Sunday, November 2, 2008

New York: Ducking overpriced workout gear at Daffy's

THE MOMENT I found an impossibly cheap'n'choosy yoga class in Manhattan, the next task was finding cheap-not-cheesy workout gear.

By cheesy, I mean the ubiquitous pastel pink, ice blue and minty green styles of the styleless triathlon world replete with arbitrary detailing. Chintzy inserts, piping and words like "Workout World" - for those who regularly confuse their sweats with their Sunday burka - who pays these "designers"? It's as annoying as those no-doubt all-male designers who insist on making pastel pink hiking pants for women. Oh yeah, give me some camel shit to smear on 'em in Egypt ...

I also dislike the arbitrary ornamentation on running shoes too. They Inc. would tell you it's for technical reasons, but I doubt it. I have a pair of ASICS "neutral" runners recommended by the knowledgeable hasher who sold them to me. They look like a crazy paver sewed them. They're white and an equally mud-magnetizing pastel blue. Apparently white is perennially popular because psychologically the color makes people feel "faster", whereas black gives one the sensation of concrete feet. I believe the arbitrary detailing is merely to justify exorbitant prices while keeping poor Chinese workers who can never afford Lasik chained to their overlockers 17 hours a day.

But I digress.

The first and most carbon-footprint friendly place to look for clothing in general, is the Salvation Army, Goodwill and other thrift stores. In that order. Especially for jeans - if you insist on buying a pair of $250 jeans when you can't really afford it, you deserve all the 20% APY coming to you. After scanning the racks on the Salvo's 22nd and 8th outlet and finding nothing, I had to ask the assistant: just where is your workout gear?

"It's the first to go, 'cos of all the gyms round here," he said.

Seems that even in hipster-central Chelsea, no one cares about fancy workout gear. Perhaps because gyms are the last place to actually meet someone. You just don't talk to anyone in those places - they're either herniating on their 10th set of bench presses or trying to hide their breasts or buttocks from you in the communal change area - as if we all haven't seen one, seen 'em all.

Next stop: TJ Maxx and Filene's Basement. Here, it's all spendy Calvin Klein, Nike and Danskin - at $34.99 is still too much for a pair of yoga pants because you gotta buy three - you sweat, right? And, fellow shorty pantsters, if you're 5' nothing, forget it. As usual, the pants are not only too long, they flare at the wrong spot for the shorter woman, so even if you hem the bottom you end up looking stumpy. You have to run them in expertly and who's got time and money for that?

I stumbled into Daffy's by accident - I was waiting for the Talk to Talk Wireless Crackberry repair shop (148 W32nd, NY) to open when the skies opened. I took refuge The store on 34th St is inconveniently upstairs. You have to take an elevator. You stand there with "lady of leisure, rampant consumer, call me Imelda" written all over your face as you wait to be whisked upstairs. You pass Staples and a school of further education on the upper floors ... add "and you should be studying something and expanding your mind not your wardrobe," to the left cheek.

At first glance Daffy's looks, in a word, dowdy. All those cardigans and polyesters and slacks. Who wears this stuff? Someone. And no real 'designer' names to give it edge, despite the reviews.

Ahh, but descend to the 6th floor. That's where you find an entire wall - and then some - of workout gear.

I got a pair of Capezio Dancewear Capris for $11.99, down from $54. This is a genuine discount - it's full price in specialist ballet stores. There seems to be a range called Dee Ha or something, which is the main discount workout label. The tops, tanks, bras and combo top/tank/bras are good looking except I found the elastic shelf bra too tight for me, not matter whether I tried on XS, S or medium. By then the rest of it was hanging off me like a Sharpei dog so I gave up. But if it fits you - great!

There's Fila and a few other brands too.

Good luck, and if you're smallish and shortish, check out the kids wear on level 5. That's where I scored the pair of Gianni Ferre houndstooth strides you see below, for 25 bucks, down from $180. What spoiled brat gets to wear these threads? An overage brat like me.