Demonstrating characteristic hipsterism, my local London council, Hackney, recently installed a set of pull-up and dip bars in the nearest park. With obesity-related disease rife and society largely sedentary, this is to be commended, as is the fitness trend for callisthenics – bodyweight moves that cost nothing but time and effort to perform. But the outbreak of park gyms has given rise to another nationwide epidemic: men working out shirtless in public.
This errant, scantily clad douchebaggery is arguably even more outrageous than blaring out sexually explicit hip-hop with equally scant regard for other park gym-goers, passersby and small children. But that’s another rant. (Seriously, if I wanted to listen to your crap music, I’d follow you on Spotify.)
It’s hot, these exercising exhibitionists would no doubt argue. Sun’s out, ergo guns out. But that’s why God created textile science and sweat-wicking fabrics. Besides, apart from a few days a year, it’s almost never that hot. And there’s a reason why it’s unacceptable to remove your top in almost all indoor sweatboxes, air conditioning or no: because it’s unacceptable.
Before you accuse me of being a hater and ask if I even bodyweight, bro, I can do pull-ups. I can even do pull-ups with weight added, like a shirt. And I’m not in bad shape. But that’s beside the point. Even if you’re a more perfect physical specimen than Michelangelo’s David Gandy, that doesn’t give you a divine right to inflict your flawlessness on other people. You can choose to keep your shirt on. They can’t choose to not see you.
Indeed, you don’t tend to see guys who aren’t in indecent nick stripping down to their waists. Which, to me, is damning evidence that this gratuitous semi-nudity is not for any spurious reasons of thermoregulation, vitamin D deficiency or severe intolerance to polyester. Sure, a crippling phobia of chafing or a bad case of farmer’s tan might be contributing factors in your al fresco half-nakedness. But be honest: you’re doing it, to a greater or lesser extent, because you’re fit and you know it.
And you want everybody else to know it, too. That’s why, after nailing a front lever or planche, you walk stiff-shouldered in a little circle, lats spread like the frill of a phlegmy dilophosaurus. Welcome to Jurassic Park Gym. (Incidentally, fossil records show no evidence of frills or poison spitting, but you get the picture.) In the process, you surreptitiously glance around to check that everybody saw, breathing audibly in case they don’t fully comprehend just how impressive that was. We saw. We know. Well done.
Bodyweight practitioners often like to look down from their pull-bars at the scurrying gym rats. Callisthenics – which translates in Greek to ‘beautiful strength’ – is a discipline that dates back thousands of years. A noble art. It’s deeper and more profoundly spiritual than interspersing pumping iron and gurning with flexing in the mirror. (At least that’s what you tell anybody foolish enough to ask what you’re doing.) And maybe it is. But by baring your gains, you strongly suggest otherwise. Not to mention cede the moral high ground.
So do me a favour and at least put on that lesser of two evils: a sleeveless top. That way, I’ll still know that you’re a narcissistic dick without the anatomical illustration.