Topless Troubles

Unbeknownst Gym-Goers: Reading Into Striplin Shirt Policy

When you walk down to General Charles Krulak stadium on a school day evening, you will see many of Birmingham-Southern’s athletes at work. The football team may be having a scrimmage or practice, and spread out all over the track is BSC’s track and field athletes. The cross-country boys are probably in their short shorts, and the girls of the team are usually sweating it out in sports bras and tempo-like shorts. When it’s upwards of eighty degrees and humid outside, even in September, all of the athletes are trying to do their best to stay hydrated and as cool as possible as they train.

On a day-to-day basis many of these collegiate athletes go shirtless for their physical activities. This is a habit not only athletes have, but also many average gym-goers or casual runners partake in as well. When you’re doing something physically strenuous, it is understandable to want to be as cool and unrestricted as possible. Due to this, going shirtless has become common workout attire, including in gyms. Many fitness centers, though, are not on board with this.

BSC’s Larry D. Striplin, Jr. Physical Fitness and Recreation Center, referred to by the community as Striplin Center, is one of the many recreation centers that has in place a shirt policy, one forbidding gym-goers from choosing to go shirtless. This policy is not broadcasted in the gym by any signage, and it can sometimes throw students off. Someone who is used to running outside in only their shorts may finish their work out with sprints on the indoor track. Some runners may resort to the treadmill if it starts to rain during their run. Other runners might begin using the indoor track during the winter. This shirt rule could cause frustration amongst these students looking to use the Striplin Center.

Striplin Center’s director, Mike Robinson, met with me for an interview about Striplin’s policies. Mr. Robinson has been working at Birmingham-Southern for thirty-three years, and was here when the Striplin Center first opened it’s doors in 1998. The rules created for the Striplin Center since then seem to be pretty concrete. “When we first opened the Striplin Center in ’98, I had a draft of the policies and procedures for Striplin and the board of trustees approved that,” Mr. Robinson talks about Striplin’s guidelines, “We’ve tweaked things since, but I don’t know of any new rules or regulations that we’ve added over the past few years.” Mr. Robinson went on the explain that Birmingham-Southern stays in contact with other schools in our athletic conference and ACS-member schools, in order to compare hours, intermural sports, and discuss adding anything new.

In terms of the shirt rule, Mr. Robinson says, “It’s primarily for the weight room and the cardio room. It’s for sanitation. I don’t want anybody lying on a bench doing an exercise without a shirt on.” In terms of the gray area where gym-goers might be confused, Mr. Robinson draws a clearer line for us, saying, “We let them play shirts and skins on the basketball court and that kind of thing, so that’s sort of where we have the dividing line.”

It turns out that the runners seeking refuge from rainy days on the indoor track probably do not have anything to worry about, but gym-goers looking to use their got-to weight machines should opt for a workout shirt. 

Annika is an English major who got her start in the local writing community while attending the Alabama School of Fine Arts for creative writing. She has published writings in multiple Birmingham magazines, including Style Blueprint and ANNA Magazine.