Is it ever really OK for men to wear tights?

Activewear, activewear, doing literally nothing in my activewear.

This was one of the biting lines in the satirical song, Activewear, by comedy team Van Vuuren Bros, who invited the world to mock the achingly on-trend world of Bondi hipsters. The video shows people "sipping coffee" and "smoking cigarettes" – in fact, anything but working out in their activewear.

The video went internationally viral, with over five million views, but it took aim at one demographic: women in activewear. Now, it seems, men are getting in on the trend. And they're not immune to the same cheeky mockery.

Get with the lingo

First, you need to get with the lingo. The lexicon for men's bottom-half activewear ranges from "lower compression wear" to "skins" and "training pants". But really, calling a spade a spade, there's no way around it: they are tights. Tights for men.

The reaction of people to this new trend spans from amusement to outright annoyance. What's so offensive about men in tights? Is it the perceived gendered nature of them – and us putting those gendered expectations on men? Or all about the lack of modesty?

"You look like a bin chicken"

Joe Cutcliffe, style expert for Man of Many, is not at all impressed. "Men are blessed with the ability to wear almost anything without society's judgement or catcalls, so the fact that some choose to draw a target on their back by showing the world exactly how their nuts sit is bizarre."

He has no truck with the argument that they're comfy because, he says, "you're an evil-scientist's hybrid between a comic-book super-villain and an ibis (yes, the disgusting black-legged bird a.k.a bin chicken)."

That's one damning metaphor. Were it up to him, Cutcliffe would ban them altogether: "By sticking to shorts you're doing a favour for your brethren, your balls, and society at large."

Bulges, MAMILs and moose knuckles

Lampooning men in tight sportswear is a sport in itself. The Aussie rowing team most recently elicited schoolyard titters when their tight green lycra uniforms revealed bulges that were, ahem, distracting at the Rio Olympics. Stories emerged of prudish picture editors cropping above the bulge. One news outlet sniffed that light green was "one of the most unforgiving colours in the spectrum" and national embarrassment was caused by the juxtaposition with "demure, modesty-maintaining black" shorts of other countries."


The term "moose knuckles" entered common parlance, and became an awkward one to explain to your mum. It follows the attacking acronym, MAMIL, used to deride a "middle aged man in lycra" (usually early morning cyclists.)

"Why should I be ashamed?"

One way of navigating this minefield is just wear shorts over the tights. But Brent Holden, a semi-professional football player, doesn't feel he should have to: "Why be ashamed to show off your "lump and bumps"? The difference with the tights I wear is that the fabric is compression, so for my style of tight it holds everything in place and keeps the muscle warm, allowing blood flow and muscle recovery."

He even has a second, less conventional use, for them: "More guys should replace Viagra with compression tights – it helps with stimulation for better performance, regardless of your choice of work out."

And would he do literally nothing in his activewear?

"Not only would I enjoy a coffee in my tights and hoodie after a session, I'd wear them under my jeans as a thermal to have a beer with my mates."

Style tips for men in tights

For those who don't want to wear shorts over their tights, but are put-off by the jibes, men's stylist Sally Mackinnon has these three tips:

1. Choose a scoop hem tank or t-shirt to wear over tights, that covers both crotch and behind.

2. Men can wear tights (when exercising only) without shorts over the top as long as the tights are well reinforced in the crotch.

3. If wearing tights to exercise, wear the right under garment. Just like a woman would wear seam-free knickers under tights to avoid a visible panty line, men should choose a pair of jocks to help hold everything in place.

With that in mind, men, it's time to sip some lattes in your activewear.

Have some strong opinions on men sporting activewear? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.