We’ll get to my picks for the best affordable workout clothes for men in a minute, but before we start, I should make something clear about this whole “look good in the gym” thing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting the gym regularly or making use of at-home workout equipment.
Working out – like, at all – is a hell of a lot more important than what you wear while doing it.
Whether you’re just starting a workout plan or you’ve been at it for years, your number one self-improvement priority should be your health and fitness.
Look Good, Feel Good, Lift Good
Cliché though it may be, the look good, feel good philosophy definitely extends to the gym. Once you’re in the groove and feeling pretty good about your fitness, dressing a little better while working out can provide an added dose of confidence – at least it does for me.
The problem for the aspiring stylish exerciser, however, is that brands like Under Armour, Nike and Reebok would have us believe that well-fitting and sweat-wicking workout clothes should cost just as much as the clothes that you would wear to the office or a party.
Price Tag, Shmrice Tag
Don’t be fooled by the high price tags you find at specialty sports stores. Recently, affordable retailers have gotten into the fitness apparel game and proven that you can look good while breaking a sweat, without breaking the bank. (Word play!)
Below, I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite places to find affordable men’s workout clothes.
But First, a Quick Note on Fit:
When it comes to men’s workout clothes that both look good and move well, remember that the normal rules of fit apply.
You want a shirt that hugs your body well, pants that don’t billow out too far and shorts that fall just above the knee.
Pretty much all of the below recommendations should fit the bill – and your bod. (God, I am just the worst.)
The Best Affordable Workout Clothes for Men
Much like with every other industry, Amazon has quickly muscled its way into the menswear game, and that includes men’s activewear and fitness gear.
While you can certainly find all the aforementioned big-name (and big-price tag) brands here, you’ll also find a ton of affordable brands you probably wouldn’t find anywhere else.
Ever heard of brands like Ouber, Neleus, Baleaf or Monsta? Me neither, but they’re all offering what appear to be solid and affordable options on Amazon.
One advantage of ordering your workout gear online is that active wear can be much more forgiving when it comes to fit. I wouldn’t want my favorite v-neck sweater to hug my body so tightly that you can see my abs underneath, but if it happens with my favorite workout shirt I won’t mind at all.
This takes a bit of the risk out of ordering online. If you know that for most brands a medium will fit you well, then you can be pretty confident adding it to your cart. (But if you’re still not sure, take a look at the reviews. Often commenters will let you know – sometimes in specific details – whether a given piece fits smaller or larger than expected.)
Old Navy is best known for making even more affordable (if slightly more bland) versions of the American staples offered at it’s big brother brand, the Gap (more on them below). And in the case of its fitness gear, that’s a decidedly good thing.
Like much of Old Navy’s offerings, sizes here will run large and you may want to consider sizing down, especially if you’re on the skinny side – when you’re already working your ass off to add bulk, the last thing you want is to feel like you’re drowning in your shirt.
At 5’9″ and 170 lbs I usually wear a medium shirt/sweater across all Gap brands (i.e. Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic), but in Old Navy workout gear I opt for a small.
But as long as you choose the right size, Old Navy offers everything else we’re looking for: a perfect cut, a logo so small and bland that you’ll barely notice it and the ability to wear the shit out of them. I stocked up on shirts and shorts a few years back and I’m still wearing/washing them multiple times per week, with little evidence of wear and tear.
As noted, Gap’s stuff tends to be just one step above Old Navy’s in terms of both style and price, and such is the case here.
Their Gap Body line of workout clothes will cost you significantly more than their Old Navy counterparts, but for those who are a little more particular about style and color, it may be worth it.
Gap’s stuff tends to look more modern: it’s cut is slimmer, the colors/patterns are hipper and it just feels a little more fashion-y, for lack of a better word (or even a real one).
That’s great if you want to look modern at all times, but may also mean that even if the stuff’s in good condition a few years from now, you won’t want to wear it. Just something to keep in mind.
I know, I know. The first words that pop into your head when you hear “H&M” probably aren’t “athletic performance.”
But the Swedish brand’s recently added line of sportswear has been something of a revelation: it fits well, moves well, breathes well in the gym and holds up after repeated washes, despite H&M’s reputation for being cheaply made.
Crucially, their stuff is also free of logos and corporate branding, which is a real boon for those of us who don’t want to look like walking billboards,
Of course, H&M certainly isn’t for everyone. For one thing, it’s at the forefront of the fast-fashion industry, which is notoriously steeped in controversy.
Potential ethical misgivings aside, the brand is uber European, meaning their stuff is not only fashion-forward and super trendy, but also tends to fit slim.
But with all of that said, they could easily become the new go-to option for price-conscience guys looking for the best affordable men’s workout clothes.
Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, etc.
For the brand purists who just have to be covered in Nike, Reebok, Adidas or the other big fitness brands in order to feel fit, this is your best option.
Though inventory comes and goes and you’ll have to sift through the racks to find the right styles and sizes, you can routinely find great deals on brand name workout gear here.
I don’t pick up much by way of shirts, shorts or pants here, but it’s definitely my go-to spot for athletic shoes.
If you’re not picky about your kicks in the gym, you can find a perfectly serviceable pair of brand name cross-trainers here at a significant discount — I got a brand new pair of Nikes at a Nordstrom Rack in Chicago for about 35 bucks.
My Favorite Affordable Athleisure Brand
While I love fitness and believe whole-heartedly that one of the best ways to look more handsome and attractive is to build a strong, healthy body, I have to admit that working out also presents a hurdle that could keep you from looking sharp:
Breaking a sweat in the gym is a good thing—it means you’re working hard and making a positive impact on your health.
Unfortunately, the human body (at least, my body human body) continues to sweat for minutes and even hours after the workout had ended, which can lead to some less-than-stellar situations.
In my former job, I used to work out at lunch, shower change and back into my shirt and tie, and then proceed to sweat through my clothes all afternoon. It got to the point where I had to wear an extra undershirt underneath by shirt, which mitigated the embarrassing sweat stains, but felt uncomfortable as hell.
But that was years ago, and the good news is that there’s now a way to combine stylish civilian clothes with the sweat-wicking properties of workout clothes.
My favorite brand doing just that is Public Rec. Their clothes fit perfectly, look great, and (most importantly) manage to both wick and absorb sweat in a way that keeps me feeling confident all day long.
Check out my full Public Rec review to find out how their clothes can keep you looking just as sharp outside of the gym as you will while you’re working out.
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More Men’s Style Advice from Irreverent Gent:
Irreverent Gent founder Dave Bowden is a men’s style specialist, an Amazon bestselling author, an unrepentant introvert, a (patient, if long-suffering) Toronto sports fan and the husband of a wonderful (and fortunately much more patient) wife.