Choosing Clothes For The Gym Or The Race: Appearance Versus Function


Hi folks,

When purchasing your workout or race gear select a balance between appearance and function that works for you. It is important to feel comfortable during exercise, but people differ in how their state of comfort is generated. At one extreme, there are people who really care about how they look to others. It is all about how other people perceive them, or how they are ‘turned out.’ We all have this in our psyche, for evolutionary reasons, but some have it more than others. At the other end of the spectrum, which is close to where I live, are people who only consider function and don’t really care how they look. I ask myself, does this clothing work for me with respect to comfort and how well it provides the tools that I need, such as pockets for my gear and protection from the sun. If you are fashion conscious go to one of the glossy magazines or watch others who are admired for their looks at races, but don’t ask me as it is not my bailiwick. With respect to how I look, I ask Deb and generally follow her advice, as long as my garb also works function-wise.

Ironman's new umbrella. I bought this lovely piece of gear because I like to stay dry in the rain, and during my studies of Botany I admired the Compositae. Deb hates me using it, and I love it. It works so well.

Clothes play an important role in human behavior, not least in our jobs. Many years ago, about 15 years into my research career when I had some idea what I was talking about, I was invited to give a lecture at a meeting in Aspen, Colorado. Nice work if you can get it, but that is long behind me now. I arrived at the meeting location with my usual gear, including slides and a grey suit. On the way there I read ‘Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)‘ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for the nth time. This book recounts the tail of a Turk who discovers an asteroid (B612), and upon reporting his finding to an august body whilst wearing a fez his findings are ignored because he looks different. Twenty years later, due to a coup in his country, he is forced to wear European dress whilst attending a conference to present the same asteroid sighting, and this time, solely because of his clothing, everyone is very interested in what he has to say. Classic group or clique mentality.

Upon reading this book, I decided to leave my suit in my room and deliver my lecture in my usual clothes, shorts and a tee shirt. Clothing dictated by comfort alone, as it was hot. I had cold feet about a minute before I was due to talk, asking my colleague whether he thought the audience would be offended by my dress. He said, “I’m sure it will be fine.” (He always wears a suit for lectures, but he did calm my nerves). My talk went well, as I am a fairly accomplished speaker, and upon returning to my seat in the audience my friend said these words, which henceforth changed my public speaking attire, “Kevin, when you went up to speak I overheard a guy over there say, this speaker must be good, he’s not wearing a suit.” From then on I wore my usual street clothes for scientific presentations, and was successful as an invited speaker at many meetings, only wearing a suit for one such event in the next 15 years. The latter meeting was held in Washington DC, with a group of major chemical industry CEOs. My friend Byron said to me before I left, “Kevin, you have an important message, so please wear a suit or these guys won’t even be able to hear what you say.” I heeded his advice, which turned out to be right on the money, as the attendees were all wearing $1000 suits, and my message was important with respect to public safety. Do the clothes make the man? In my opinion they make the disguise, which is not always a bad thing.

We each have our preferences, which are neither right nor wrong, they are part of what makes us who we are. Be proud to be you, and do what you feel is appropriate for your goals, but also embrace change if it is needed for the happiness of you and that of those around you. Don’t look like a slob if you are about to ask someone out at the gym, unless you are a slob, as you don’t want to look like something that you are not, as ‘the truth will out!’ In this case, appearance is the function! I would advise against your looking like a derelict coming over the line at a race, if the race photo is important for your business. That said, your gear must be comfortable, with no chafing or other issues to ruin your training.

Find your clothing balance and enjoy it, I say!

-k Your Medical Mind


  1. clique not click

  2. Kevin Morgan says

    Hi Trevor,

    Thanks for the edit, which is much appreciated. Marian has been helping me with this, quite a bit, and it seems that scientific writing is helpful to my chosen blogging activity, but it has it’s weaknesses. I don’t remember using the work clique in any of my lectures. I am really enjoying learning new things, and maybe, one day, I will appreciate poetry. Right now this art generally leaves me confused and wondering what is being said.

    OK! On to the next task on this lovely North Carolina day.

    -k @FitOldDog (now back in training, thank goodness!)

  3. Now that is strange. Most specialisms are full of little competing and often quite bitchy cliques. Cliques are everywhere and not just in a bar for down and outers. You get cliques of up and comers and mediocres and all sorts.

    Take economists for example, it is a well known fact that if you lay all the economists in the world end to end they would not reach a conclusion. I was always having to appeal marks in uni as I was not a monetarist and most lecturers were. I could have got a first if I’d joined that clique.

    • In my experience, the true geniuses are usually hunted down and killed by the clique, the power hungry inept are raised to power (in the case of humans this position generally requires an acceptable height and good hair), the sycophants are thrown crumbs but rejected ultimately, the sheep applaud with varying volume depending upon their sense of security, and the mimics mingle with the crowd deciding at what level to find a niche that promises safety from detection and an adequate living.

      • James Clark Maxwell, (Theories of electricity and magnetism) first calculated the speed of light and theorised that it was electromagnetic by nature. For this he was reviled even long after his death by Lord Kelvin.
        However Einstein said “…without Maxwell I was nothing…”

  4. Matthew Morgan says

    I purchased my favourite running t-shirt whilst holidaying in New York in 1999.
    It’s halfway between an itchy climacool type thing and a cotton shirt. I’ve never seen a shirt like it since and it’s still going strong (though the shorts i purchased on the same day perished today at the gym). I hope it lasts as long as i do 🙂

  5. Kevin Morgan says

    Hi Matthew,

    I get attached to gear in the same way, and to my favorite mug, favorite seat, dog, cat, people, place, and so forth. This is one of the Buddah’s four sources of unhappiness, but I don’t know that the Buddah’s idea of not getting attached is actually human, or even mammalian. So! My question. Was the Buddah a mammal?

    -k @FitOldDog

  6. Buddah…
    Sometimes you may not learn from a lesson because you already understand it in your heart.

    My tale is from an old autobiography titled “The rolling stone mason” by Fred Bower.

    Bower was a migratory mason leaving Liverpool by ship for work in America.
    In thick fog less than a day out the ship struck a rock and sank rapidly. Through a quarter light he saw “Ladies” in first class being laced up in their finery as the ship took on water. One Ladies Maid fled up the stairs near naked and as the ship sank beneath them Bower and the Ladies Maid were pulled into a boat and rescued.
    The Ladies Maid told him her lady had “feared for her modesty” but the words meant nothing to him. In that boat he was puzzled. For in that ship were the very tools of his trade in his old oak chest. Without his tools he might starve and yet he had let them go to the bottom without a thought.
    Fred Bower had nothing to learn from Buddah because he already understood the lesson in his heart.
    Tell me Brother, in your heart, would you risk death just to save a comfy pair of sweaty old shoes?

  7. Hi Trevor,
    I might, or should I say that there might be circumstances that would justify such an action, but the few times that I have been in any kind of danger (only one real case), I seem to stop feeling and just think rationally. Hopefully my attachment to comfy shoes wouldn’t over ride survival instincts. However, if I were the last person left alive in my family, and lying in the nursing home all that I have that connects me to people I know is a comfy pair of shoes, given to me as a present perhaps, and then the fire alarm goes off, I might just reach for those shoes, and burn for my trouble. Maybe that would be OK? I don’t think so, but I am grasping at straws. What if the shoes belonged to a mobster who said he would kill my family if I didn’t bring the comfy shoes, and he/she said that when I arrive with the shoes he would then decide if he was going to kill or not. This reminds me of the barometer/building height story.

    Mom told a story that I do believe, of a society lady who farted loudly at a large reception and went home and committed suicide because of the shame. Guess you have to be in their comfy shoes to understand.

  8. Yes straws, Buddah really did have a point though desciples do tend to take things too far.

  9. Kevin Morgan says

    Hi Trevor,

    Each day I look forward to your comments. Blogging into the void is interesting, but a little feedback goes a long way, and it is also food for thought and thus more blogging. I am now under pressure to prepare my product#1 for market. I’m off of the gravy train and busy mixing my own gravy.

    Much appreciated.

    Yo Bro!

  10. What is the product and more important what is the market???

    • When I worked in economic development that was the standard question. Without a market or potential market success may prove ellusive. Best wishes.

  11. Kevin Morgan says

    Hi Trevor,
    I think that I have it fairly well defined, and then as I ‘cast my bread upon the waters,’ as they say, I will rapidly find out how wrong I was, and adapt accordingly. Right now I am writing “101 Exercise Tips For Over 50s” (or Boomers or old farts! I am exploring this syntax – seniors doesn’t work as it goes to all those high school seniors, too!) as a download. My networking work is working well – how’s that for writing skill.
    Thanks for the encouragement.
    PS I think that you look handsome in your website, so you should have your picture as an avatar.

  12. Is as does.
    Tried e mailing but it just bounces back.

    How about 1001 to give room for after thoughts

    You have a graphicate son that will help if he is available.
    Pictures will be needed.
    Your enthusiasm and Ironman publicity will help.
    Hit the chat shows…

  13. 1001. Got to go lie down at the thought. -k MaybeNotSoFitOldDog

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.