Going to the gym, like attending a business meeting or a wedding, comes with a certain set of behaviors, rituals, and rules. You need to know the proper etiquette, carry yourself appropriately, and know how to wear the right clothes for the occasion.
Unfortunately, the gym is also ground zero for a ton of fashion snafus, and we’ve all seen some guys who clearly have no idea what’s going on when it comes to dressing for a workout.
Men who didn’t get the memo end up somewhere between a comedy and a tragedy, and never, under any circumstances, should you let yourself be that person!
To help you make more sense of gym fashion and pick the best clothes for peak performance, we’ve put together a complete guide on what to wear to the gym for men. Let’s get into it!
Every great outfit starts with a pair of stellar shoes, and dressing for the gym is no exception to this rule. However, you do need to factor in both form and functionality, and your choice of footwear will hinge on the type of workout you have planned for the day.
Let’s take steady-state cardio, for example. You may just need a simple pair of running shoes to jog on the treadmill or pedal the stationary bike, so don’t worry about getting a ton of extra support or stability.
If weightlifting is your only goal, there are specific shoes available that allow you to safely squat and deadlift many plates at a time.
Plan on jumping around between the treadmill, the weight rack, and the basketball court? It may be smartest to strap on a pair of cross-trainers that give you the most versatility for your buck.
Just like shirts and pants, some footwear is just going to fit you better than others, and it’s important that you shop around to find the best shoes for your feet.
If they don’t fit right, you can run the risk of nasty blisters or an injury that will keep you out of the gym for weeks. It’s better to spend the time making the right selection rather than cutting corners and ending up on the sidelines.
When you find the right brand and style, stick with them, and just use your best judgment to determine which shoes will help you through a safe and successful workout.
With a few reliable pairs of shoes in your rotation, you’ll then need to find some workout tops to cover your torso and keep a layer of protection between you, the equipment, and other gym-goers.
There are many variations of exercise clothes to wear on your upper body, some with a lot less fabric than others. Before you get too aggressive with your look, it’s best to start off with some basics, like a few standard athletic short sleeve tees.
The t-shirt is an American classic, but what specifically makes for a great workout tee? Fit is probably the most important aspect, followed by the materials it’s made from.
Without a good fit that contours your body and minimizes excess fabric, your t-shirt is only going to get in your way and distract you from the task at hand. You want a slim, tailored shape that isn’t too boxy or long at the bottom.
In terms of material, you’ll want to read your labels carefully and find a tee made with an optimal ratio of quality fabrics. The best athletic shirts are composed mostly of polyester, with a smaller portion of cotton and a tiny bit of spandex thrown in.
Polyester is the synthetic material responsible for the stretchy, moisture-wicking properties that we see in most athletic wear, while cotton is meant to keep you cool and comfortable during a high-intensity workout.
Spandex adds that four-way stretch to help you max out your range of motion and perform demanding movements like overhead press and pullups.
The same principles apply when selecting a long-sleeve shirt for the gym. In fact, it’s even more important that the long-sleeve tee is flexible, durable, and thermal regulating, considering the added arm coverage.
Another factor you’ll want to consider is going to and from the gym, which might require you to bundle up a bit more if you live in a cold climate.
Rather than wearing a heavy overcoat or winter jacket, a versatile workout hoodie may be exactly what you need to remain cozy on your way to the gym and back home. The beauty of the hoodie is that you can warm up and stretch with it on, then stuff it in your locker right before the workout really ramps up.
Maybe you need to run some errands or meet a friend for coffee following your workout? Add something like a quarter-zip pullover to your wardrobe so you can freshen up fast and present with a slightly more formal look.
Finding a great workout t-shirt or hoodie isn’t that tough since most of us can quickly determine our fit and pick the materials we like most.
When it comes to athletic pants and shorts, things can get trickier since there is a huge range of styles and fits out there, and it’s tough to figure out our best fit.
Lots of joggers, for example, are short in the leg and don’t offer a ton of flexibility in the waist. They may look cool, but when trying to get a great workout in, they can be restrictive and distracting.
Other sweatpants are stuck in the 90s with their wide, bell-bottom hems and billowy fits. When you’re working out with heavy weights and complex equipment, the last thing you want is excess material getting caught up during a lift.
Look for a pair of mid-weight fleece sweatpants that aren’t too heavy, fit slim to your body, and have no extra fabric or added bells and whistles. They should have the same moisture-wicking, flexible properties as your shirts, allowing you to stretch, lunge, and squat without any limitation to your movement.
If you love to jog and move more quickly, fleece sweatpants may not be what you’re looking for. A pair of lightweight poly/spandex track pants will suit you better, offering more freedom and flexibility while sacrificing some softness.
Of course, the best part about wearing track pants is the ability to match them with a same-colored shirt to get that classic varsity look.
At some point, the long pants will have to come off, as shorts take their place in the summertime or for high-intensity workouts. Instead of wearing cheesy cargo shorts or long, blustering basketball shorts, stick with the current style, wearing shorts that actually fit and look good.
You’ll find some variation in fit and material when browsing workout shorts, so pick the ones that work best for your exercise routine and personal comfort. Some men prefer their shorts to fall just above the knee, while others like the thigh-high look and feel.
Whatever suits your style and keeps you crushing those workouts, that’s what you should wear!
With the fundamentals covered, it’s time to talk accessories. There’s no doubt that style is a factor at the gym, as evidenced by the growing athleisure trend and the rise of social media selfie culture.
Don’t get carried away with your accessories, and avoid wearing any fancy jewelry that could end up sabotaging your workouts. Instead, stick with a clean, stylish hat or headband that matches your outfit and keeps you locked into the routine.
Some guys like to wear wrist straps or weight belts, but those tend to be reserved for the hardcore powerlifters and bodybuilders.
Aside from fashion, stay on track with your game plan and be polite to everyone that crosses your path. Good etiquette is part of maintaining a harmonious ecosystem at the gym.
If you’ve been to the weight room lately, it’s clear that some guys are just there to pass the time, play with their phones, chat up the ladies, and occasionally work a few sets on a machine here or there. You’ve probably also noticed that those men are rarely in great shape.
Remember that your conduct is the most attractive and effective tool in your workout arsenal, so stay focused on the task at hand and get the results you’re after.
Going to the gym is about discipline, hard work, and doing whatever it takes to reach your health and fitness goals. It’s also about looking good, being comfortable, and having fun! To get the most out of your experience, find a balance between both worlds.
With these workout wardrobe tips, you’ll be set up for success every time you hit the gym.