- Fitness apparel startup Gymshark was founded by a 19-year-old in his mum’s garage in 2012.
- Much of its success is due to a big social media presence and partnerships with celebrity trainers.
- The marketing is effective, but most importantly, the gear is affordable, breathable, and very flattering.
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. Gymshark has since become one of the fastest-growing companies in the world.
The UK startup had 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 masterful use of social media.
Gymshark’s main Instagram â€” which, as of January 2021, had 5 million followers â€” 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 more than 1.8 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 figured out social media. It is successful because it is one of few companies to accurately understand “gym culture” â€” 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 â€” sweat-wicking, flexible, and durable â€” that perform well, and, yes, look really good on them. Gymshark understood that, and it delivered.
Here’s an example. Probably the most iconic Gymshark item is the $US50 Flex Leggings. They’re breathable, flexible, and no-nonsense â€” 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 $US25. At other brands with comparably cult-like followings, the same shoppers might pay closer to $US100. Bestselling shirts go for as little as $US20. Fabric compositions may not be the most elegant in the game, but they will suffice for the average gym-goer â€” 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 $US40 Critical Zip Joggers have tapered legs but an overall slouchy fit so your shape is discernible. The women’s $US35 Training Straight Leg Joggers are similarly well-executed: classic shape, concealed zip pockets, high-rise enough to reach the part of your waist that’s universally flattering, and â€” best of all â€” 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.
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 â€” 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:
Flex Cycling Shorts
These sweat-wicking biker shorts work for any gym activity, whether you’re biking or you want a base for running shorts. The seamless high-rise material ensures that they will stay in one place, with no continuous readjusting required.
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
This basic T-shirt is lightweight, fitted, and flexible.
Vital Seamless Sports Bra
The seamless Vital sports bra has the same stretchy material as the brand’s leggings and removable pads for customisable support.
Arrival Long Sleeve T-Shirt
Gymshark’s Arrival 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 10 colours.
Gymshark’s Venture leggings come in a flattering high-rise silhoutte. The waistband is extra high in the back for extra coverage when cycling, and the side pockets help you easily keep track of essentials while you work your way through the gym.
The Crest Sweatshirt is a Gymshark staple that’s meant to be worn pretty much anywhere, whether over a gym outfit or hanging around the house.
Vital Seamless Leggings
These new leggings are seamless and high-wasted – two common elements for Gymshark. The ribbed waistband is supportive and the eyelet detailing is leg- and “bum-contouring.” They also feature the company’s DRY technology that helps with sweat-wicking.
Speed 2 in 1 Leggings
The Speed 2 in 1 Leggings are breathable and practical. You can wear them to hold warmth in while out on a run, or as added support on leg day.
Essential Bomber Jacket
This bomber jacket is cooler than your average piece of outerwear. It’s slouchy, cropped, and has a ribbed collar, cuffs, and hem. It’s the perfect laid-back layer to wear on your way to the gym.