Nov 2: Due to a change in my work arrangements, I am no longer able to post regularly. I continue to welcome guest posts (sent to firstname.lastname@example.org) and hope that the built-up stock of entries has grown fat enough to encourage and motivate shirtless runners, as well as would-be converts.
The blog continues to attract a stream of interesting comments and I encourage members of the community to keep contributing.
It has been reported in some parts of the world that people below the age of 20 are now less willing to go shirtless when running or otherwise exercising. Perhaps casually stripping to the waist was something common in an earlier era, but these days - it is alleged - a more advanced conception of sartorial decency (among other things) has sparked generalised covering-up.
First of all, I invite folks to write in with their opinions on whether is true. As someone who only converted to running bare-chested when well into his 20s, it has been my hope that more would realise earlier that shirtlessness is a healthy and joyful cause. It pains me to think that cause may be failing with that very age group that should be spending the most hours getting healthy and fit.
While awaiting responses, here are my views - which are underpinned by two relevant recent comments posted on this site.
said... Just to say thanks for your site. For the last 2 months my eldest son
(11) has started to come runnning without his top...
Don't think he'd have done this without the positive remarks here.
What these words suggest is that, first of all, youngsters are not so much immunised against shirtless running as starved of positive role models. If they only hear of bare-chested folk in the context of poor dress sense, melanoma or thuggery - or for that matter see bare-chestedness on display only with ridiculously well-toned movie-universe denizens - it's no surprise that they begin to perhaps unconsciously shrink away from shirtlessness.
This parent's post further suggests that when young folks are exposed to the truth that shirtless men (or jogbraed women) are no more bizarre, at-risk, lame or ostracised than their mums and dads, they feel freed to shed their upper-body attire in appropriate situations. Obviously, an obscure blog like this one will reach only a small fraction of our youth. It is the behaviour and example of people in the wider community that is more likely to make a difference.
My name is Austin and I am the captain of my cross-country team and
I happened to stumble upon your blog today about shirtless running. I
go to a private, christian school who aren't letting us run with our
shirts off anymore because they say that it is not the standard
equipment for a cross country runner. We completely hate this rule
because right now we are having to run in upper 90 degree weather
and we're almost getting to the point of heat exhaustion and its just
ridiculous. We are trying to do everything we can to fight it, so I was
wondering if you had any research to go along with the benefits of
shirtless running? Thank you for taking the time to read this message
and I hope to hear from you soon!
In digesting this second post, we arrive at a second truth: That at times it is the deliberate, constrictive standards-setting of adults that keeps tops mindlessly on when they need not be. In the present case, I had to write back to Austin to say that I was not aware of scientifically-valid research that validates shirtless running. I hope this did not deter him and his comrades, since I do not see why the onus needs to be on those of us who go shirtless to justify our preference in exercise attire. The larger point that needs making, however, is that many youngsters may take their lead on 'appropriate exercise attire' from what the 'experts' in school prescribe. If more schools are closing down their options, it is no surprise that such narrow-mindedness might spill over to when these budding sportsmen are outside school. Yet I would need to be convinced that most communities' implied sartorial codes are really so draconian as to dictate when (or whether) their young people can take off their shirts when exercising.
Overall, then, I think it is far from a given that young folks are really shying away from shirtlessness of their own accord. With Austin and the 11-year-old son, we see that there are still young converts out there who can fly our flag.