What Not to Wear. The Top 10.

Not a recommended look.

Here at Dear Novice Rower, we are big on making sure you aren’t embarrassed when you head down to the boathouse. To this end, we present a list of items we’d never. Ever. Wear.

10) Basketball shorts. I understand the temptation for guys to wear these, especially when they first start out. Feel free. But they will get caught in the wheels and tracks of your seat, and you will label yourself as a novice.

9) Shirts with writing on the back. Pity the rower behind you, who has to stare at your back mile after mile. (A chick rowing in front of me had a shirt listing her high school classmates. Five columns worth. Drove me nearly mad.)

8) Loose shirts. If it blows in the wind, you’ll be sorry you wore it. Thumbs get caught as you bring the oar to your body, messing up your stroke and your rhythm.

7) Shirts or jackets with full zippers: Same issue as loose shirts. (Half- or quarter-zips are a-ok—and recommended.)

6) Anything made of cotton or heavy fleece: One splashy stroke, rain, snow, or an “unscheduled” swim in the river/lake means you are now wearing a very absorbent, clammy sponge for the rest of your row. Gah.

5) A big ego. A rowing buddy of mine added this, and while it’s not technically clothing, it is something some new rowers like to wear. Rowing—like gymnastics or parachuting or bobsledding—looks easy, but it’s decidedly not, and success in other sports doesn’t make you an expert here. Offering “advice” to fellow novices—or, worse yet, to your coach—makes you an insufferable bore. Check your ego at the door.

4) Padded bike shorts. They might be a fine solution to a sore backside, but you’ll stand out as a rank amateur.

3) White. See-through. Gah.

2) No shirt/only a sports bra: Rowing is deeply rooted in conservatism and tradition. (Our referees wear blazers and khakis. Even in high summer. ‘Nuff said.) Rowing without covering your abs will get you noticed in an unpleasant way, six-pack or no.

1) Gloves. Every summer my mom would touch my calloused hands and moan, “Why don’t you wear gloves?” We’ll cover this more in later posts, but your grip on the oar is how you connect with your boat. Gloves impede this, and adversely affect your rowing. Sure, all rowers have been tempted to wear gloves—especially in the spring when hands are soft and blisters abound. But we resist. You should too.