Generally speaking, the gym should be a safe space for fashion. For the most part, you should be free to wear whatever makes you comfortable when you work out. The gym is the rightful home for that ratty laundry day t-shirt and those too-short mesh shorts. When a reliable v-neck gets taken out of night out rotation, it should find a comfortable home as the barrier between you and a germ-ridden bench. You should be able to wear anything you want to the gym ... almost.
There are some clothes that just don't belong in the gym. Some of them are distracting to other gym goers. Some of them hinder the effectiveness of your workout. Others just look stupid. Though a variety of factors contribute to making these clothes terrible, all of them should be avoided at all costs. Here are some things you should never wear to the gym.
Low-Cut Tank Top
What it says about you: Too vain for a shirt; too much of a pussy to go shirtless.
The neck line isn't the most ridiculous part of these muscle-man modified tanks, its that the shirt is barely there below the arms. Many a bro loves nothing more than to cut bigger holes in their tank tops to show off their abs. It is natural to want to show off all that you worked so hard for, but if you're using the same tactics college co-eds use to show off their sideboob, you are in need of a fashion intervention. So many guys walk around the gym in tank tops help up by only the slimmest pieces of fabric. If your'e cut, the ladies will be able to tell without you borrowing fashion tips from female American Eagle models.
Too-Old Gym Shorts
What it says about you: You don't like to leave much to the imagination.
Tight gyms shorts aren't the problem. It's when those tight shorts are also old enough that they're defense against bulges has thinned to almost nothing. It's one thing to wear shorter shorts in order to keep your boys under control for certain exercises. It is another thing to subject the entire gym to a view of your junk because you won't spring for shorts with a little more support. If you like form-fitting shorts, make sure that they aren't the kind that give innocent bystanders a view of your, umm, form.
Your Douchy Clubbing Shirt
What it says about you: You haven't gotten laid in a long time.
Dudes going to the gym before they go out is the worst trend to hit gyms since initiation fees. Bros pile into gyms across the country on Friday and Saturday nights to pump up their biceps and their chest before they go hunting on the dance floor. Not only is this practice obnoxious, it doesn't work. You are only going to improve your appearance by two percent or so in a given workout session, and by the time you finally cab your way to the club, the post-workout swelling will probably have gone down anyway. Do the work in the weeks and months before you decide to make a move on the girl of your dreams, or, you know, be a decent human being with a sliver a personality.
Super Specific Workout Gear
What it says about you: You like to waste money.
Wear the right gear for the workout. If you are hitting the stationary bike, there is no need to dress like you're training for the Tour de France. If you are taking a couple swings at a speed bag, don't suit up like you're gearing up for a fight with Floyd Mayweather. If you're actually doing some intensive training, by all means dress the part. But, don't think that spending a few hundred dollars is going to shave tenths of a second off of your forty time. When it comes to physical fitness, clothes don't actually make the man.
What it says about you: You like to live
The gym isn't exactly a construction site. No one is going to require you to wear steel toe boots in order to get a shot at the squat rack. However, sandals and boat shoes shouldn't make it through the door. If you don't have time to change between work and the gym, at least keep a pair of sneakers in your car to swap out for your dress shoes or work boots. If you don't want to shell out crazy amounts of money on state of the art footwear, that's all well and good, but make sure you have shoes you can move in before you start your workout routine.
What it says about you: You know nothing of style or comfort.
As we've already stated -- and it bears repeating -- no one wants to see your package at the gym. However, you also shouldn't be wearing shorts that are so baggy they render you temporarily handicapped. Even if it isn't cardio day, it is still important for you to wear clothes that fit to the gym. If you can't see your form underneath those billowing mounds of cloth, it's going to be difficult to correct your squat form. If the fashions of your particular clique dictate that you wear baggy clothes, so be it, but save the streetwear for the streets.
Faded Shirts From Faded Glories
What it says about you: High school really was the best years of your life.
There is nothing wrong with wearing your college water polo team shirt to the gym for the first year or two after you go off into the real world. After all, you collected so many shirts over the years and it would be shame for all of those clothes to go to waste. But, there is a time when you have to let go. If the last time you took a varsity snap was eight years ago, but you're still trotting out your threadbare state championship shirt for your workouts, it's time to put that shit in storage with your trophies, photo albums, and pride. If you still want to remember the old days, buy a new shirt from your alma mater, just please don't corner any kids in the gym and regale them with tales of how clutch your jump shot was back in the day.
What it says about you: You don't have much respect for your work or your workout.
Not only does wearing your work clothes to the gym look stupid, it can be unsafe. Dress pants and work shirts can be restrictive and cause you injury. Even if your work clothes are gym ready, you're making extra laundry for yourself because you were too lazy or forgetful to throw gym shorts in your trunk. There are a lot of efficient things you can do to save time, but adding an extra aura of stank to your T-Mobil polo shouldn't be one of them. Bring a change of clothes or stop at home before you take business casual to unnecessary new level.
The Same Clothes Everyday
What it says about you: You have given up.
Even in the sweaty dungeon of cheap urban gyms, you should still pay some attention to your hygiene. Don't go overboard. You shouldn't slather yourself in AXE before you hit the gym. There is no need to invest in designer meshwear for your workout. But, the basic rules of fashion decency still apply. Switch up those gym shorts so they don't get too gamey. If If I can see through your white t-shirt to your armpits, that's a problem. No one is asking you to be laundry fresh when you arrive at the gym, but please switch up your garments before your stench begins to impact the well-being of your fellow gym members.
What it says about you: You're a terrible person.
Bro shirts come with all sorts of terrible slogans on the front. The sweet spot seems to be shirts that both exhibit your personal vanity while insulting women. Gym rats have a bad enough rap as it is; they aren't known for their humility or their sensitivity to women. So, do the rest of us a favor and leave shirts like this back in middle school where they belong. If you have to wear them to your monthly CHIVE meeting or to your old frat's annual homecoming beer enema festivities, so be it, but don't wear them to the gym. That Spencer's Gifts lifesyle has been tired since you hit puberty.