Fitness apparel startup Gymshark was started by a 19-year-old and is now one of the fastest growing companies in the world — here's what the clothes are actually like

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Gymshark leggingsGymshark

  • Fitness apparel startup Gymshark was founded by a 19-year-old in his mum’s garage in 2012.
  • The company is reportedly generating $US128 million in annual sales as of 2018, making it one of the fastest-growing in the world.
  • Much of its success is due to a big social media presence, including exposure via celebrity trainers.
  • The marketing is effective, but most importantly, the gear itself is great: affordable, breathable, and very flattering.
  • Find Gymshark’s bestsellers below. Find other fitness startups making great leggings here.

Ben Francis was 19 years old and driving a car that smelled permanently like pizza. He was working as a delivery person at the time, just as he decided to found a fitness apparel company called Gymshark out of his mum’s garage.

That was 2012. In 2018, Gymshark has reportedly generated $US128 million in annual sales, and become one of the fastest growing companies in the world.

The UK startup has a few key tools to thank for its explosive success: an early trade show that sent daily sales from $US400 to $US42,000 in a single day, and a masterful use of social media.

Gymshark’s main Instagram – which, as of November 2018, has 2.5 million followers – is flush with Gymshark-clad celebrity trainers (including Kim Kardashian’s trainer Melissa Alcantara), big-time athletes, and fitness icons with millions of social media followers on their own. The company’s Facebook page has 1.5 million likes. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg reportedly even used the company as a model example of European brands excelling at growing a business on the platform.

But Gymshark isn’t just successful because it has figured out social media. It is successful because it is one of few companies to accurately understand “gym culture” – and to then make spot-on products for gym-goers.

Young gym-goers want to look and feel good going to the gym. They want functional gym clothes – sweat-wicking, flexible, and durable – that perform well, and, yes, look really good on them. Gymshark understood that, and it delivered.

Gymshark shirtGymsharkGymshark founder Ben Francis initially designed these gym clothes to be antithetical to the binary choice of neon or baggy clothes bodybuilders used to wear to the gym.

Here’s an example. Probably the most iconic Gymshark item is their $US38 Flex Leggings (seen above). They’re breathable, flexible, and no-nonsense – the high waistband is compressive, slimming, and supportive, and the seamless construction moves with you without complaint. But they’re also designed with a none-too-subtle hand to be extremely flattering and “bum-contouring.” The colour contouring is overt in light colours, and modest enough to go almost unnoticed in the darker colorways.

The clothes are also unusually affordable. For staples like leggings, shoppers can pay as little as $US35. At other brands with comparably cult-like followings, the same shoppers might pay closer to $US100. Best-selling shirts go for as little as $US25. Fabric compositions may not be the most elegant in the game, but they will suffice for the average gym-goer – especially for the frequent athlete who can’t spend $US50 on shirts they need in bulk. Plus, they look really good.

Gymshark does all the trends you want in a uniquely masterful way and at an affordable price. The men’s $US45 Taped Joggers have tapered legs but an overall slouchy fit so your shape is discernible. The women’s $US46 Solace Bottoms are similarly well-executed: fitted through the leg, concealed zip pockets, high-rise enough to reach the part of your waist that’s universally flattering, and – best of all – there’s a seam on the back that prevents the cute high-rise from looking like a pair of your grandmother’s pants in the back.

Gymshark

All in all, it’s not the brand that’s going to get you many “cool” points in alternative Brooklyn coffee shops. But you’re probably not wearing it there. It’s a little “bro-y,” so steer clear if that’s going to bother you. But, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter – it’s pretty great stuff for a price that most gym-goers are happy to pay in exchange for the functionality, and, more honestly, probably for the style.

Below are a few of Gymshark‘s bestsellers:


Fully Fused Hoodie

Gymshark

$US62, available in two colours

The Fully Fused Hoodie is sleek and a bit cooler than the average option – which is a good description of most of Gymshark. It has dipped cuffs, a dropped shoulder design, a funnel neck, and a fused three-piece hood. It’s one of Gymshark’s most relaxed shapes, and is a bit longer in length.


Flex Leggings

Gymshark

$US38, available in twenty-two colours

This cheap Gymshark staple may be its most recognisable item – thanks to its signature seamless knit and figure-flattering contrast contour. Unlike many viral products, these surprised me in person by their quality. They’re flexible, breathable, and very flattering on. Grab a dark colour if you want the colour contouring to be more subtle.


Gymshark Block T-Shirt

Gymshark

$US25, available in four colours

This basic T-shirt is lightweight, fitted, and flexible.


Sleek Sculpture Sports Bra

Gymshark

$US38, available in seven colours

The unique Sculpture sports bra has a completely mesh back for breathability and removable pads for customisable medium impact support.


Ark Long-Sleeve T-Shirt

Gymshark

$US30, available in eleven colours

Gymshark’s Ark Long-Sleeve T-Shirt is loosely tapered and minimalist – built to be the workhorse of your gym rotation. That’s probably why they make it in eleven colours.


Sleek Sculpture Leggings 2.0

Gymshark

$US46, available in eight colours

Gymshark’s Sleek Sculpture leggings come in a flattering mid-rise shape. They’re sweat-wicking, the waistband is high enough to support your core, and the side pockets help you easily keep track of essentials while you work your way through the gym.


Vital Seamless Leggings

Gymshark

$US50, available in four colours

These new leggings are seamless and high-wasted – a common silhouette for Gymshark. The ribbed waistband is supportive, and the eyelet detailing is leg- and “bum-contouring” (this is less obvious in darker colours, more overt in lighter versions, depending on what you want). They also have the company’s DRY technology for sweat wicking.


Tech Leggings

Gymshark

$US35, available in black

The Tech Leggings are durable and seamless. You can wear them as a base layer with compressive knitted ribbing to keep warmth in, or on their own for a run or added support on leg day.


Taped Joggers

Gymshark

$US45, available in two colours

The Taped Joggers are tapered at the leg with a wider overall fit for a flattering mix of comfortable slouch and form-flattering fit.


Solace Sweater

Gymshark

$US48, available in seven colours

The Solace Sweater is extremely soft, with ribbed, dipped cuffs and ribbed neck detailing for a bit of style alongside comfort. Pair with Gymshark’s Solace Bottoms ($US46) for the cosy, on-trend monotone look seen above.


Ace Polo

Gymshark

$US30, available in three colours

The Ace Polo is a more formal Gymshark iteration, to be worn pretty much anywhere. You can pick it up in grey, white, or black.


Lo Bomber Jacket

Gymshark

$US70, available in five colours

Like the men’s Fully Fused Hoodie, the women’s bomber jacket is cooler than your average option. It’s slouchy, cropped, and has a high ribbed collar, cuffs, and hem. Despite the updates, smart dart shaping to the center-back makes it all look laid-back.

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