Gym gear: what men should (and shouldn't) wear

Like most men my age with a penchant for the odd pint and slice of pizza, you can often find me attempting to atone for my indulgences by sweating it out at the gym several times a week.

I'm a long way from being the type of fitness fanatic who turns up decked out in head-to-toe compression gear, but I do like to think I at least look like I'm there to focus on my fitness.

However, I've begun to notice that apparently not everyone holds themselves to the same standard.

In the past month alone, I've spotted men such myself working out in anything from grease-covered overalls with steelcap boots, to linen fisherman pants teamed up with Crocs. I even spotted one particularly keen individual doing what looked like some rather intense cardio on a treadmill - in jeans.

So what is it about gym wear that sends men down the sartorial rabbit hole?

I think where men tend to go wrong is they can often confuse 'comfortable' with 'sloppy'. Freedom of movement is paramount, sure, but does that necessitate the accompanying sweat and food stains on what has clearly been your favourite t-shirt since you were 18?

Mark Moon is a Sydney-based personal trainer and group fitness instructor who, during 10 years in the fitness industry, has also witnessed some truly creative interpretations of gym-appropriate clothing. His advice when it comes to picking the right clothes to exercise in is to keep it as simple as possible.

Keep it simple

"Comfort and breathability," explains Moon. "I always recommend a breathable material that is light to wear and dries fast. Also, go for something that isn't too tight and has a bit of movement in it.  Shirts that are too tight can cause skin irritation and bad break-outs when you sweat."


Nike's Dri-Fit range of singlet and shorts are a great lightweight material that is designed specifically to keep sweat away from the body. However, if you're like me and your skin doesn't react particularly well to synthetics, then 100 per cent cotton is the only way to go.

This does mean, however, that you will need to update your gym wardrobe rather regularly as the fabric starts to age and discolour from sweat and deodorant. Online portal ASOS has a great range of basic, budget-conscious options such as these classic-fit singlets.

Keep it out of sight

Compression clothing is the new black in exercise fashion right now. But what seems to be lost in translation is that a lot of men are wearing them in lieu of actual pants and sharing much more with their fellow gym-goers than just routine tips.

"The thing about compression gear is they really do have their use," concedes Mark, "especially in winter when it's good to stay warm to help prevent injury.

"However, the important thing to remember here is that they are called an 'undergarment' for a reason. Unless you are accustomed to working out in your Y-fronts, keep your Skins under a pair of shorts, guys."

Keep it appropriate

When it comes to footwear, the importance of wearing the right shoes when exercising can't be underestimated.

Taking the time to have your feet assessed will help you learn whether you're a neutral gait, you roll in, or roll out, and to choose a pair of shoes accordingly. Down the track, this can then help prevent ankle or lower leg injuries. If you're lucky enough to have pretty standard feet, an example of a good all-round cross trainer is the classic Asics Gel.

My last piece of advice is this – invest in some antibacterial wash. I know this sounds like I'm nitpicking, but you'll thank me for this later.

By their very nature, gyms can be a hotbed for any number of bacteria or fungi, and washing your gym kit with a capful of antibacterial wash such as Canesten helps kill off common nasties such as athlete's foot.

What do you think is appropriate to wear to the gym?

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