just underwear

In Defense of Wearing Thongs to Work Out

Thong workouts.
Thong workouts. Photo: John Lund/Sam Diephuis/Blend Images/?John Lund/Sam Diephuis/Blend Images LLC

When writing about Lululemon’s sheer leggings debacle last week, I noted that visible thong is an obvious side-effect of see-through pants. This observation was based entirely on personal experience: I’ve been athletic my whole life, and many of the women I’ve shared locker rooms with — most, even — wear thongs to work out and compete. There were thongs on my all-girls high school field hockey team. There were thongs in the women’s crew locker room in college. There are thongs at my yoga studio in Chelsea. I always assumed it was because thongs tend to stay put more so than other types of underwear, although I’ve never taken a formal poll. However, when I mentioned the idea of wearing thongs to exercise last week, Slate’s XX blog took offense:

Cowles talks about “your thong” as if nothing is more suitable for exercising than wearing underwear specifically designed to slide between your butt cheeks and attack you at the slightest provocation. What kind of sexualized hell are these poor women living in that they can’t even give up porn-compliant underwear in order to keep their bodies lean and toned for future thong-wearing situations? I was under the impression that yoga was supposed to be a healthful activity, and yet here women are, contorting their bodies in a strap of fabric made to respond by straining painfully at your most sensitive bits. Yoga is supposed to be relaxing, and not reminiscent of a visit to the proctologist.

I’m not sure what kind of thong this poor writer had been tortured with, but it it certainly not the ratty cotton kind that plenty of women wear because they find them more comfortable, not because they’re vying for sexiness. And hell, even if a woman even wants to wear some lacy thing to yoga, then fine — I’m not going to question her commitment to feminism.

Still, it appears that women are vehemently divided on the thong-during-exercise question. A quick poll of female co-workers proves that we’re split down the middle (no pun intended):

Maureen: I find thongs uncomfortable always. I wear undies with butts at all times. Perhaps my butt cheeks are just anti-bunch-y, but I never have the bunching problem that some women complain about.

Sally: I wear thongs every day because I think they’re more comfortable, and definitely not because I’m trying to look hot. In fact, my boyfriend prefers boy shorts, but I AM MY OWN WOMAN, so therefore I thong.

Christina: I never run in a thong, NEVER. Things get wedged up there even further. Always boy shorts.

Diana: Er, depends on my laundry cycle. Mostly thongs, though.

And since I get to be the tie-breaker, I’m going to go with all thongs, all the time, for the sole reason that they don’t move around and bunch up in places where they don’t belong. A note on the pantyline issue, too: Some female friends say they prefer thongs with stretchy pants not because they’re worried about visible seams, but because tight pants make looser underwear even more prone to going where it’s not welcome (beware the dreaded one-cheeked wedgie). I actually know one woman who wears thongs only to work out, and sticks to normal brief-style underwear for the rest of her business. Whatever works for you, I say.

But what’s far more worrisome about Slate’s post is that they encourage going without underwear entirely, adding, “It’s not like flies or ants are going to get in there if you don’t seal it off tightly.” (This, as well all know, is not completely true.) The takeaway? Be comfortable, but above all, be sanitary.