By Susan Rinkunas
“Heroes” by Alesso is thumping in my SoulCycle class and I’m dreading what I’m about to do. I whip off my tank top, tuck it into my bike’s water-bottle holder, and look around to see who else is with me in shirtless solidarity. All I’ve got is one woman who has delicately tucked the back of her shirt under her sports bra. “Oh God, I’m that girl,” I say to myself. I’m wearing a “sexy” Lululemon bra with eight latticelike straps, like one of those lightly muscled athleisure showoffs.
I’ve been seeing flashy sports bras on my Instagram feed and in e-commerce emails in recent months. Many resemble a hybrid of a bikini and a harness, applying design details from high fashion onto a bra meant for getting soaked in sweat. They are brightly colored bait for “gym gaze,” the subtle sizing-up of the people working out around you.
To the dismay of those who prefer unremarkable workout clothes, the sexy-sports-bra concept did not die on the vine following disappointing sales reported by Victoria’s Secret last year. Not only is the retailer still churning out itsVictoria’s Secret Sport line, other fitness brands have entered the fray, offering styles with cutouts, mesh insets, straps galore, and removable cups to avoid nipple show-through as well as create a pleasing shape, whether the bra is worn under a shirt or as a shirt.
It would be easy to think that the trend of the showy sports bra is just for models, or women who look like them. My first instinct was to throw shade: I thought anyone who wore one did so as a power play, using swathes of nylon and spandex to say “I’m hotter than you” to other women, or attract attention from men. To see what was behind the attention-seeking, I decided to try it myself. But not without apprehension: The last time I’d ever worked out sans shirt was a humid run with a good friend; I was wearing a plain black sports bra, and there was no one else around for miles.
But there are good reasons to consider the sexy sports bra. Anyone who’s ever taken a studio class jammed with 30+ people knows how swampy these rooms can get, especially if it’s a high-intensity workout. That’s part of the reason why Ashley, 29, removes her shirt as soon as the lights go off in Flywheel cycling classes in Manhattan. “Honestly, I just get really hot,” she said. “I’m competitive, so I don’t want anything to slow me down — there’s nothing worse than a soggy tank clinging to you when you’re trying to push yourself over another hill.” The fact that the room is dark is a plus, because she’s less concerned about other women questioning her motives: “It doesn’t feel like I’m being overly showy.”
Then, there are women who wear double-take bras because they’re proud of their fitness progress. Tara, 38, said she didn’t wear just a bra (or even shorts) at her Jacksonville, Florida, CrossFit gym until she got in better shape and felt more comfortable with her body. Even before she lost the pounds she wanted to shed, she was still proud of her small waist, so “the appeal for me was to show off something I felt was in shape,” she said. “It started with pulling the bottom of my shirt up over my chest and exposing my stomach. Then, once I felt like that was okay, I started stripping the shirt completely.” And with that came deliberation about style. “I definitely care what [the bra] looks like and how my chest looks in it. I want it to match [my shorts], and have cool straps or something fun about it.” Source: The Cut
Susan is Senior Market Editor: Diana Tsui