Friday, May 29, 2009

Athletic fashion, from bees to bunnies

I was not 10 steps into the Broomfield 24 Hour Fitness when I pivoted and walked back out. I didn't even make it to the locker room.

There was no way I was sweating here, in sweatpants and an old tank top.

This was not a gym. This was a nightclub.

As if the booming hip-hop music wasn't enough (was that a fog machine in the corner?), the girls seemed to be wearing the same outfits that they would wear to the club, except with clean, pink sneakers instead of stilettos.

Well, wait. I think a few ladies going 1.2 mph on the elliptical might have been wearing wedges.

This fitness center was a-swarm with "gym bees."

The gym bee species, a direct descendant of the barfly, joins a gym as an extension of her profile, and always announces it on her Facebook status update: "Going to go work out! Xoxo!"

Because the gym bee places her iPhone on her treadmill while she stands there reading Cosmo and not exerting whatsoever, she can update her status in live time: "Headed to the weights! Xoxo!"

This is especially useful if a male gym bee across the room has his iPhone perched near the mirror, because, well, what if amid posing and flexing, he lost track of the hottie on the treadmill?

Problem solved. Xoxo!

As a fashion columnist, I'm the first to give a thumb's up to pride and cleanliness. I like designer clothes and hoop earrings and fishnets and fur.

Just not on the bench press.

The she-bee spends more time picking out her perfectly coordinated brand-name top, bottoms and matching shoes than she does getting her heart rate up.

And the he-bee sports (if you can even use that verb in this context) hair gel, one or more necklaces and an Affliction shirt on top of an Ed Hardy shirt on top of an Affliction shirt on top of an Ed Hardy tattoo covering up an Affliction tattoo. And jeans.

What happened to Colorado's true athletes? And how do these posers (literally) stay so fit, when we all see them not working out? Do they chase their evening lines of coke with 1,000 push-ups?

In search of these secrets -- as well as a little sports cred -- I consulted Boulder's Kevin Wendling.

Wendling, 30, a Fairview High and University of Colorado grad, is an expert on sports attire for two reasons.

First, he is a freelance producer for TV sportscasts, from football to golf to speed skating to car racing. In his words: "I see Spandex being worn to its perfection, in all levels of sport."

Second, he was the dude who wore the oversized bunny head, tights and a fannypack to the Bolder Boulder this week.

I know, mega cred. The only catch: On this particular day, both Wendling and I had lost our voices -- completely.

So we conducted the interview via modern day note-passing: Facebook instant messaging. Note: Neither of us was on a treadmill.

Here's how it went down:

Kevin: (Obligatory small talk) How are things at the Cam today? Are you writing about our voices eloping?

Aimee: Yes. And I wanted to write about workout clothes: dressing designer d-bag to go to the gym.

K:Maybe I should change then? How did you know what I was wearing?

A:No, you're wearing a bunny head, right?

K:I work out in any number of costumes. Or mustaches.

A: That is why I love the Bolder Boulder. People loosen up and have fun with exercise; they don't try to make a fashion point. So what is the story of the bunny head?

K:I wish there was a tale. I think I just go for the funniest outfits possible.

A:Have you dressed up every year?

K:Second year. But I dress up a lot for events, as often as possible. Last year I was a gladiator.

A:Where did you get the bunny head?

K:The Ritz. I rented that bad boy. A bunny was the most outstanding costume there. The rest of the outfit was American Apparel: fanny pack, leg warmers, spandex, wristbands, gloves.

A:Outstanding indeed. Was it also hot?


A:Not hott with two t's. Like temperature-wise.

K:I don't remember, really. I was fed a lot of cocktails during the six miles. I would say we stopped 100 times for pictures.

A: Did you train for the race?

K: To walk? No. And maybe that is why my ankle is mysteriously sprained and my big toes are black and blue.

A:Did you find that sweatbands improved your fitness capacity?

K:Absolutely, except it added to my wind resistence.

A:OK, so tell me: Why the tie? And what did you store in your fannypack?

K:Matched the leg warmers. The fannypack was full of adult beverages.

A:My friend Brittany recently met a guy at a club who was wearing a fannypack, and she asked him "What's in the pack?" And he said, "Fruit Roll-Ups." Apparently his friends were like, "Dude, stop wearing your fannypack to da clubs, you're ruining our game," but then he was the only one of them picking up girls. So then it was like, "Who's cool now, haters?"

K:That. Is. Awesome.

A: So back to business. Do you work out?

K:Ew, that was nasty. Sounds like a cheesy pick-up line.

A:Except I am looking at a picture of a dude wearing a bunny head, so my emotions are very complex.

K:I do work out, but not like a meathead.

A:What do you wear to work out in?

K:You'd think I'd wear Spandex, but I don't. I would love me to be in Spandex 24/7.

A:Do you like it when guys flex in the mirror excessively?

K:I don't like it, unless it's me. Which it usually is. Thats 60 percent of my workout, I'd say.

A:What do the pros wear to work out? Mandex? Do they wear necklaces and hair gel?

K:Some do, certainly. Big earrings on some.

A:Is that how they get so strong? By hooking weights into their lobes?

K: Lol.

A:You lolled. How did "lol" even become a word? What's wrong with the good old-fashioned "Heh?"

K:I might start a clothing company called Lol.

A:An athletic clothing company, that makes clothes that double up for working out and working it -- on the dance floor. Your insignia: a massive bunny head. Do it.

K:Just do it.

A:I have a feeling this is how movements are made.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Prom at 30?

Prom crash 2008

I did not go to prom for my 30th birthday.

By luck, or probably fate, my May birthday coincides with the biggest dress-up day of the year for high schoolers.

So logically -- and partially out of protest for no such similar day for "adults" -- I have made a tradition of sneaking into various proms and crashing them. Crashing, in this sense, means dancing (I know, who dances at prom?) and not standing around acting self-conscious. I've always been a rebel.

We would arrive late and simply walk in, wearing oversized sunglasses and way too much lipstick. Miraculously, we never got caught, kicked out or arrested. Even after the smile lines around my eyes deepened. Even after I unapologetically announced my plans, year after year, in the newspaper. I'd like to think it's because I'm so youthful and spry. But more likely, no one spoke up because they were scared.

That's what kept me home this year. It's totally normal to sneak into prom at age 29. But age 30? Ew. That's. Just. Creepy.

Well, the beer kept me at home, too. (Like one and a half beers; I left my liver in San Francisco.) Which was just as well, because the real party occurred in my closet. According to the photos and not my memory whatsoever, my friends and I changed outfits every three to five minutes.

Then we brought prom home.

It was so melancholy. I pulled out my old prom dresses -- all 14 of them, including the four from my uncrashed proms -- and dressed my friends in them. Some fit. Some ripped. Some looked more like bathing suits.

Then, we brought the boom box to the busy street outside my house and did a fashion show. It was like everything not to wear all wrapped up on one stage -- er, sidewalk. The worst fashion trends, from 1995 to 2008: poufy shoulders, heart-shaped necklines, itchy sequin straps, multi-colored velvet, lace cut-outs. The mistakes seemed to recycle every few years, blurring the decades, illuminating the hilarity of society and most certainly terrifying my neighbors.

Then, the fashion show turned into an impromptu parade. Which, by luck or probably fate, led us to the karaoke bar down the street. Which is where I saw Them.

It was heavenly: formal gowns, PBR, an open microphone, a carnival-style popcorn machine on wheels, more formal gowns -- what? More gowns? The entire room was buzzing with women wearing prom dresses. Women, not girls. Old crazy ladies. Just like me.

And, unlike prom, they were dancing. On tables.

It was a bachelorette party, and for the first time probably ever, my friends and I fit right in. A birthday reminder that if you stay true to your own quirkiness, and you don't chase the past, and you're willing to keep marching forward (even if it is a ridiculous dress-up parade), you will eventually end up exactly where you're meant to be.

Which brings us to my e-mail this morning.

Thin Man Tavern, 2015 E. 17th Ave. in Denver. May 30, starting at 9 p.m. Prom Night 2: The Totally Awesome Sequel, featuring prom photos and drink specials for grown ups.

I'll be there. Arriving late, wearing oversized sunnies. Ready to crash.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Socks and the city

A letter to the lady in line behind me at Target:

You deserve an explanation for what happened last Saturday. It was yet another in a long list of damaging blows from socks to me.

First, the history. I have a hate-hate relationship with socks. This war was first waged during a kickboxing class in college. Front and center, I was kicking boxes like a trillion dollar baby. Bam. Uppercut, jab, jab, jump kick -- and whoosh! Out of the leg of my sweatpants, with one particularly swift kick, I launched a sock rocket.

The sock wad -- which had apparently smuggled itself inside my pants leg in the washing machine -- landed with an audible "Wee!" in the middle of the studio. The other participants saw it and did not know how to respond. They subconsciously backed away, while not missing a kickbox beat, forming a sort of circle around the sock. It looked like a foot fetish tribal dance, or maybe like my sock was about to perform a breakdancing routine.

That was the end of my kickboxing passion.

So needless to say, what happened Saturday awoke in me Post Traumatic Socks Syndrome.

Now, the context:

1. It was my friend Vanessa's birthday. She wanted to play trampoline dodgeball. But I was wearing a short leather skirt.

2. I ran to Target and bought a pair of sweats to change into. But by the time I returned, everyone had already jumped so much they were hyperventilating and now eating cupcakes. We're getting old.

3. I never actually used the pants, although I did wear them for three minutes to eat a cupcake. I did not think that qualified as use, which brought me to the customer service line to return the pants.

Now, to address your unspoken (but obvious) concerns:

1. No, I do not live in a van down by the river. I had Old McDonald's Swine Flu Farm living in my sinuses. Yes, I should have at least combed my hair.

2. My dog, which also happens to have the hairiest white rumpus of any creature on Earth, was in the backseat of my car. Even though the pants were caked in dog hair, once again, I swear they were within the bounds of an appropriate return.

3. When I shook the pants to remove their fur coat, I did not know a dirty sock had been hiding in the pants leg.

4. And no, I am definitely not Aimee Heckel, who writes a fashion column for the Camera. That was actually my sister Leah returning the pants for me.

Thanks for your understanding.

Dear Leah,

I'm sorry. Don't go to Target for a very long time.



Ah, yes. Socks suck. One of the reasons I love spring is it means I don't have to touch those things for a good three months.

Of all of my clothing items, socks cause me the most stress. They're either where I don't want them to be -- i.e. the return line at Target -- or nowhere to be found, kidnapped by sock gnomes and my poodles. I feel like I am constantly digging through my bucket of widowed socks for "the other" sock. In vain.

I recently reached such a critical mass of single socks that I began unapologetically wearing mismatched socks to the gym.

My friend Laura says my problem is that my socks are bored, so they're running away. They're all white or black.

Laura wears striped socks, toe socks, thigh-high socks, argyle and tie-dyed and homemade and theme socks for every occasion. Her "spring gym socks" are covered in bugs and turtles.

Laura's socks live in a 30-gallon trashcan that she could hide a body in. More than 350 pairs of socks -- 22 of which have monkeys on them. Laura doesn't own a single plain pair, except for bright green thigh-highs. And she says she has never misplaced a sock.

"If you have fun socks, you can find their mate in the laundry really fast," she says. "The lost sock is a white sock phenomenon."

I don't doubt her. She's had a feeting frenzy ever since I met her at age 10. Some women spice up their outfits with wild shoes. But Laura is a self-proclaimed "lounger." Lounging around the house drinking rum doesn't lend itself to shoes.

"I can't not buy socks," she says. "I go to Target for shampoo and I end up with shampoo and socks. I go to

PetSmart for food for the lizard and end up with socks."

(Of course PetSmart has animal-themed socks, she says.)

Laura's socks have sentimental value. She doesn't like to get rid of old socks, so she learned how to fix holes. If she has trouble sleeping, all she has to do is slip into a pair of socks and she immediately nods off.

"I sometimes sleep totally nude but in socks," she says matter-of-factly.

Which brings us to the question: Can socks be sexy? Laura insists they can. Striped socks are fashionable in a punk way. Argyle socks are hot on both men and women. Plus, if you need to shave or have gnarly feet, Laura adds, they "hide the gnarl."

Here are some tips from Laura on how to rock socks.

You can find the best socks at Kohl's and Target (oh, not Target), especially around Halloween time.

Check the Internet. The best site is www.sock

In the summer, wear lightweight socks, thin tights or toe socks -- preferably with ballet flats or Mary Janes and not flip-flops.

If you have sweaty feet, wear half socks with your heels. They cover your toes but leave your heels and arches bare.

Current legwear trends include white tights; tights with shorts; bright, primary colors, such as yellow, blue and red; sparkly tights (metallic, sequins or glitter); and sheer black pantyhose, according to the sock

As for me, I have found my alternative -- a different way to make a footie fashion statement while keeping your tootsies free. Boulder-based Verve, a climbing clothing company, makes boot-cut leg warmers.

Local female climbers came up with the design by cutting off the sleeves of their old sweaters, making a cone-shape cover of the calf and most of the foot.

Best of all, more than 90 percent of Verve's clothing is made by four grandmas who left war-torn countries to move to the United States. Find Verve at or at local shops, such as Boulder Bodywear on Canyon Boulevard.

The bell leg warmers are lightweight and made from polyester fleece with organic cotton lycra ($18), and they allow you to add one extra layer of style to your legs.

The only problem: They are dog hair magnets.

Fortunately, I won't be returning mine any time soon. And they go great with a leather skirt. Even on a trampoline.

Photo by Flickr user scalkins.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rat's nests, bad dye jobs and other hair tragedies

I heard on the radio this morning that the average woman spends 40 minutes every day doing her hair. Over a lifetime, that's two years of combing, blow drying, gelling, curling and ratting -- usually with the goal to look effortless.

I'd like to think I am helping lower that number. For the first 10 years of my life, I refused to comb my hair.

I was born trapped under a heavy mountain of what feels like horsehair. A mutation of self-growing wire. And my thick mane wasn't satisfied with just boiling my scalp to 159 degrees on a hot summer day. It is coarse and curly, so it also tangles easily.

I wasn't the only person who hated wrestling my head mutant. After eight years of violent combing (thereby removing all sensory capability from my follicles), my mom -- who has whisper-thin, straight locks -- resigned. She threatened: I didn't start combing my own hair at least once a week, she would just cut the "rat's nests" out.

I spent several years of my childhood with an upside-down mullet: short on the underside, long on the top. This was a good five years before it became cool for girls to shave the underside of their hair, cut zigzags into the sides and pull it into a ponytail. Ironically, my mom wouldn't let me do that.

My mom and I (God bless her on Mother's Day) have always had a rocky hair relationship. She is a natural brunette who dyes her hair blonde. I'm a natural blonde who dyes my hair brunette. She hates that. Yet she is the

person who got me hooked on hair dye -- at the tender age of 9.

We constantly lament how expensive it is to keep up our hairy addictions, yet neither of us could imagine being ournatural color. Gross. Shudder, shudder.

The economy (oh, the "e" word) doesn't help. In fact, area hair salons report that beauty is one of the areas taking a big hit, as increasingly more people make cuts (zing!) to race away from the red.

Specifically, more people are opting for store-bought color, which promises you'll get the same results as if you went to the salon.

But be careful, says Robert DiTacchio, creative director of Jon Ric International Salon and Day Spa in Denver ( More often than not, he says, people end up spending eight times what they would have if they'd just asked the pros. Eight. Times.

Boxed color costs between $15 and $30. Color correction services to fix your hair after it turns out leopard-spotty begin at $150. Salons across the area have reported a "drastic increase" in these color mess-ups -- nearly double during the past year.

Unfortunately, this is a number I am contributing to. In March, I had to seek professional intervention from Fringe Hair Studio in Louisville to abolish a fire-truck red spot that I ignited near my bangs. It took three layers of bleach to conquer.

If only I had consulted someone like DiTacchio beforehand. He recommends calling in the pros when you are dealing with resisting gray, vibrant colors (perhaps fire-truck red?) and blonde. Blonde can turn green or orange. Reds can morph into dull pink.

If you do color at home and you're not striving for a jungle pattern, get a friend to do it for you, DiTacchio says. It's hard to see what you're doing on your own head. The best at-home brand is L'Oreal Professional.

Photo by Flickr user Mark Wheadon.