larger brands than myself like Under Armour and Nike have a load of analytics data and billions of dollars in sales to show that men (straight, cis and/or LGBTQIA) love tights. If owners or staff in your gym have received complaints about men in tights, I would want to know the specific details about the complaint. Complainers tend to say “I don’t want to be subjected to see a man’s junk!” But, if that is their complaint, why do they keep looking at men’s crotches all day long? Those who make this complaint tend to be obsessed with looking and gazing at men’s bodies, and those jerks often correlate to being closeted gays. Most men who are secure in themselves don’t spend all day inspecting other men’s bodies. I think these complainers need to be treated very carefully because they can be nuisances for a long time and can remain toxic. Nothing will stop them from being obsessed with looking at men’s crotches. If your local gym brings up a complaint to you, ask them, “who made the complaint, and what specifically did they say”? If you get a really vague answer from the staff, that’s already a red flag. That staff may not be an ally to you. If a gym asks you to cover up based on a complaint, you may be subject to their rules, since they are private businesses. Not much you can do about that. If that ever happens, the next action step is simple as hell. Stop giving those assholes your money and get a gym membership somewhere else where they are not policing people’s bodies.
At the same time, I am not going to say that every male wearing spandex to the gym is an angel. Because they’re not. Many guys love the exhibitionism of tights to a degree that moves into being a fetish or sexual game. As people, we also have to take ownership of our actions. If you are using the gym as a sexual playground where you are purposefully exposing your genitals with cock rings or clothes that cartoonishly exaggerate the bulge, you are free to make that choice. Women make that choice all the time by wearing low cut, plunging necklines and spandex tights that are cut too low to the gym. I am sex positive so, cheers to all the sluts of the world! But my point is, there is still a time and place for everything. A gym is not the same space as a fetish event. And many people forget that. The gym is communal spaces for all people, and we also owe other people respect if we want them to respect us. Make smart choices for yourself, and develop self-awareness. Self-awareness and maturity mean that you don’t make everything in your day about yourself. I am not telling you to hide your bulge, because I don’t advocate shame over our bodies, but keep in mind that only you are the best judge of the environment you are in, and some environments are better than others for transgressive, cruisy choices.
And on this note, let’s talk for a moment about shorts over tights, which I get a lot of questions about. I hate that style choice. I think it breaks the great silhouette of the leggings and can create problems with bunched up fabric or overheating. I think in many cases people do it because they are a bit shy about wearing tights alone. We have shown some product photos on LED’s Instagram with shorts over tights because we do acknowledge that for some customers, they want to see how the product will look with shorts. I get it. If you like shorts on top, embrace it. But for me, I like to wear shorts just on their own. Tights on their own. Embrace your personal style and just run with your choices! And have fun.
What is LED Queens doing to curb this type of thinking and show that tights/runners are for everyone?
At LED Queens, we show you what LGBTQIA people are wearing all over the world to help promote a better understanding of this fashion garment. We lead by simply being ourselves. Tights are indeed for everyone, including cis men, trans men, non-binary people, and both male- and female-presenting people. I personally regram, retweet and re-feature our customers of all shapes and sizes in our Instagram account as they work out in our tights or show off their selfies to the world. Yes, there are bulges in the pics. All good. And my customers are really handsome people! We recently rolled out our new hashtag #led🍑oftheday, which features LED fans’ butts in our gear. We embrace what a pair of tights does a for a mans’ body. You will never see Under Armour with such a hashtag, so come on over to LED, where we have way more fun than they do. LED Queens is here to validate the lives and bodies of LGBTQIA people. We don’t care about the gender binary, and we want people to embrace fitness. In some cases, we provide a virtual safe space for customers who live in smaller cities where there are not too many LGBTQIA sports clubs or support. That’s why I created our Facebook group Queer Punks Barbell Club: https://m.facebook.com/groups/259677044692626. That fulfills our mission to support the community. Tights are absolutely for everyone, and people have to remember that they are a fashion choice. Having respect for other people’s choices, even if you disagree with them, takes us one step closer to a better society.
What do you think we can do as an individual and as a blog to increase the awareness of tights/runners in the gym?
Provide a lot of love and support to people in your life who chose to wear tights and leggings. You don’t have to be patronizing or politically correct to do this. You can just simply say “I love your personal style, keep it up!” Or “you look great in your fitness gear!” And if you see people being teased or bullied over these choices, speak up. And above all, just respect other’s people’s right to be themselves.
We hope this helps you guys wear what you want when you want!