What to Wear to the Gym – A Style Guide

Comfortable yet stylish: gym wear should be both

Hitting the gym is something many of us do on a twice (or three times) weekly basis – some guys even go every day before or after work. Or maybe you’re just considering getting started at a new gym, and you’re wondering what on earth you should wear to ensure you don’t stand out for all the wrong reasons? The gym isn’t the place to make any major style statements, and you should ensure that you keep your workout outfits simple, comfortable, yet stylish. What you wear to the gym isn’t going to be the same as what to wear hiking! Gym wear can look good while still supporting you and enhancing your performance during your workout, whether you’re lifting weights or hitting the treadmill. We’re going to guide you through what to wear to the gym, and what not to wear. It will ensure you’re always perfectly attired for your workout.

What to wear to the gym: gym tops

Strangely enough, gym tops are often where new gym-goers get things very, very wrong. It’s tempting to throw on an old cotton tee with your new gym shorts or joggers and think that’s enough for a workout – but it’s not. In reality, cotton is a poor choice of fabric for a workout for several reasons:

  • It gets damp from perspiration quickly and doesn’t wick moisture away from your skin, leaving you feeling uncomfortable
  • It’s heavier than some performance fabrics designed for workout wear, which can be restrictive during your workout
  • It shows perspiration stains more quickly than some other fabrics

So what top should you be wearing to the gym? Whether you opt for a tank, a short sleeve tee, or even a long-sleeved top, the fabric is the key consideration. Moisture-wicking material pulls moisture (sweat!) away from your skin to the top layer of the fabric, keeping you dry and fresh. A lycra and polyester blend is the most common type of cloth for gym wear. You can expect to spend a little more on this than your average cotton tee, but it will wash well, dry quickly and last longer – plus it looks stylish on.

One other thing to bear in mind when it comes to gym tops: oversized clothing is not your friend. You might feel self-conscious about your body on your first gym session, but baggy clothing not only looks sloppy, but it will also actually make you look smaller than you really are. It can be constricting, too, making your workout harder than it needs to be. 

Opt for a gym top in a moisture-wicking fabric that has some stretch – nothing too tight, but a fitted style. This will ensure you’re comfortable and look great!

What to wear at the gym: gym bottoms

So now you’ve got the right top for the gym, what do you wear on the bottom? When it comes to what to wear at the gym, there are a few things you should think about:

  1. What type of workout are you doing: for example, cardio, strength training, etc.?
  2. What’s the weather like? A long sleeve top may be more appropriate for winter days, even for indoor workouts.
  3. How long is your gym session going to be? For longer workouts, you may want to avoid long sleeves and opt for a short sleeve tee or tank to keep your cool.
  4. What is everyone else wearing? Although you don’t need to follow the crowd, looking around to see what other men are wearing at the gym means you’ll be sure to pick activewear that blends in rather than makes you stand out for the wrong reasons.

There are three main choices when it comes to gym bottoms: shorts, sweats, or tracks. Here’s a handy table that will help you choose the right bottoms for your workout:

Workout typeBottoms
Cardio (for example, running on the treadmill)Shorts in a moisture-wicking fabric. Not too tight!
Lifting weightsTracks or sweats if it’s cold and you’re just getting started, ideally in a darker color like black or navy. If you’ve been working out prior to your weight session, shorts are an ideal choice.
Strength trainingShorts in a lightweight fabric
Low-impact workouts such as yoga, pilates or medicine ball workoutsMen’s yoga pants or lightweight tracks. Avoid short shorts for anything involving floor/mat work as these are not only uncomfortable but can show more than you intended!

Generally speaking, a good pair of workout shorts is a versatile choice. We always try to stay away from jersey fabrics when it comes to shorts, as these not only show perspiration stains, they tend to be unflattering. 

Of course, gym fashion trends seem to be everywhere online – right now, men’s harem pants are having a moment. But you don’t need to follow them – in fact, we recommend you steer clear of them if you want to look good while enjoying your workout. When choosing gym bottoms, the key is to keep it simple. Follow trends, and you’ll look like you’re trying too hard and draw unnecessary attention to yourself.

Many men prefer the comfort of a pair of tracks or sweats for the gym, and that’s totally fine. Just don’t choose an oversized pair or a light color, as these are less than flattering. And don’t wear those pizza-stained sweats you hang out at home. Invest in a high-quality pair of tracks designed for a workout that is both comfortable and stylish, and make sure they fit you well.

How to wear shorts to the gym

If it’s your first gym session – particularly in the winter months – you might feel a bit wary about getting your legs out. Don’t be! Shorts are commonplace in most gyms, and you’re likely to see other guys wearing workout shorts too. The key to wearing shorts to the gym is to choose the right pair. Here are a few tips to help you out:

  1. Avoid super shiny, bright-colored fabrics unless you’re looking to draw attention to yourself. This isn’t the time for those electric yellow satin sports shorts to come out of hibernation!
  2. Make sure your shorts fit you. Do not, we repeat, do not wear short shorts to the gym. Your shorts should cover you appropriately for the type of workout you’ll be doing. Nothing is more uncomfortable than a man in a pair of too tight, too short shorts. And please, stay away from cycling shorts for working out at the gym.
  3. Choose a neutral color like black, navy, or charcoal grey – not only is this stylish, but it will go with almost any color of gym top, including brightly colored tops for those days you feel super-confident.
  4. Invest in high-quality shorts that will wash and wear well. While it can be tempting to buy several pairs of low cost, low-quality shorts, these will start to look worn after just a few washes, and they’ll lose their elasticity too. Opt for sportswear brands you can trust like Reebok, Nike, and Adidas and invest in shorts that are made from performance fabrics so they will wick sweat and wash and dry thoroughly.

Remember these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to rocking a pair of shorts at the gym while looking like you belong.

How to wear a tank to the gym

Gyms and tank tops seem to go together like cheese and wine: they’re a great combination. We’re always seeing pictures of muscled men lifting weights while rocking a great tank. But it’s not as easy as pulling that white cotton tank out of the wardrobe and wearing it with a pair of shorts. There are some things you should bear in mind when it comes to what to wear when working out in a tank.

  1. Avoid low cut tank tops. Nobody wants a flash of nipple or to see your entire chest while you’re bench pressing. Choose a well-fitting tank top that isn’t too tight, and you’ll look stylish without offending anybody.
  2. Avoid cotton tank tops. While cotton is perfect for the summer months, it won’t keep you dry while you workout, and it takes longer to dry after a wash, so it’s not the best choice for hitting the gym a few times a week. 
  3. Avoid the white cotton tank. Not only is white a pretty unforgiving color, but a cotton tank can also be baggy after a few washes and not the most flattering item of workout gear. Not to mention that white shows every sweat stains and marks. Stick to darker colors like navy, black, and charcoal grey instead.
  4. Don’t be tempted to wear baggier tank if you are of a smaller build. This can actually make you look smaller than you are. The general rule is, the smaller you are, the more fitted your tank should be. This doesn’t mean it should be tight, just well-fitting.
  5. Don’t arrive at the gym in a tank during the winter months. If it’s cold outside, make sure you’re layered up. You may want to start off your workout in a long sleeve top before switching to a tank for your lifting.
  6. Stick to plain tanks that will go with all your gym bottoms, rather than opting for outrageous prints and patterns. Not only are plain tank tops more versatile, but they’re also easier to mix and match, and they will ensure you look stylish. You can choose neutral shades or add a pop of color with a brighter tank paired with dark-colored sweats or shorts.

Lastly, remember that you don’t have to wear a tank if the idea of getting your upper body out at the gym is unnerving. Plenty of guys work out in performance tees or long-sleeve tops.

Gym footwear: choosing the right style

We’re now on to one of the most essential bits of what to wear at the gym: footwear. Believe it or not, this is the part of your gym gear you should spend the most money on. Working out can be hard on your feet, especially if your workout is high-impact (like running). The right footwear not only looks great, but it also improves your performance and reduces your risk of injury, too, supporting your feet and ankles in all the right places. The first thing to remember is that open-toed sandals and flip-flops are a definite no-no at the gym. Not only are these unhygienic, but they’re also unsafe and impractical. You could drop weights on your feet or trip on the treadmill in impractical sandals – so always wear closed-toe shoes.

Sneakers are, of course, ideal for the gym. They give plenty of traction to prevent slipping, and you can find sneakers geared to your workout – like cushioned shoes for running. It goes without saying that you should always make sure your gym shoes fit you well, which means investing in the right pair of workout socks and trying on your gym shoes to ensure they don’t slip or rub your feet. Keep your gym shoes as indoor shoes, so you don’t track mud or dirt from inside into the gym with you too.

And please don’t ever work out in your socks – not only is this dangerous, as you could slip, it’s also inconsiderate to other gym users as your sweaty feet will be on mats and exercise equipment! It is essential to invest in the right socks for your workout, and we’re about to cover that.

Here are a few of our favorite pairs of sneakers for wearing to the gym, from Bold Society Shoes.

These simple red leather sneakers with white rubber soles are ideal for low-impact gym sessions, such as lifting or a session on the cross-trainer. The bright red adds a pop of color to your workout wear while the leather is breathable and comfortable, keeping your feet cool.

You can’t go wrong with a simple pair of white leather sneakers. Handmade in Portugal using Italian leather, these sneakers are of high quality, which means they’re an excellent investment for any gym-goers. The rubber soles ensure you’re comfortable, no matter how long your gym sessions.

What socks go with gym wear?

Soxy socks are ideal for your gym workout, as they’re high quality, won’t slip while you’re busy running or lifting, and come in a variety of colors and styles. 

When it comes to gym socks, don’t be tempted to throw on any old pair. Socks with worn-out elastic can slip and distract you from your workout, while socks that are too thick or too thin can be uncomfortable, causing rubbing and blisters. We’ve picked a few of our favorite Soxy socks that will keep your feet dry, prevent discomfort, and keep blisters to a minimum.

These red and white striped athletic socks come in a low-cut, no-show style that’s ideal for the gym. Not only are these socks light compression socks, but they also have a cushioned footbed that absorbs impact, making them an excellent choice for your treadmill session.

These blue athletic crew socks are a longer, mid-calf length. Great for wearing with shorts or sweats to the gym, their rip protection helps eliminate holes in the heel and toe – where socks are most likely to let you down. Their cotton, polyester, and spandex blend ensures they’re super comfortable and move with you during your workout.

If you like the style of Soxy’s no-show athletic socks but want them in a longer length, these white and green crew athletic socks are ideal. These mid-calf length socks come in a range of colorways, but we love the white and green for its fresh look that will go with all your workout gear. With a reinforced toe and heel and cushioned footbed, these are the perfect socks, whether you’re hitting the treadmill, lifting weights, or even taking part in a yoga class.

Because most of us hit the gym a few times a week – or even every day – you’ll need more than one pair of workout socks. This bundle of colored crew athletic socks includes 5 pairs of mid-calf length Soxy socks, so there’s a pair for every day of the week – and a color to match almost any gym wear.

Why choose Soxy socks?

There are a few reasons why Soxy socks are a superior choice for your feet when hitting the gym, and we’ve created this handy table to explain some of the benefits:

FeatureGym benefits
Light compressionProvides support during your workout
80% combed cotton, 15% polyester, and 5% spandex blendMoisture-wicking, comfortable, and with added stretch to keep your feet cool and protected
Cushioned footbedAbsorbs impact, so particularly good for high impact workouts like running or HITT
Stay up technology and Y stitched heelJust the right amount of elasticity keeps your socks in place and prevents them from falling down and disrupting your workout
Rip protectionHelps eliminate holes in the areas that experience the most friction, such as the heel and toe so your socks last longer

Gym accessories: the essentials

Now you’ve got your bottoms, top, footwear, and socks ready for the gym, what about those accessories? 

  • Socks are a must – and we recommend investing in athletic socks that are high quality and durable
  • A towel is also a must for the gym, not only for yourself but to wipe down gym equipment for other users after a sweaty session
  • A gym bag will hold everything you need – keep it simple with a black backpack, duffle bag or holdall

A smartphone armband stops your phone from falling out of your pocket during your workout and lets you listen to podcasts or music. 

If you have long hair, check outhow to wear a bandana for some gym-friendly ideas – they’re great worn on your head to keep your hair out of your face at the gym. Or you could always opt for a more traditional headband.

In colder weather, beanie will keep you cozy, and if you’re wondering how to wear a beanie, we can help!

As well as the above, don’t forget your grooming essentials like a comb, shower gel (that can double as shampoo), and good deodorant. You’ll be showering after your workout, so you’ll also need a towel and a change of clothes, depending on what your plans are.

5 rules for what to wear when working out

Some rules are made to be broken, and then there are some you really should try to keep. These 5 gym rules will help you stay on track when it comes to what to wear to the gym.

  1. Avoid cotton and opt for moisture-wicking workout gear
  2. Don’t wear cologne
  3. Make sure your gym gear fits
  4. Avoid open-toed shoes
  5. Leave your jewelry at home

Avoid cotton and opt for moisture-wicking workout gear

We’ve already covered this above, but avoiding cotton is a good move. Moisture-wicking fabrics help keep you cool and feeling fresh while you work out.

Don’t wear cologne

There’s no point in wearing expensive cologne to the gym. Not only will the scent potentially irritate other gym-goers, as it can spread quickly in an enclosed, hot space – but you’ll be showering after your workout anyway, making it a total waste. Just ensure your gym clothes are clean, and you’ll smell as fresh as you need to during your session.

Make sure your gym gear fits

Avoiding baggy, poorly fitting clothing is a must at the gym. It looks sloppy, can make you seem smaller than you are, and can constrict movement during your workout – not to mention it could catch on equipment.

Avoid open-toed shoes

Again, we covered this above. Don’t be tempted to wear sandals to the gym, even in the summer months. Most gyms have strict rules in place about the type of footwear you can wear, so make sure you stick to the rules.

Leave your jewelry at home

If you’re wondering how to wear a watch to the gym: don’t. Generally speaking, you should leave your regular jewelry at home when you hit the gym – that means chains, bracelets, rings, and your watch. A sports watch or fitness tracker is great, as these usually have a soft strap that won’t interfere with your workout.

Jewelry can become snagged on equipment or damaged when you hit it on a metal workout apparatus. Perspiration can also react with some metals, which can cause an allergic reaction. Wearing rings while lifting weights can not only distort the shape of rings and cause scratches in the metal, it’s also pretty uncomfortable. The only piece of jewelry you should ever wear at the gym is a sports watch/fitness tracker/phone armband.

Gym fashion mistakes: what not to wear

Let’s end our article with a cautionary tale: there are a few things you should never wear to the gym. Make sure you don’t end up sporting any of these to your next workout session!

  • Onesies: This isn’t a frat party or a sleepover – and you’re not lounging in front of Netflix, so leave your super-casual onesie at home where it belongs.
  • Dirty gym clothing: It should go without saying that pulling your gym gear from the laundry basket and wearing it isn’t going to make you look or feel good – or smell good! Smelly, dirty workout gear can be pretty unpleasant for those working out around you in an enclosed space.
  • Short shorts: Please don’t ever wear short shorts to the gym. Everything should be covered to prevent others from working out from embarrassment!
  • Meggings: Do we really need to explain this one? Extremely tight lycra leggings show far more than anyone ever wants to see, particularly if you’re running on a treadmill.
  • Oversized gym clothing: If you want to look sloppy and unkempt, by all means, put that baggy cotton tee and oversized pair of sweats on for the gym. Oversized gym clothing will make you look smaller, and it can be dangerous too, as it could snag on equipment.

Now you know what not to wear to the gym – and the best clothes to wear, you should be stylish and comfortable during every workout!

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