Swim with the Current

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is a sound philosophy to take with you almost anywhere. Going deeper, “[i]n matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock,” helps me determine when and when not to adapt to certain aspects of new cultures.

In my case, the “Pura Vida” outlook has served me well in non-serious matters not involving money or safety. Matters of style and dress usually don’t involve either of those. Before I knew of any of these philosophies, for example, I wore no fear shirts in middle school, carpenter jeans in high school (I’m not a carpenter), and was usually overdressed on most occasions in college. I lived to tell about all of them and do not consider them significant enough to be regrets or even mistakes. They are just temporary, insignificant wardrobe decisions that have had little impact on my character or the ultimate course of my life. Bearing all of that in mind, prepare for what I am about to confess.

Recently, I needed another workout shirt, because one of the five in my rotation began to resemble a used bib or something worn in a recently completed tough mudder course. Enter Under Armor. Under Armor appears to have a proficient distribution channel strategy in Central America. It is everywhere here and includes a Latin-friendly selection of moisture wicking tank tops. I bought a black one. It is the most functional workout shirt I have ever owned.

To begin the defense of my purchase, Costa Rica has two seasons—rainy and hot. The hot season is not sweltering compared to South Georgia summers, so it feels nice to me, but a 20-minute walk outside makes me sweat. A tank top comes in handy during non-rainy season.

Additionally, as I have grown older, minimalism has permeated most facets of my life. This is evident in my growing disdain for excess fabric. Non-pleated pants; tailored or slim-fit button up shirts; and drawstring, lined workout shorts make up most the clothes I have bought in the last 2 years. MC Hammer and I would have to find common ground other than in our wardrobes. Maybe we could talk about the Atlanta Falcons. Getting back to minimalism, tank tops have no excess fabric. Mine fits, it does not get snagged on anything and does not flap in the wind. If you are constantly rolling up your sleeves while exercising, why not get rid of them altogether?

On the other hand, tank tops carry a stigma and a certain implications of douschiness in the Southern United States. I never fully embraced or agreed with said implications, but they exist. For starters, they are unlovingly referred to as, “wife-beaters.” I do not know where this started, but it is commonly known. Second, a man risks being seen as a show-off or vain if he exercises without a full t-shirt on. This concept has its reasons, but in the middle of a full t-shirt and not wearing one is a tank top. After trying out a tank to, I contend that the potential for being judged or facing ridicule outweighs the comfort and functionality of wearing a tank top when it makes sense.

Returning to where we started, tank tops are worn by respectable, hard-working males in Costa Rica when they are not at work. Men wear them with workout shorts, casual shorts, jeans and other casual pants. It is hot here, the sides of the roads are scarcely paved and air conditioning is a luxury. With those in mind, sleeves usually amount to extra clothing and are hard to keep clean. For all of the above, one of the numerous takeaways from my time here has to be wearing a tank top when it makes sense. In sum, my reasoning for this evolution of my wardrobe can be summed up in my new blended philosophy.  “When in Rome, swim with the current.”

Tank Top