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What to Wear to the Gym Model shot of York Athletics Henry
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What to Wear to the Gym: The 6 Best Gym Clothes for Men in 2024

William Barton

Style, Grooming, Fitness, Boots, Workwear

William has been covering men's style, grooming, and fitness topics for The Adult Man since 2018 as both a writer and photographer. Based in North Carolina, he's also the face of premier men's boots website BootSpy.com and the popular BootSpy YouTube channel. If William could only wear one outfit for the rest of his life, it'd be slim blue jeans, a green fitted oxford shirt, Chelsea boots, and a nice watch. Read full bio.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2024
11 min read

Do you have the suspicion that wearing your old Marvin the Martian t-shirt that’s three sizes too big isn’t going to cut it at the gym? That’s fine, a lot of guys aren’t sure what to wear when boosting their fitness.

That’s why, after years of testing different brands, we created this ultimate guide on what a man should wear to the gym.

Gone are the days where all I needed to go to the gym was an old pair of sweat shorts, body oil, and an Austrian accent. 

Yep, my glory days are over. 

Now I actually try to look good when I’m pumping iron. And after years of researching new brands and working up a sweat in just about every fabric I can think of (burlap next?) I’ve landed on what I think is the best gym ensemble a guy can get. 

I picked these gym clothes because they look and fit well, even if you’re not a chiseled maniac, and they’re comfortable throughout sprints, box jumps, deadlifts, and pullups.

If you’re wondering what to wear to the gym, well, you’re looking at it. 

Does Fit Matter for Gym Clothes?

fitness gift guide for gym rats

Don’t fall into the trap many other guys do: the fit of your clothes always matters—even in the gym. 

While we’ve all seen that one super buff dude who wears a raggedy old t-shirt and looks like a total beast, unless you’re ripped, you’ll want to find some clothes that make you look good. 

My school of thought is this: better fitting clothes leads to more confidence. More confidence leads to heavier lifts, better form, and more time spent in the gym.

You might disagree with me, but I can tell you that it’s true at least for myself. And I’d bet it’s true for you, too. 

This is true for single guys as much as it is for fellas in committed relationships. But for single men, investing in the fit is crucial, as the gym is a prime spot for meeting women

Model in York Athletics

For me, it’s all about finding the right brands: certain brands put a lot of time and effort into making fits that are flattering and they also ensure that the quality is there to back it up. No matter how many workout shirts I get from Costco and Target, I never end up wearing them as much as the ones that fit me well. 

The 6 Best Gym Clothes for Men in 2023

Truthfully, my gym wardrobe encompasses more than what’s on this list, and there are some worthy contenders, but this list is basically my Monday workout outfit.

To keep things short and simple, these are my absolute favorite pieces for working out.

Best Workout Shorts: Vuori Banks

model running wearing vuori workout shorts and tradewind t shirt

The Vuori Banks is the most versatile workout short I’ve tried—because it has the scalloped leg, it’s a solid choice for cardio warmups, but it can hit the weights just as hard. I also enjoy the Banks for more active recovery like yoga, stretches, and it actually also does really well in the pool. 

model wearing vuori workout shorts performing yoga move

I was really torn between the Banks as my favorite workout short and the Vuori Kore (lined). I tend to switch between the two often because the Kore is my go-to for leg day. But otherwise, when I’m mixing in some heart-rate raising activities, I work with my Vuori Banks shorts.

What I Like

  • The scalloped leg makes for easy movement during cardio and stretching.

  • The four way stretch and quick dry material allows for deep lunges, squats, and box jumps with no discomfort.

  • There’s a huge variety of color options available. 

What I Don’t Like

  • There’s no lined version, which is why I sometimes reach for the Vuori Kore. 

What Other Reviewers Say

The Vuori Banks shorts have netted over 2,500 reviews as of writing with a 4.83-star average. Many of the positive comments focus on the fit—these are a bit slimmer in the leg, so even if you don’t have jacked thighs, they tend to look flattering for your legs. 

The Verdict

If I could only wear one workout short for the rest of my life, it’d be the Vuori Banks. It’s so versatile: I can’t think of an exercise this wouldn’t be great for—even doing laps in the pool. 

To me, it’s a close debate between the Banks and the Vuori Kore, which I also love because some versions come with a soft lining. 

But overall, the Banks is the ticket for workout shorts.

Vuori Banks Short

Even lighter and more flexible than the Kore (how's that possible?), the Banks is an excellent choice for running, yoga, and the scalloped hem also makes it an attractive style option.

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Best Cross Training Shoes: YORK Athletics Henry

York Athletics The Henry in gym

The YORK Athletics Henry is an all-rounder: it’s stylish, it has the support you want for a run, but the drop isn’t so steep that you wouldn’t want to do squats or deadlifts in them. 

In my opinion, there are better running shoes out there, and there are better lifting shoes out there. But there’s no better shoe that can transition from 10 minutes of warm up, to a chest and shoulders workout, to a HIIT session. 

What I Like

  • The design is simple and minimalist, so it’s a good looking workout shoe. 

  • It has enough structure and support to work as a light running shoe, but doesn’t have such an intense drop that you can’t do squats or deadlifts in them. 

  • There are a lot of half-sizes available.

What I Don’t Like

  • They can run a bit narrow at first.

What Other Reviewers Say

Surprisingly these are quite popular with Parkour fanatics (I never thought about what they like to wear). If these shoes are solid for Parkour, they’re probably going to work for whatever you have to throw at them.

The Verdict

If you don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of getting a specialized shoe for every single type of workout you do, and you just want a fantastic, stylish workout shoe that gives you support in the ankle, check out the YORK Athletics Henry Runner.

The Henry Runner Mesh from YORK ATHLETICS

This design is entirely intentional as YORK emphasizes a perfect fit as one of their prominent selling points. YORK uses 52 points of measurement to create a fit that “promotes balance, comfort, and support.” I think they delivered on all three of those benefits in this shoe. 

Check Price Read Our Review

Best Workout Shirt: Vuori Strato Tech Tee

Vuori Strato Tech Tee model shot
Image source: Vuori

The Vuori Strato Tech Tee is the softest workout shirt I’ve ever worn. 

And unlike some other knit synthetic fabric shirts I’ve tried in the past, it doesn’t pick up a nasty, funky odor that no amount of baking soda in the washing machine can fix. 

Best of all, the Strato Tech Tee has a flattering fit through the chest and arms so that girl wayyy across the gym can see that bicep vein popping. You’ve been holding that curl extra long, haven’t you?

What I Like

  • The Strato Tech fabric has the breathability and sweat wicking properties you want from a workout shirt, but it’s soft like fine cotton.

  • This shirt provides UPF 30+ sun protection.

  • The fit is on point.

What I Don’t Like

  • They don’t offer this shirt in black or white (my two favorite gym shirt colors). 

What Other Reviewers Say

Comfort comes up in many reviews, which is a bit surprising since this shirt is meant to handle moving hundreds of pounds of steel with. Nothing comfortable about that. Many reviewers just like this shirt as an everyday piece. The fit certainly makes that a possibility, though I prefer natural fibers for my everyday casual shirts.

The Verdict

I’ve gotta be honest with you: I don’t like standard workout shirts (with the thin mesh fabric) because they seem to drape awkwardly over my chest. 

I love how the fabric of the Strato Tech Tee has a cotton-like texture and when you combine the more substantial fabric with all the features you want in a breathable workout shirt, you get an ideal piece you wish you had two or three of. 

Vuori Strato Tech Tee

My gripe with standard workout shirts (with the thin mesh fabric) is that they seem to drape awkwardly over my chest. I love how the Strato Tech fabric has a cotton-like texture and when you combine the more substantial fabric with all the features you want in a breathable workout shirt, you get an ideal piece you wish you had two or three of.

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Best Workout Tights: WOLACO Fulton

Wolaco Fulton Model shot
Image source: WOLACO

In winter I like to wear a pair of tights under my shorts. I also see dudes in the gym who rock those 3/4 length tights under their shorts for leg day, which I think looks pretty cool. 

My favorite workout tights are the WOLACO Fulton because they have two sweat-proof pockets that you can store your phone or any cards you have with you. 

Plus, they offer excellent compression, which I’ve found helps cut down on your recovery time after a tough leg day. 

What I Like

  • The Fulton comes in full length and 3/4 length.

  • There’s a fantastic variety of colors.

  • The sweat-proof pockets are great for storing your phone and not getting it all moist and nasty. 

What I Don’t Like

  • I’d like to see a heavyweight version for cold mornings. 

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers seem to love these for runs as the pockets can keep keys from jangling around. I personally like mine for leg day because the 300 gsm compression helps speed up recovery.

The Verdict

Workout tights aren’t for everyone, but if you haven’t tried a pair, I say they’re worth a shot. The compression helps with recovery, and the WOLACO Fulton has some extremely handy pockets that help carry your phone and keys in sweat-proof pockets. 

WOLACO Fulton Compression Tights
(Get 10% off with code AdultMan10)

The Fulton Full Length Compression Tights feature a nice, thick two-inch waistband that doesn’t budge---not on runs, squats, box-jumps, nothing.

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Best Compression Shorts: All Citizens Endurance Compression Baselayer

best compression shorts for men

The All Citizens Endurance Compression Baselayer is a hidden gem. The compression level and construction quality is on par with what you’d find from much pricier brands.

These have an 8” inseam, so they cover your entire thigh down to the knee, and they have much-needed mesh vents at the top of the seat (which cuts down on butt-sweat). 

Because these are relatively inexpensive, I’ve picked up a full week’s worth so I can wear them pretty much everyday (unless I’m wearing compression tights).

What I Like

  • With an 8” inseam, these offer compression through the entire thigh.

  • The mesh panels in the seat cut down on butt-sweat. 

  • All Citizens offers an excellent returns and exchange policy so you can truly test these out. 

What I Don’t Like

  • There aren’t many color options. 

What Other Reviewers Say

Many reviewers have stocked their closets with these compression shorts—especially bicyclists, who appreciate the pocket for holding their phone while riding, or for carrying those weird sport gel packets. 

A lot of folks were surprised by the quality of the construction, and I was too, given that the price is so affordable. 

The Verdict

The All Citizens Endurance Compression shorts are one of the best deals you’ll find in the fitness space. If you try one pair, I’d be willing to bet that you’ll go back for a second.

All Citizens Endurance Compression BaseLayer

These are the shorts you get if you want premium-level performance without such a prohibitive price tag. They're an excellent value pickup for the guy who gets into the gym most days but doesn't devote his whole life to building a better deadlift.

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Best Jacket for the Gym: Public Rec Weekend Full Zip Hoodie

Public Rec Weekend Full Zip Hoodie Model Shot 1
Image source: Public Rec

You’ve got your workout shirt, your shorts, and a…leather jacket? Yeah, that makes no sense. 

When it’s cooler outside, I like a hoodie as my go-to gym outerwear. I also prefer a full zip so it’s easy to throw on and take off (even when your arms get sweaty and the fabric wants to stick to you). 

The Public Rec Weekend Full Zip Hoodie is perfect for your gym get-up: it’s stylish with the unique scuba-neck, has sturdy zippers that don’t bounce, and offers two zipped pockets for secure storage. And it doesn’t wrinkle when you stuff it in your gym bag. 

What I Like

  • The two zippered pockets allow for secure storage.

  • It’s heavyweight and has a clean, stylish cut. 

  • The scuba neck and hood are perfect for blocking the chill when it’s windy outside. 

What I Don’t Like

  • The wrist cuffs can allow some airflow into the arm.

What Other Reviewers Say

A lot of Californians and Floridians claim this is their go-to winter jacket, those lucky-ducks. Most of us will need an actual jacket during the winter, but when I’m heading to and from the gym, the Public Rec Weekend Full Zip Hoodie is an ideal weight for keeping the chill off.

The Verdict

If you want a jacket that looks good on your way to the gym and is easy to slip on and off during your workout, the Public Rec Weekend Full Zip is the way to go. I love that I don’t have to worry about this piece wrinkling when I stuff it in my gym bag because of its no-wrinkle fabric. 

Public Rec Weekend Full Zip

Built with a high neck and some of the most comfortable technical fabrics we've ever felt, the Weekend Full Zip is perfect for throwing on for errands, gym sessions, and weeknights out.

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Where To Put Your Phone and Keys at the Gym

Don’t tell me you left your keys by the cable crossover again, have you?

There are a few ways to ensure you never misplace your phone and keys again while working out.

I like bringing a gym bag so I can store my keys away from my body. I hate the feeling of going for a box jump and having my car key stick horizontally into my thigh. 

But what if you want to keep your phone on you so you can keep hitting the back button on Katy Perry’s Roar?

All Citizens phone pocket in compression shorts

In those cases, I like a pair of compression shorts or tights under my gym shorts as they usually have a compact hip pocket that ensures your phone doesn’t fall out and that it doesn’t bang around and distract you. 

Of course, if you want your phone even more handy, then you can just store it in your pocket. If you have a decent four-way stretch short like the Vuori Banks, then you should have no trouble with your phone falling out or causing discomfort. 

Avoid Wearing These 3 Things to the Gym


Every once in a while, you see that psycho doing squats in full-ass Wrangler jeans. I mean, I get wearing sweats, or even pajama pants, but jeans

When you’re working out, you want as much four-way stretch material as you can put on your body. And you want something breathable. Jeans don’t fall into either category. Seriously, invest in a few sets of workout clothes—they’ll last you many, many years. 


How to Apply Cologne Graphic

So, I know we used to douse ourselves with AXE body spray before gym class because we sat next to that cute girl and we were incredibly self-conscious, but wearing fragrances to the gym should die along with your teenage angst. 

Seriously, please avoid wearing cologne to the gym. A solid deodorant is all you need to smell reasonably fresh, even if you plan on striking up a conversation with that chick who you’re pretty sure saw your bicep vein from wayyy across the room. 

Your Old Clothes

My brother still does this, and I can’t convince him not to. His shirts and pants are covered in oil and paint stains and he looks like a disaster. I mean, it’s not the end of the world because after all, the most important thing is that he’s getting a workout in. 

But as I said above, I think investing in well-fitting clothes that are comfortable and breathable for the gym will help boost your gains. Better fit means more confidence. More confidence means better performance. Better performance means you look like a Greek god twice as quickly. 

Work Up a Sweat

After years of trying different brands and styles, I’ve condensed all I know down into this list. I hope it helps you stock up on gym essentials you’ll have around for years. 

Vuori Banks Short

Even lighter and more flexible than the Kore (how's that possible?), the Banks is an excellent choice for running, yoga, and the scalloped hem also makes it an attractive style option.

Check Price

My go-to’s are the Vuori Banks shorts, which are so versatile that you can really pull off any type of workout with them. And I like to pair them with the Vuori Strato Tech Tee because the fit is on-point there. 

Vuori Strato Tech Tee

My gripe with standard workout shirts (with the thin mesh fabric) is that they seem to drape awkwardly over my chest. I love how the Strato Tech fabric has a cotton-like texture and when you combine the more substantial fabric with all the features you want in a breathable workout shirt, you get an ideal piece you wish you had two or three of.

Check Price

I’m always wearing a compression baselayer, whether it’s tights or just compression shorts. And I like a training shoe that’s comfortable enough for a run, but not so structured that I can’t also squat and deadlift with them. 

Next thing for you is to find a workout program you absolutely love. I’ll see you in the gym. 


What should a beginner wear to the gym?

Get an excellent pair of training shorts and a breathable workout tee. Those are the basics and they’ll last you a very long time. Just don’t start by getting those fingerless leather gloves—that’s a rookie mistake. 

Is it ok to wear sweatpants to the gym?

Yes, technically it’s ok to wear sweatpants to the gym. But I don’t recommend it. If you wear the same pants to down a bag of Cheetos that you do to hit the gym, I bet it’ll reduce your performance. Get a pair of shorts that says game time when you put them on and you’ll have better workouts.

Should I wear a tank top to the gym?

Are you ready to pump iron? If so, then heck yeah you should wear a tank top to the gym.