Climbing fashion. It’s something we’re all painfully aware of. The guy in the gym with the basketball shorts that have most unfortunately wedged too far underneath his harness. The woman prancing around whole foods wearing climbing shoes with cams dangling proudly from her harness. Shirts off in 20 degree snow flurry conditions. Cameltoes. Cargo shorts. Bikini bottoms. Socks and sandals. Zip off pants. Uni-boob tanks. Manpris. Spandex. Mismatched shoes (not socks, shoes). Pegged pants. See, you read the first two and thought you were immune and could laugh at everyone else’s fashion mistakes. Wrong. Most of us are just as guilty as every other stylish rock climber. I, for example, seem to have a weakness for long underwear worn as an outer layer. Am I proud of this? No, but I’m willing to use myself as an example for my own mockery.
Many argue that lack of style is one of the reasons climbing has struggled to become mainstream. But if that’s true, how did wrestling ever make it?
Regardless of the consequence of our style choices, it’s a decision plenty of us consider on our way out the door. Perhaps we even recognize our own unsightliness. Yet our finicky needs – to be warm but not sweaty, to have the perfect length shirt that won’t let the cold air touch our midriff, to be able to stretch just the right amount, to not have our pant cuff block our line of sight, to heel hook with one foot while delicately smearing with the other – trump all regard for coolness. This is fine at the crag, where a mere flex of the bicep or drip of sweat on the temple can just as easily woo an attractive onlooker as a pair of $400 jeans. Here, our lack of fashion matches everyone else’s lack of fashion. We’re safe within the confines of our tiny, somewhat awkward community.
It’s our nights out on the town that reveal our lack of taste. Wearing muddy approach shoes out to sushi. Hiding your nice evening dress under a chalk filled down puffy. Opting for the cushiony set of perfectly broken in clogs rather than the heels. I’m not saying we all need to look perfectly prim and proper each time we walk out of the house, nor am I implying that I do. But there’s something to be said for not looking like a climber all the time.
So, in light of attempting to not look like someone who lives in a chalkbag, I’m adopting these three mathematic style equations, for both the crag and the city.
1. Fashion + Function = Helsinki Coat. 650 fill goose down, fleece interior, fur hood.
2. Corduroys = Warmth. Yes, this basically contradicts everything I just said. But after a few years of freezing on every climbing trip between September and May, I finally learned the trick – corduroys. I always thought soft, tight yoga pants would be the warmest, since they’re the coziest. Wrong. In fact, a little air space between your legs and the cords is even better. Plus, then you can wear a pair of long johns underneath. As it turns out, guys aren’t the tough ones at the crag, they’re just better at choosing pants.
3. High Heels = Strong Feet. Didn’t expect that did you? Over the weekend, I wore heels out for an evening in Denver. It wasn’t until the next day when I went slab climbing in the flatirons that I realized – low angle edging uses the same arch muscles as heels. So, never feel guilty about a night out – consider it training.
And sometimes, you just can’t help yourself.