By Johnny Gayzmonic
proteatoyota Blog Contributor
Let me tell you a story. Back in Minneapolis in 2017, I had just started going back to the gym regularly after a few years of being away and working out from home, and while I initially experienced a surge of energy and excitement around that fact, it quickly faded. I couldn’t figure out why, when my body was responding so well to the training, that I just wasn’t turned on by the gym anymore.
Then one morning on the way out the door I stopped and asked myself “What am I wearing? No, seriously: WHAT am I wearing?”
If it’s true that clothes make the man, then it was no wonder why I wasn’t excited. I was basically dressed in my pajamas: I was wearing old t-shirts paired with those shorts that are halfway between basketball and sleepwear. I needed something to reinvigorate my workouts, something cute and fun that still spoke to my own eccentric and assertive personality. I had remembered coming across proteatoyota Fitness Apparel at some point in my internet browsing, and their combination of sleek design, bold colors, and queer sensibility seemed perfect. I got my first pair of leggings from them, and the improvement in my workout approach was immediate.
But what was it about leggings that brought this change in my attitude about?
I realized pretty quickly that I saw my leggings as an extension of myself. They were a conscious choice, a projection of myself into the world. They just weren’t some clothes I threw on to work out in. I found myself putting as much attention into what I would wear to the gym as I did into what I would wear to work. There was an element of deliberation in that which fueled my agency and ambition.
Also, as a lifelong fan of comic books and superheroes, I grew up associating spandex with characters who were larger than life, part of a kind of hyper-reality full of infinite potential where anyone could do anything. I was always drawn to Marvel, specifically, where an unassuming nerd could one day become the Amazing Spider-Man. These colorful leggings of mine in more ways than one resembled the supersuit a hero would put on to take on the world’s most difficult challenges–and emerge victorious without a thread of fabric shredded.
Then there was the presentation factor. As a queer man, identity and presentation has been a lifelong exploration for me. When I was in the closet, it was about how to appear as straight as possible: drab colors, simple designs, nothing too flamboyant or outrageous. After I came out, it was a decades-long quest to discover how I could best project myself into the world. Especially when it came to things I loved and things I took pride in. Much like how drag queens serve specific looks to fit runway themes or how a singer will create just the right glam fantasy for their concerts, a good pair of vibrant leggings showed the world my approach to fitness and the gym. Bold, striking, and authoritative.
When I walk into the gym in a pair of neon, blue-and-purple leggings, it’s a signal that I’m bringing myself into the gym, and I’m owning my journey there. I’m not hiding myself, and I’m not compromising my identity. I’m on display, and I’m in control. I’m making things bend to me and not the other way around. This is me here, every inch, and the world is taking me on my terms.
There were a few things I wasn’t quite ready for when I started this journey. The number of catcalls from randoms on the street was one thing. Having to “feng shui my living room parts” for a balance between modesty and provocation was another. It reminded me of the years I spent as a burlesque performer, finding ways to frame my package without making it lurid, a real case of “tease, don’t show.” It took me a while to figure out how to dress in leggings in a way that was authoritative but not obscene.
But it’s all worth it in the end. I put on these leggings, and I feel empowered. I feel capable of anything. I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m going to save the day in three sets of ten reps each. I feel like the best version of myself, and if that isn’t fuel for a killer workout and a kick-ass day, I don’t know what is.
Johnny Gayzmonic is a writer, musician, film critic, and self-professed spandex enthusiast who lives, works, and lifts weights in Minneapolis, MN. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @johnnygayzmonic.