The clock hits 5:30PM and your colleagues are starting to head home.
While your coworkers are going home to relax and essentially take the part of human-vegetable for the rest of the night, you decide to be a bit more productive. You decide you want to to get jacked, and go to the gym.
The question now is, what do you wear? You want to look stylish, but you also want to wear something practical. You want to look ripped in front of the ladies, but you also don't want to make a fashion statement. Well, let's talk about it a bit.
In all honesty, I personally don't pay much attention to what I wear when I go to the gym. I don't care all that much about what I wear when I'm sweating like crazy. For that reason, I may not be the best role model when it comes to gym attire. However, I will say that I do notice outfits that look great on others, and believe it can pay off to look good while at the gym. Whether you want to look great in order to attract others (I mean we all know how much we love lululemon on girls), or just want to enjoy looking at yourself in the mirror, it doesn't hurt to make the effort to choose a nice gym outfit.
So let's start with the most important part of your gym attire, your shoes. Why are they the most important? Well, because we are using our footwear for actual protection against injury while working out. Make sure to wear footwear that is appropriate for whatever you are doing. Playing basketball? Wear high top basketball shoes to protect your ankles and support your feet while you're crossing dudes over left and right. Running? Get nice running shoes that fit well, are light, and can help lessen stress on your knees. If you're just going to the gym to lift, I would still stick again with running shoes, as they will likely look the best and be the most versatile in case you decide to go running.
In terms of upping the pure aesthetics of footwear, make sure that your shoes are clean and simple. Thin is usually better than bulky, and laces shouldn't be too long (eg: spilling too far down your shoe). Also make sure to wear socks. My recommendation goes to ankle socks that show just slightly above your shoe line. Just FYI, my favorite sneakers for working out are: Nike Frees, New Balance Sneaks, and Asics Gels.
You'll also notice people wearing neon green, hot pink, light blue, and other poppy colors in their shoes. If you like it, I say go for it. These colors exist not just for aesthetics, but more importantly to help you be more visible when running in the dark. Hey, if it helps you avoid car accidents, then it's all good in my book.
Next, shirts. My favorite type of shirt for working out is a cutoff dry-fit shirt. I'm a fan of the whole dry-fit thing that Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and other sports companies are doing. Not only does it look good, but it also feels good against your skin and helps you when you perspire. Because of the likelihood of getting stains (from your sweat or off of weights and machines), I would stay away from white, but all other colors are fair game. Stick to T-shirts or Tank tops.
Also, please make sure the shirts fit well against your body. I've seen people wear clothing TOO tight, or also others who buy over-sized T-shirts and cut off giant arm holes that come down to the hips, just to show off obliques, peks, and abs from the side. Come on... let's be less tool-ish please.
When it comes to pants, I like to stick with athletic shorts when working out. I think long athletic pants work just fine as well, especially when you'll be out in the cold, but shorts just seem the most versatile to me. Keep length right around the knee area (a little below or slightly above is fine) and again, make sure they fit nicely. If wearing long pants, make sure the length isn't too long, as it will get uber annoying while running or being active. You'll constantly be pulling your pant legs up, and that's no fun.
A quick note: avoid accessories if you can. Unless you need a digital watch to keep track of timing (or those new wristbands that monitor your health), I would take all accessories off as they will get annoying, or get in the way of your workout. Necklace flying inthe face while running? Ring scratching against dumbbells? Not my cup of tea.
Lastly, outerwear. I think track jackets and sweatshirts work fine when in a colder environment. Otherwise, keep outerwear in the locker. I hear a lot of people give flack to hoodies, but I think hoodies look great at the gym on a winter day. I don't want to be a broken record, but again, make sure the outerwear fits you well. Keep jackets and sweaters slim, shoulder seams hitting the right spot on your shoulders, and length ending right around your hip. Baggy is never good.
Finally, remember this is just the gym- wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. I've given some guidelines above for what I think looks best, but going to the gym is all about making yourself feel more healthy and confident, and what makes you feel confident is really up to you. When I go to the gym, I wear free T-shirts that my workplace gives me without shame. Do whatever you're most comfortable with, and you should be just fine.