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If you’re a gym owner you may have considered implementing a dress code policy at your gym before. Many gyms and fitness centers today are known for having either a lax dress code policy or none at all. Just walk into any CrossFit, Spin, or Yoga studio for example and you will likely find shirtless bodies abound. However, there are many other gyms that do have dress code policies. Furthermore, some gyms have stricter rules or enforce their dress code policies more so than others. So how do you decide if a dress code policy is right for your gym?

For starters, it’s common practice for businesses, in general, to require their staff to wear a uniform or adhere to a dress code. On the other hand, enforcing a dress code amongst your members may not be as widely accepted. Issuing a dress code at your gym, or conversely, ignoring the need for one (if it exists) will certainly impact your member experience. Issuing a dress code has the potential to spark debate, divide your community, and even cause you to lose members. This risk is especially high if the policy is implemented after your gym has already been established. Before you decide if a dress code is right for your gym it’s a good idea to understand both sides of the argument.


The pro gym dress code debate

The rationale behind gym dress code policies varies from safety reasons to personal beliefs and in between. One gym owner received media attention when he issued a new dress code policy to his members. Graham Holmberg, a former CrossFit Games athlete and owner of Eleventh Element CrossFit Hilliard put in place a policy which prohibits all athletes from removing their shirts at the gym, including during and after the workout. Female athletes were also barred from wearing short shorts, better known as “booty shorts.”

The media attention given to Holmberg’s dress code policy created debate amongst the CrossFit community with differing opinions on the rationality of dress codes at gyms in general. However, many people seem to be in agreement that a dress code policy based on personal hygiene, health, and safety rationale is perfectly reasonable.


The anti gym dress code debate

Critics generally suggest that dress codes are problematic in the sense that they inhibit freedom of expression or reinforce harmful ideas about class, gender or sexual behavior. Similarly, speculations have been made toward gym owner’s personal motivations behind dress code policies.

Other dress code naysayers suggest that being able to take your clothes off should a personal right or that they are liberated by having the freedom to take layers of clothing off at the gym. The argument for wearing less also seems to be a big factor in CrossFit gyms which often have no-frills setups and therefore less air ventilation.


Further considerations regarding gym dress codes

At the end of the day, it is up to the business owner whether to institute a dress code policy at their gym or not. In order to help you further evaluate the need for a dress code policy at your gym, here are four considerations you should make:

1. Safety: Layered clothing can protect the body from injury but it can also be a risk. Alternatively, wearing fitted or less clothing can help prevent clothing from being caught on equipment such as barbells or machines.

2. Health: Requiring shirts at the gym may help to prevent transmittable infections or diseases and prolong the life of your gym equipment. However, simply asking your members to wear clean clothing and to clean the equipment after each use can also help prevent these problems.

3. Temperature: Allowing members to dress freely may enable them to help regulate their body temperature and feel more comfortable. This is also a safety consideration if you do not have an A/C system installed in your gym or are located in a warmer climate.

4. Member Experience: Implementing a dress code for the convenience or beliefs of one group of people will inevitably inconvenience or upset others. While you can’t please everyone, you should strongly consider the feelings and well being of your entire community.

What are your thoughts on implementing a dress code policy at your gym? Have you done it and seen any difficulties or successes? Or are you strongly against dress codes? Share your thoughts below!


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About the author:

Luke Handley