The Sports Archives – Clothing/Attire: Does it make a Difference?


Modern workout clothing is noticeable, yet obscure. Distinct, yet undefined. In the athletic environment, it blends in almost as normally as everyday clothing does out on the street.

We all know “workout attire” when we see it! There does not seem to be any specific system to it; that is, no system aside from whatever makes movement and exertion more manageable during a respective athletic activity. But how much of a difference can clothing make while one is playing a sport or exercising? What are some of the most common examples of sporting attire, and what reasoning exists behind the way the clothing is designed?

A Brief, Generalized History of Workout Attire

Today, aspiring athletes do not need to fret over restrictions in workout garb. As long as someone is able to move their body as freely as needed while working out, what more do they need to concern themselves with in regards to clothing? However, it is important to note that commonplace exercise attire has undergone massive changes in the past century alone!


Historically, workout clothing was quite different from what it is today. Most outfits were still loose and permitted necessary motion, but not aesthetically uniform or conservative in design.


Given enough attention, the evolution of athletic wear exhibits some distinct patterns (as well as other obscurer features). For the first couple of decades in the 1900s, clothing is loose, but flowing and canvassing. The designs demonstrate that there was an awareness of the importance of free movement in sports and athletic activities. However, designs leading into mid-20th Century also conform and model according to societal and cultural expectations. On the other hand, fitness attire developed near the turn of the century (along with that of the 2000s) places emphasis on new clothing technology and utility. From a philosophical perspective, the transition from loose, flowing clothing in the 1900s to intricate and functionally-conservative designs of the 21st Century demonstrates a sacrifice of “what is proper and acceptable” for the benefits of logical efficiency. The cultural revolution in self-image and free expression, which erupted in the concluding decades of the 20th Century, can also be pointed to as a period of transition for workout attire. The athletic garb of this time featured fashion and appearance quite heavily, and these traits seemed to have carried over (albeit, in a slightly less-exaggerated manner) into modern athletic wear, as well.


In contrast to the drab, extensive garments of the early 20th Century, the late 1900s ushered in an era focused on fashion, style and creativity. Athletic wear was not exempt from this revolution and brought entirely new elements of flair to fitness.

            Athletic Garb: What Constitutes “Right” and “Wrong”

The best thing about dressing for sports and other fitness activities today is the freedom of it! Aside from minor restrictions and regulations that may be imposed in certain environments, the athlete can pretty much decide what personally works. In terms of what clothing may be “right” or “wrong” for a specific sport or exercising routine, one must think critically about the physical demands or requirements of each individual activity. Sure, there is not necessarily a “wrong choice” when it comes to recreational/personal fitness, but it would be unwise if, for example, someone wore heavy pants and a jacket for swimming practice!

Choosing the right clothing for an athletic activity can be helped by asking questions like, “What are the movement requirements of what I am about to do?” and “Would I be okay sweating in what I am wearing?” For some fitness enthusiasts, fashion, in addition to function, is a primary concern. However, it is important that the demands of any physical activity or sport come at a higher priority than appearance!

            Sporting Standards: Regulation vs. Common Sense


Pro-sports attire is monumentally diverse in function and appearance, but make no mistake; only the most knowledgeable scientists and designers are in charge of who wears what, tactfully determining function and fashion for pro-athletes everywhere.

So, in recreational or personal fitness environments, restrictions on clothing do not seem to be too harsh, but what about in the professional realm? Obviously, workout garb for most pro-sports seems to feature the player’s respective team and/or sponsors. Personal differences will vary depending on the sport and what is allowed, but what is more certain is the uniformity (no pun intended) of each sport’s attire. Think about it: while Major League Baseball uniforms come in different color, size and topical design, function and form are consistent; every player wears pants, long socks, sneakers, a button-up shirt and hat depicting the team logo. Likewise, in the NBA, basketball players all wear tank tops and loose-fitting shorts, and NASCAR drivers are all encased in the same heavily-padded racing suit that keeps them safe as they are rocketing across the track. Suffice it to say, in pro-sports, athletic garb is taken seriously.


Just like in sports, when it comes to workout clothing, it’s all about what works for you!

As mentioned before, recreational sporting and fitness do not usually feature the same degree of regulation on workout attire as the professional world. However, this is not simply a ‘free pass’ to do whatever one’s heart desires. Common sense operates as the metaphorical ‘guidelines’ of athletic clothing in these environments. Therefore, the next time you go out for a jog, though you might be tempted by the compulsive, attention-grabbing opportunity of taking the streets in an Armani suit, remember that jogging shorts exist for your benefit and make the smart choice!

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