Gentleman Scholar

Downward-Facing Togs

What should a dude wear to yoga class?

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Troy Patterson.
Troy Patterson.

Photo by Christina Paige

Is there such a thing as proper garb for male yoga enthusiasts? (I take it that wearing anything from Lululemon would be wholly inappropriate.)

Namaste! Thank you for your question.

The record reflects that the Gentleman Scholar last attempted yoga—and, for that matter, any form of exercise more arduous than H.O.R.S.E.—back in October. Of 2009. But, you know, I’m trying to take the whole mens sana in corpore sano thing to heart, and so have been preparing to investigate the gentlemanly benefits of a yoga practice. Until I received your note, my attempt to gear up for this had merely involved opening the Bhagavad-Gita for the first time since taking an undergraduate’s stab at understanding Four Quartets. But, yeah, now I have to wonder whether gearing up ought to involve acquiring gear. And my 1987 edition of The American Yoga Association Beginner’s Manual will not be much help on this count, as its directive to wear socks is antiquated at best and its instruction to wear clothing that is “loose and/or stretchy” seems to encourage hammer pants.

In 2009, the New York Times reported that dudes shopping for yoga togs would encounter only “slim pickins.” In 2015, however, there exist countless entities eager to part a wide variety of fools from their money. Just this week, an article in the Telegraph—“Fad watch: who will save us from the hell of ‘man yoga’?”—drew our attention to Boys of Yoga, whose mission is to counter the notion that “yoga is pink lycra and vegan chicks,” and whose merchandise includes sleeveless tees evidently meant for London hepcats cultivating a Russell Brand vibe. Meanwhile, a company called Yoga Jack aims to clad dorkily eager wannabe hipsters—or, to put the supposition much more charitably, nerds—in a half-clever T-shirt printed with a besuited Ursus arctos seated criss-cross-applesauce above the phrase yoga bear. And to judge by the pectorals and protuberances featured on its website, Max Activewear sells shorts to guys whose interest in posing extends to their Grindr profile pics.

On and on it goes, and upward to the luxurious precincts of Lululemon. Do we need to catch everyone up on what that is? Perhaps the effort would be superfluous, given that founder Chip Wilson has been much in the press of late—partly because he has left the company’s board, partly because his wife has launched a new chain, partly because he is always good copy, mouth radiant with Objectivist claptrap. I herewith confess to having once used a Sharpie to tag up a construction fence girding an incipient Lululemon branch. I do not ask your forgiveness for this crime; the signage on the fence bore such unbearable slogans as “the pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness.” I would argue that graffiti rendered in defense of human dignity is no vice.

Nonetheless, I decided to give the store a chance, dear reader, and this morning ventured to the Lululemon men’s store recently installed on Prince Street in Manhattan. The decor included a medicine ball, a lacrosse stick, a copy of The Lucius Beebe Reader transformed into a phone charger. The sales associate—“Hey, man!” was her salutation—explained that yoga clothes represented only a fraction of the merchandise, and cheerfully gestured toward other subspecies of workout stuff, plus a selection of “anti-ball crushing” trousers. But yoga clothes were indeed there, including an “On the Mat short” priced at $64. On the one hand, ha ha ha; on the other, these shorts boasted “a tapered leg to keep you covered in inversions,” and even a yoga novice can see that tailoring of this type would be useful in preserving a gentleman’s decency should his second chakra open to such a degree that he pops a woody.

Anyway, the branding of this Lululemon men’s store extends to a giveaway shelf of paperbacks with a rugged thrust. The sales associate encouraged me to choose among titles including Friday Night Lights, Touching the Void, Fight Club, the young readers’ edition of Unbroken, and, intriguingly incongruous, Bret Easton Ellis’ Glamorama. Also, she pressed upon me a gluten-free energy bar involving grass-fed beef, uncured bacon, and organic sunflower seeds. The bar had the flavor of beef jerky and the texture of a kitchen sponge, as I learned after I walked down the street to do some comparison shopping, got lost inside a cavernous REI, and required sustenance while waiting for help to arrive.

A friend advising the Gentleman Scholar on these matters recommends plain T-shirts and running shorts for the yoga studio, and his counsel leads us to meditate on a classic of American transcendentalism: “If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes.

I am not a gentleman, though I am a scholar and consider myself gentlemanly, for lack of a suitable alternative. (“Ladylike” brings to mind too much demure passivity.) Thus, I turn to you for advice on a difficult social obstacle: inviting people to a dinner party. Specifically, how do I issue an invitation or broach the matter in a way that will ensure everyone can come? The three couples my husband and I have in mind are friendly acquaintances with busy schedules, and I don’t want anyone to come unless everyone can come. Since they aren’t close friends (of ours or of one another) and I am shy, I am uncomfortable casually asking for lists of days they are all available. Do you have any advice?

Thank you for your question.

Whatever you do, don’t send a group email to your guests. That’s how you ruin a party three weeks before it starts, inadvertently inviting cheesy reply-alls that dissipate mystery, spoil fun, and clog mailboxes.

Rather, send a separate email to each couple pitching two or three prospective dates. The strongest move is to set the party for a Sunday, the slowest night on the week’s social calendar. A Sunday-night party is a fine way to stave off the existential dread attendant to the eve of the workweek. Get the party started early: Serve cocktails at 5 and dinner soon thereafter, and get everyone home in time to watch the quality television that is the opium of the bourgeoisie. Give them bread and send them home for the circuses.