The Essential Dirtbag Tip for Running During a Pandemic

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“If there’s one thing covid-19 has taught me, it’s that nothing really matters,” a complete stranger told me last night while I was tattooing him in my living room. It was time to do dumb stuff in March. In the months that followed, our mastery grew into idiot-expertise, and as July yawns into the doldrums of August, we must share that knowledge with one another. I’ll start.

Before you jump to conclusions, no, I’m not going to pretend to be the very first person to cut a ratty old band T-shirt into a tank top. Everyone knows they can do that; considerably fewer people have the immunity to shame to follow through with it, though they exist and I can now count myself among them.

Where running during the heat of summer is concerned, a tank top is a cheat code in and of itself. But this is not an ordinary summer running season. Not only is it hot as shit in new and terrifying ways, but even an easy jog goes from Hurt Me Plenty to Ultra-Violence with a medical mask covering your airway.


My friends, the answer was there all along.

Those sleeves you were about to toss out? They make for a perfect, lightweight, highly breathable face covering. There’s no possibility of it becoming untied (bandanas, you’re on notice), and the line of stitching around the cuff is an ideal feature to keep the fabric from sliding down the bridge of your nose. Yes, it’s basically a neck gaiter, but lighter, more breathable, machine-washable, and above all else, free.


For best results, cut the sleeves off to create the desired tank shape, then make another angled cut from the armpit stitching up to the shoulder. That stitching, which is both a bit stronger and a bit less comfortable to have chafing against your nose, will be the back of your new mask.

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Photo: Bryan Menegus/Gizmodo

Will this work for everyone? I have no idea, since we’re not allowed within six feet of other human beings and my head is pretty large, but I’m confident that if you were planning to pull the dirtbag move of cutting up your old T-shirts anyway, it’s worth 12 seconds of additional effort to at least try it out.

Some of my best runs this summer have happened with an an ugly tank top that probably should have been thrown away on my body and a reclaimed sleeve shielding my face. (That those runs happened on days where the weather happened to be less than 90 degrees I’m going to write off as immaterial.) You might attract a few stares, but realize in your heart of hearts that when a passing cyclist yells, “What the fuck is on your face,” what they’re really thinking is Damn, wish I’d thought of that.


This has been dirtbag tips. You’re welcome.