What’s the Point of Singlets? (Andrew)

What’s the point of the singlet? Do sleeves slow you down? Do armpits make you run faster? Or do guys just want to look like Bruce Willis in Die Hard?

To be fair, Bruce Willis does a lot of running in that film but you can’t say that he was wearing the right clothes. He doesn’t even have shoes on. You don’t see Kopchoge lining up at the front of the London Marathon barefooted and ready to go. No, he’s wearing his Nike Cheat Boots because he knows that clothes don’t just maketh the man, they maketh the man run faster.

So, why a singlet?

I can understand why you might wear a singlet to the gym: you want to show off your arms. You want bare bulging biceps while curling large weights in front of a mirror. Then you want to lie on a bench and press even larger weights while showing the world your underarm pubic hair because you think folk are impressed by a chest that looks like it’s got armpit shrubbery. Clearly, you are a tool, and you should be covered up but I can understand why you do it. You don’t mind being a dick. But I don’t understand singlets for running because runners, at least the ones I know, aren’t dicks. So, again, why singlets?

Looking at some running forums and I find comments such as:

“it’s one of the great distinguishing marks between guys and gals who are serious about their running and the running tourists.”

Forum member: NotSoSure

Now while you should never trust a source called “NotSoSure” – that would be like trusting Jack the Ripper with his assurance that he won’t rip you too, there is something in this comment. Is the singlet just a way of showing you’re different? Does wearing the singlet suggests you are better than other people? If top runners wear a singlet then, if I wear one too, I must be a top runner. Perhaps. Or maybe there’s another answer: does wearing a singlet make you faster? Is that why the top runners wear them? They’re CheatTops.

I had to investigate. Do singlets give you a performance boost?

The only answer I can find is that wearing a singlet may have cooling effect for an athlete greater than that of a sleeved top. The open arms allow air to circulate and the heat benefit for a long race may reduce the amount you sweat and the energy used to run fast. Which, if true, leads to the question, why wear anything at all? Which question led me to the following article: Should Men Wear Shirts When Running Races?

The answer is clearly “no, a shirt is for the office, not a race!” but if they mean should men wear t-shirts or singlets then the answer is “Yes!”. And not just because a race demands decorum, not a naturist exhibition. The simpler answer is that if a man runs topless, then where does he hang his race number? From his nipples? Is that how pierced nipples were invented? Someone forgot to take the safety pin out when taking their number off?

Perhaps, we do have our answer though to the question: what’s the point of singlets? Maybe it is to help cool down elite athletes. Equally, it’s also a way for elite athlete to hang their race number without nipples, anaesthetic and a sharp needle. Which means we have our answer to the question of what’s the point of singlets? Singlets do serve a purpose: they are the minimum requirement for racing with a number.

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