What Not To Wear: Gym Edition

by Charlotte on June 18, 2009 · 35 comments

A woman in step class was wearing a black lace bra. Not underneath anything, as bras are generally meant to be worn. Not even on top of something, Madonna-style (is it just me or is she coming up an awful lot on here lately??) which quite truthfully would have been preferable. Nope, it was black bike shorts (Spanx?), a large expanse of untoned pasty flesh and then black lace, delicate straps and underwire. In the gym.

I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt
It was as if she had rushed to the gym, forgetting she wasn’t wearing a top. Except that the aerobics room is flanked with mirrors so it’s not like it was something she could miss. Or perhaps she was on her way somewhere else and saw the gym and thought “I really ought to take a step class today. Drat, forgot my clothes! Oh well, I’ll just strip down to my skivvies and no one will be the wiser.” I really wanted to ask her what the deal was. Or offer her pasties. But that would have been rude. So instead I’m blogging about it to an Internet full of strangers. Because that’s not rude.

I’m Too Sexy For My Pants

All of this reminded me of another tragic episode of Gym Fashion that I witnessed several months ago: an older fellow in a red polo shirt, black knee socks, dress shoes and… tighty whities. Riding the recumbent bike. He definitely wasn’t demented as he was carrying on a very loud conversation with the woman next to him who, to her credit, seemed completely unaffected. He was also speaking with a thick accent that made me wonder if perhaps he was from one of those countries where everyone strips down to go hang out at the bath house together and it’s all very social and non-sexual and what’s wrong with you American prudes anyhow.

And yet. Tighty whities. At least go with boxer shorts next time.

Proper Gym Attire
I’m not one of those people that dresses up to go to the gym. No makeup, bedhead and a cotton tank top with pants (if it’s winter, like it is here nine months out of the year) or shorts (if I’m on vacation somewhere warm or if I’m running outside and need to use my white legs in lieu of reflective gear). You remember this:

So it’s not like I expect other people to be Gym Tyme Barbie or anything. But really there are a few rules one should follow.
Charlotte’s Rules For Dressing Yourself
(because your mother just can’t drive that far every day so stop asking already)

1. No visible underwear. I am not talking about sports bras in this rule but rather actual brassieres (hee – whens the last time you said that word?). Most women know the difference and if you are one of those who are confused, do 10 jumping jacks and if the girls bounce like water balloons in socks then you’ve got the wrong kind. The keys to remember here are support and nipple coverage. This rule also includes thong straps. I heart that you heart thongs but I don’t need to see the actual heart on the back triangle.

2. Some people might read the previous rule and think they should wear no underwear to the gym. This would be false. Please wear appropriate underwear. I will never forget the day when I witnessed a grandpa in old-skool shorty shorts lift up his leg to stretch. I learned things no middle schooler should ever have to know unless they want to go into nursing or professional waxing when they grow up. And women? The wrong pants + no undies = camel toe. Just do a mirror check, is all I’m saying.

3. No clothing with inappropriate words or words in inappropriate places like, say, your butt crack. I know, I know, freedom of speech and all that. But if I crash into a wall because I’m concentrating so hard on reading the 10 lines of text on your shirt (that’s backwards because I’m staring at you in the mirror) that explain your world view on how they should open baby seal clubbing to everyone and not just those lucky park rangers, then I’m totally blaming you.

4. Wear shoes you can actually work out in. This means no flip-flops, stilettos, cowboy boots, slippers, or construction boots. Moon boots? If you have the chutzpah to pull those off then you have my permission to work it, girl.

5. No hammer pants, men.

6. No excess bling. Unless you’re Mr. T. Or can at least rock a mohawk like him. This includes ladies.

7. Skip the scent. Contrary to what your hygeine-challenged grandmother or French exchange student told you, wearing copious amounts of cologne or perfume will not cover up the smell of your body odor. In fact in will permeate the room until it strangles everyone within a 100-foot radius of you. I’d rather smell your sweat than your perfume any day of the week. PS> This also goes for pot. Yes we can smell it. And no it’s not strong enough to give us a contact high so cut it out.

You Wouldn’t Think We’d Have To Say This Stuff
And yet… lace bra. Tighty whities. Shirtless man wearing a heart rate monitor that I swore was a bandeau bikini top for about 5 laps until he turned around. Some people need our help.

What’s the most egregious Gym Fashion sin you’ve ever seen? And what’s your standard gym uniform? Got a pet peeve? I gotta know these things!

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie June 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm

This isn't so much a clothing sin, but entertaining nonetheless. At my gym, there is a guy who ALWAYS wears a muscle tee–always. Which is totally appropriate gym attire. However, because of his choice of clothing, it exposes the large American flag tattoo on his upper shoulder. Which again, is fine. However, the flag is backwards. Yes, backwards. Is it one of those "OMG, the tattoo artist just screwed me over for life" tattoos? Did he want it that way? Did he do it because he always stares at himself in the mirror and the flag looks correct in the mirror? Like the shirts you described, I find myself staring at it every single day and wondering what the heck he was thinking and I WILL blame him if I injure myself amidst my staring.


Patty October 5, 2012 at 12:41 am

Lol well if you did any research you would know why it’s like that


Reese June 18, 2009 at 1:37 pm

I hate those girls who wer the shortest of booty revealing shorts and just a sports bra then prace around on the elliptical. The last time I saw a cardio bunny doing this she gave the dirtiest looks to anyone who even glanced her direction, and was constantly adjusting herself! I'm sorry but if you are going to wear that, people are going to look!! You are asking for it…

The outfit you wear to go-go dance late at night should not double as gym attire…sorry!


Hannah June 18, 2009 at 1:42 pm

I hate the words on the butts of pants- like JUICY. And I swear that girl in my class always has the g-string hanging out as well. {…shudder…}

Guys that wear shorts that leave nothing to the imagination. They shouldn't be so tight that I can see the minute details of your man unit.


Tess June 18, 2009 at 1:48 pm

So funny, because it's so true.

I did actually see a guy wearing cowboy boots at the gym once. He was wearing them with jeans and a sweatshirt, came into the aerobics studio, and proceeded to start feverishly Riverdancing. Then he fell down. I suppose that's what he gets for wearing cowboy boots to the gym.
I go to a gym at a city college with a large Theater Arts program, so this sort of thing isn't entirely out of the ordinary.


Kristin June 18, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I worked the front desk at Bally's one summer during college and saw some rather interesting stuff, mainly because the people who went there were really buff (or thought they were) and thought they could get away with it. This was mainly the women, and most of teh trainers had bets going as to whether their boobs were real or fake. There was also another guy who worked on his arms so much he couldn't put them down and had to turn sideways to get in the door. It took some self-control not to laugh at that one. Again, not fashion choices per se, but still entertaining.


Hanlie June 18, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Amen on the perfume! There was a woman in my aqua aerobics class who always had a cloud of perfume around her and it was an asphyxiating nightmare to share a lane with her… At my new gym there is a very old lady who wears a shower cap instead of a swim cap in the pool, but is just think that's cute. It's not as if she ever really swims or puts her head in the water…

I go for sweatpants and a t-shirt year round. For my pool workouts I chose a leotard, which covers everything, keeps the girls fairly immobile and doesn't gape anywhere. Plus, they're cheap, so I can replace them every two months when the chlorine has destroyed them.


James W June 18, 2009 at 2:59 pm

The worst offender at my Y is an obese woman that will rock just the sports bra OR tuck the bottom of her t-shirt into the bottom of her sports bra. One time she pulled that move, there were like a half dozen high school guys doing double takes and falling over laughing at the site.

And for the ladies that where the shirts that show boatloads of cleavage, her are some of my requests:

- Don't have your iPod ear bud cord disappear into the cleavage.

- When you are doing DB rows, please do not face out into the main gym floor. Although, with the mirrors in my gym, this doesn't matter much.

- Don't be surprised if people do double takes. Also, don't be surprised if wives get mad if you talk to their husbands while wearing such a shirt.


Blondie June 18, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I was always a little perplexed by the men that came in to lift (and nothing else) in jeans, work boots, tanks tops and gold chains.

How is this even comfortable?


Watching and Weighting June 18, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Oh Charlotte! I am positively LAUGHING my head off! What a funny post! I am obsessed with watching people at my gym (especially now I've rejoined the posh one!) and man it's HILARIOUS! My major pet peeve is the lack of sports bra wearing slightly overweight women who insist on jogging wearing their usual brassiere – ha! you're right! Haven't said that for AGES! – and their boobs are all over the show. I really have to try hard not to take it upon myself to add to the 'You may not enter the gym without…' sign!

I just stick to running leggings and a clima cool top PLUS a headband – i do not care if I look stupid!



Chelsea June 18, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Once I saw an older woman wearing leggings with a leotard over them (1980s style, but not so bad) with a grey pair of Hanes Her Ways on top. It was like she forgot to put them on first and said, "Well I need undies, what the heck." I've seen a lot of tacky stuff, but that was the only one I thought was truly odd… Okay and the Eastern European guy who wore the purple wrestling suit.


Michelle June 18, 2009 at 4:06 pm

There is one guy at the gym where I work who wears jeans and t-shirts. From watching him at the gym and in class my assumption is that he is very very new to fitness and is not aware of the term "workout clothes". It's nothing that scares me to see, though, just seems very very uncomfortable!

And on the backwards flag thing… I'm guessing the guy is in the military because military regulations specify that specific placement of the flag on uniforms, it's meant to be reminiscent of the olden days where they had an actual standard bearer who carried the flag into battle.

I only know cuz asked my hubby the same question last year when he was getting his uniforms ready before deployment. They have flag patches that go on the arms (attached by velcro), and I thought he had it on wrong! I got schooled!


Heather June 18, 2009 at 4:21 pm

from one of those countries where everyone strips down to go hang out at the bath house together and it's all very social and non-sexual and what's wrong with you American prudes anyhow.

Freaking hilarious. We were in Denmark staying with my husband's female friend last summer (when I was enormously preggers) and she was walking around in a T-shirt and her underwear and I was freaked. My husband said I was an American prude.


Crabby McSlacker June 18, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Love the examples, and I too struggle with people who have fine print on their but cracks or across their breasts. I hate to get caught staring, but I always feel compelled to read what it says.

However, I actually like to see people in wacky gym outfits, I find it entertaining!


Kara June 18, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Oh goodness this made me laugh out loud. One thing though. You said: "And yet. Tighty whities. At least go with boxer shorts next time."

I'm not sure boxers would be better. At least with the TWs, you don't have the possibility of something slipping out the side …. or um … whatever.



Rachel June 18, 2009 at 5:33 pm

One time I walked on the treadmill next to a young man who was walking barefoot.


dragonmamma/naomi June 18, 2009 at 5:39 pm

There's a guy at my gym with a pair of shiny, bright royal blue short shorts that say CRU across one bun and NCH across the other.

I can't help but imagine he's going CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH as he walks around. Must have a walnut stuck up his butt.


Jody - Fit at 51 June 18, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Well, right now my workout hours keep the gym pretty quiet but I do see a few "amusing" things. I really hate women & men that wear their workout pants half way down their butt so you get either all butt crack or with men, half of their underwear & more! I also see a lot of non workout shoes which bugs me as well….

Funny post!!!! Cracked up & brought back memories from when I did work out at normal hours!


Jody June 18, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Too funny! There was a guy just on Monday at the gym who was wearing black underarmour underwear as his wokrout shorts. Now, granted they did look like biker shorts but he tucked his t-shirt into them. I was cracking up and the husband and I were both like 'WTF was he thinking…'


Merry June 18, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Funny post! Except now I'm kinda scared to go to the gym. It's like when I walk around the Nike campus; I always worry someone's going to notice that I've got the Wrong Brand of running shoes.


The Wettstein Family June 18, 2009 at 7:50 pm

I am so glad you wrote this. Nothing chaps my hide more than those ladies who come to the gym looking like they just came from the salon in their teensy cutsie outfits. Not to mention while we're sweatin it out in aerobics, they're checking themselves out in the mirror not even breaking a sweat. There, I'm done. Thanks for letting me vent.


Quix June 18, 2009 at 8:15 pm

There was one lady that used to show up in one of those "sweat" jackets, it looked like she wrapped a bunch of tinfoil around the top of her body. She looked so miserable for a month and then just all of a sudden stopped going.

I agree on the scents. I always end up getting the dude with way too much cologne roll up on the treadmill next to me when there are tons of other empty ones, reeking of nasty cheap crap. If you're going to go overboard, at least use something that smells good…


Amy June 19, 2009 at 1:53 am

For the most part, the only innapropriate att ire I've seen at my Y is the early 60's guy who persists in wearing sweatshirts that have been cut off halfway between his waist and chest. Now to his credit, for his age the stomach is relatively flat and very tan, but dang, those half shirts went out in the 80's.


Susan June 19, 2009 at 2:35 am

Once I saw an older woman wearing leggings with a leotard over them (1980s style, but not so bad) with a grey pair of Hanes Her Ways on top. It was like she forgot to put them on first and said, "Well I need undies, what the heck."

Bwah-hah-hah! I just spat out my green tea at that one!


Joshua June 19, 2009 at 11:55 am

Standard gym uniform? Plaid, flannel pajama pants, a loose t-shirt, my couch, and my Xbox 360 controller. Hand-eye-coordination is a workout of a sort, right? Truthfully, shorts: support and coverage are key no matter what exercise you find yourself doing; shirt: preferably a semi-loose (not form-fitting, but not swimming in it, either) t-shirt in a darker color to prevent the post-workout wet t-shirt contest going on; shoes: the comfortable New Balance type; Music: lots and lots of music. And on those particularly horrendous days where you don't want to look at yourself in the mirror because you know exactly how much you ate and drank the night before, a bandana to wrap around your eyes so you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror while you're working the treadmill or elliptical. I'm just saying.


Marilyn B June 19, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Love the ladies in ultra low-rise pants over thongs who take abs and stretching class. Please, sisters, do not buy your work-out clothes from Victoria or you'll have no secrets.

I've never forgotten the woman I saw on the elliptical a decade ago. She was wearing a body suit with a thong-type lower half under mesh shorts. No lining in the shorts, just an expanse of bare butt. Right at my eye level.


Anonymous June 20, 2009 at 7:48 am

"A large expanse of untoned pasty flesh…" Would the bra have been OK if she was toned or tan?

Jus' wondering.

PS – A request to everyone here: please keep in mind that when people are wearing clothing in ways that are bizarre or truly inappropriate (not just tacky), that may be the result of serious conditions such as dementia, closed-head injury or schizophrenia. I'm all for mocking clueless folks whose brains are intact, but let's cut some slack to those with neurological disorders.


SeaBreeze June 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Poor hapless women in her bra. I see this at the beach a lot with high school kids who obviously hadn't planned to skip class and lounge in the sand, but at the gym… nope. Writing in inappropriate places? I am guilty of this sadly. I have one pair of pants from high school volleyball that are ridiculously comfy, but also have my last name across the cheeks. Tacky and distracting? Yes. Am I going to give them up? Not in this life time.


Alice June 22, 2009 at 12:30 am

I missed your blog a lot! Love the rules. As for me, totally dress up and put makeup on for my workouts.


Rebecca June 23, 2009 at 12:08 am

Super-tanned treadmill girl, "running" (4mph) with her hair down, tight tank top, push-up bra, and leopard print booty shorts.

For the love of all that is holy, PUT GYM CLOTHES ON.

And also?

Your girls ain't going to be so perky in a few years if you insist on exercising in a push-up bra…


Anonymous June 23, 2009 at 9:31 am

Great post! I'm going to have to disagree that sports bras are the only acceptable under garments. In the spirit of over-sharing, I have problems with acne on my chest when I use one. For me, a standard racerback bra is ideal. No acne and pretty much everything stays in place.


Karen June 24, 2009 at 11:19 am

My general gym/workout uniform is a pair of pants (usually somewhat stretchy but not too tight and always black) with a sports bra and a t-shirt of some kind. And socks and sneakers. Pretty bssic, I think. And I continue to wear pants even as the weather gets hot ;-)

The most inappropriate workout apparal I routinely see at my gym is: valore track suit, possibly with some kind of rhinestone words on the ass portion (usually saying something like "Hot" or "Baby"). This is typically accompanied by a face full of make-up, big earrings, hair more suitable to a night out dancing than working out, etc. And a cellphone, which is used to talk on while the treadmill goes at .00001 mph.


hepsmom June 25, 2009 at 2:30 am

I was working out on a treadmill beside a dude who looked like he was wearing a baked potato costume. That was understandable (maybe?). But the fact that he was sweating SO profusely that there were puddles forming beside the treadmill AND he was slinging his sweat on me was GROSS. Fortunately, I finished my jog quickly after I realized it was "raining."


Valerie Michele July 8, 2009 at 8:15 pm

We have an Elvis look-a-like at our gym. He walks around like he's going on stage any minute. I've never seen him break a sweat, and his hair is always perfect. It's hilarious!!!


Jim Grosso November 28, 2013 at 7:48 am

And you are the dress code enforcer for every bodies gym? Do spend a lot of time wondering about highschool girls underwear?


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: