Mens Leggings

The Ultimate Guide to Leggings (Part 3): Men’s Leggings

After decades of leggings dominating the women’s fitness scene, leggings are finally gaining momentum in mainstream men’s fitness attire. They tend to leave their wearers feeling gloriously empowered or embarrassingly exposed, and many men seem to be hesitant to try on a pair for themselves. I’m here to dispel your concerns and arm you with the knowledge you need to make good leggings decisions, should you choose to give them a chance.

The Ultimate Guide to Leggings (Part 3): Men’s Leggings

By: Brooke Haubenstricker

This article is the second in a three-part series from Coach Brooke. Read Part One: The Ultimate Guide to Leggings for everything you need to know about fit and fabrics. Read Part Two for a deep dive into women’s leggings. To read more from Coach Brooke or get coaching from her check out her bio here.

After decades of leggings dominating the women’s fitness scene, they are finally gaining momentum in mainstream men’s fitness attire—but not without controversy. Like a speedo, they tend to leave their wearers feeling gloriously empowered or embarrassingly exposed. Most men seem to be hesitant to try on a pair for themselves. Who can wear them? How do you wear them? How are they supposed to fit? Will wearing them at the gym give little old ladies a heart attack? I’m here to dispel your concerns and arm you with the knowledge you need to make good leggings decisions, should you choose to give them a chance.

Before we get started, check out the first article in this series that goes over the basics of fabric and fabric care. Without that foundation, it will be harder for you to make smart leggings purchases and properly care for them afterward to maximize their utility and longevity.

The Case for… Leggings? Meggings? Tights?

Whatever you want to call them, leggings can be a fabulous addition to anyone’s wardrobe. From a functional standpoint, leggings offer advantages in four key areas: friction, heat, mobility, and protection from the elements.

I’m willing to bet that you have experienced or have seen someone get bloody shins during deadlifts. The bar drags up the legs, pulling on skin and hair, ripping open the skin. It might look badass, but it isn’t pleasant, practical, or hygienic. Conversely, if loose clothing is worn on the legs (particularly if it is thin and stretchy), a dragging bar can cause the fabric to bunch up and catch on it. Solving both of these problems, leggings are slick and compressive, so they provide a barrier between the bar and your skin that allows the bar to glide up your body without catching on anything. This same friction principle applies to other sports as well. For instance, “spats” are commonly used in martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to prevent mat burns.

Home gym guys should consider wearing leggings just for the heat benefits. Basements get cold. Garages get cold. If you’re training outside, it can get hella cold. When you’re cold, it’s going to take longer for you to warm up and it’s going to be harder to hold on to that heat between sets. You’re not going to be as physically prepared and pliable during your workout, and that could lead to poorer performance, grumpier joints, and minor tweaks. Don’t make yourself needlessly suffer. Throw a pair of warm leggings under your shorts or double them up with your sweatpants. Not to mention, they’ll protect your legs from the icy barbell during your pulls!

Freedom of movement is another perk of wearing leggings. Their stretchy fabric and construction allow for a full range of motion to be achieved without hindrance—as long as you’re wearing the correct size. If you go shorts-less, you’ll have zero worries about feeling constricted by a non-stretchy fabric preventing you from hitting your squat depth or setting your low back on the deadlift. Being unconstricted can be a boon for many accessory movements as well, from monster walks to various types of lunges to deep split jerks.

Most lifting occurs indoors, but it’s still worth mentioning that leggings can be an effective layer of protection against the elements. If you’re pushing a prowler outside and there’s an arctic wind whipping through, you’re going to feel a lot less miserable and distracted if you have a base layer of insulation. Heck, even going to and from your car on a blistering February evening can be made more bearable with a pair of leggings. If you do decide to wear leggings for regular outdoor use, I would highly recommend considering outdoor-specific leggings (such as hiking or “nordic”-anything leggings) since they are more likely to be thicker and better weatherized than regular gym leggings.

The Construction

Modern men’s leggings are very uniquely constructed. Before we talk about the pouch, let’s go over a basic pants pattern and how we go from that to men’s performance leggings.

Put very simply, most bottoms are made of two leg pieces and a waistband. Typically, each leg will be made from a front and back piece. These fabric pieces are sewn together, and those attachment points are called seams. With this basic setup, you should see at least six seams attaching these fabric pieces together: one on the outside of the legs to combine the front and back pieces (called the outseams), one on the inside making each leg into a tubular shape (called the inseams), one running down the crotch to sew both leg pieces together (called the center seam), one on the waistband to turn it into a tubular shape, and a final seam to attach the waistband to the pants.

Seams will never be as stretchy as fabric. There are certain types of seams that stretch a bit, but most don’t stretch at all. That means as the fabric stretches, it puts more tension on the non-stretchy seams and the fabric immediately next to them. This is why crotch blowouts are a common occurrence. As you hinge at your hips, tons of pressure gets placed on the fabric covering your butt. If the stars align and you have a weak seam, it pops. If you have a strong seam, the fabric next to it rips. Seams are made very sturdily nowadays, so I actually see more of the latter.

You may have noticed in the picture above that there are some funky curves near the top of the pants. Those are the crotch curves, and they are vital because they allow the fabric to mold around the trunk’s natural curves. The curvier the body, the bigger the curves will need to be for the bottoms to fit properly.

Men’s pants are generally constructed to have plenty of room, especially in the crotch region. With women’s leggings, all you’d have to do is shave away that extra room to get a snuggly-fitting leggings pattern. If you were to do the same with men’s leggings, you’d run into big problems. Most obviously, men need the fabric to accommodate their nether bits, and shrinking a normal pants pattern down would cause the center seam to cut into them. (Not to mention, having any center seam in that area alone can cause problems.) As one of our male coaches eloquently described this conundrum:

As the hips rotate during ambulation (running or otherwise) and the orientation/position of the male organ shifts, the lateral oscillation can sometimes cause the most anterior portion to rub repeatedly on that seam. Not comfortable. Or too comfortable, and now you’re running while sporting a raging partial. God forbid you sweat a little bit, now you’re eroding your flesh with every swipe...”

The solution to these problems is to create a separate fabric piece to provide extra room and remove that pesky center seam. Enter: the pouch. In pattern drafting, the first step to creating the pouch is to chop off that front crotch curve. Then, one specially-shaped and larger piece of fabric is cut out and sewn to the pant legs to fill that space. One straightforward fix, but there are many variations of it.

For instance, even with the addition of a pouch, many leggings manufacturers have decided to do away with the front center seam completely. They either extend the pouch all the way up the front of the leggings to the waistband, or they cut the entire front piece of both pant legs out of one piece of fabric. Any of these options will work well.

Another alternative you may see is the addition of what’s called a dart. It looks like a mini-seam that only goes part way up the pouch, usually on the bottom portion of it. A dart is created when a piece of fabric is partially sewn with a fold in order to encourage a 3D shape. If you took a piece of paper and folded a section of the edge over itself so it became a cone, that’s essentially how a dart is created. (In case you’ve ever wondered what those funny lines are on women’s dress bodices, those are darts, too. They’re commonly used to make flat, non-stretchy fabric contour to round busts.) When making clothes, the overlapped or pinched section of fabric that makes the dart is sewn to hold that shape, then the excess fabric is either folded to the side and sewn down during the rest of the construction or it’s serged right off. These seams shouldn’t be nearly as irritating as a center seam, but some people may still not like them. If they have a decent lining (see below), no problem. If not, use your own discretion.

Despite its inferiority, there are leggings being manufactured with a pouch that has a center seam. Very silly. However, there are two ways this design decision can be rectified. One is by using a flatlock seam. They’re very common with leggings. It’s basically a type of seam where the stitching is visible but is flat on both the front and back—aside from a small increase in garment thickness where the fabric pieces overlap. This seam is not unnoticeable texture-wise, but it will be less noticeable than a seam that protrudes on the inside such as serged seams (like the kind on the inside of t-shirt sides and armholes). The second savior would be adding a lining, which is essentially a barrier on the inside of the garment. In this case, it’s a different piece of fabric that’s inserted into the pouch area on the inside of the leggings. If it’s not too thin and if it wasn’t made with any seams itself, it should make that center seam unnoticeable. If there’s no lining then you’ll either have to wear thick underwear (more on that later) or skip them altogether.

Despite their advantages, certain leggings—particularly running leggings—don’t have a pouch at all. They either have the traditional center seam all the way down or they’re seamless leggings. This style is used because these leggings are meant to be as compact as possible in order to limit excess movement. It may be a great feature for conditioning, but it’s largely unnecessary for lifting. If you wear them, keep in mind that not having that extra fabric added to the crotch is going to make these feel different.

The Who and The How

Let’s have a quick chat about who can wear leggings. The simple answer is anyone who wants to wear them. Like any other gym apparel, leggings are a type of sports gear that one purchases because it will aid in—or at least not hinder—their fitness pursuits. They come in all shapes and sizes as well, including plus size and big-and-tall.

If you feel like leggings aren’t flattering on you, it could either be that your eyes need some time to adjust to the different look (that initial “half-naked mole rat” feeling is normal) or you could be seeing an imbalance with your proportions. Leggings, being compressive and slimming, will generally make the bottom half of the body appear more slender. If you are proportionately larger on top—whether that’s due to a broad chest, a belly, a wide trunk, a flatter butt, or having skinnier legs—then leggings may make you look more top-heavy. If that’s the case, try wearing a lighter color pair of leggings like light or medium gray, royal blue, or Army green. Lighter colors tend to visually add size, which can be helpful in this situation. Alternatively, you may feel more balanced wearing something that’s not quite as tight on your bottom half, like joggers. The looseness will artificially add bulk to your legs, too. Just be aware that highly stretchy fabrics may not work well with pulls, as mentioned previously.

Now, the real debate: shorts or no shorts? It’s normal now to see both in gyms, so this choice also boils down to personal preference. Unshockingly, going shorts-less seems to be most common with younger generations, although it’s not a look that’s off-limits for older men. Shorts can also be used as a stepping stone to going shorts-less for lifters who aren’t mentally prepared to immediately take that plunge.

No matter what you choose to do, I promise your BLOC coach does not care. Even the female coaches. Regardless of your age or body type, I can guarantee that between social media, public gyms, and online coaching, we’ve seen it all already. Live your best life and do your squats.

As far as your top goes, go ahead and wear what you’d normally wear for your workouts. Regular-length t-shirts and tank tops are totally fine for basically everyone. Heck, I’ve seen guys rocking crop tops with leggings. Leggings are actually quite versatile with what they’re paired with: tight, relaxed, and baggy fits can all work. If you want to choose your tops keeping proportions in mind, men whose upper and lower bodies are proportional or whose upper bodies are slightly bigger can wear basically whatever they’d like and it will look flattering. These are the guys who are going to pull off tight tops the best, too. If you are smaller on your upper body, relaxed and baggier tops are going to visually give your upper body more size, making your proportions more balanced. Dark leggings can be helpful too, as they will slim down the legs. If you’re bigger around your midsection, relaxed and baggier fits may actually make you look slimmer as they will smooth out your trunk. Know your anthropological limits, though, because you can take the bagginess too far and throw off your visual upper-lower balance. When in doubt, you can always ask a fashion-conscious lady!


Most men will wear underwear with their leggings. It’s one of those “not required but highly, highly recommended” things. When men go commando, they’re oftentimes wearing shorts overtop of them or wearing leggings that already have built-in briefs. Regardless, you can do whatever the heck you want. Here are a few advantages to wearing underwear:

  • Opacity. This is especially important if you have thin or light-colored leggings.
  • Thickness.  Layering up fabric will provide more concealment and warmth.
  • Compression. More compression, less eye-catching movement. Particularly if you’re doing dynamic movements.
  • Comfort. Depending on the leggings you’re wearing, you may want to have a comfortable barrier to protect your skin against seams or uncomfortable fabric.

When making your underwear choice, it’s important to factor in both the cut and the material. For the material, I would recommend specifically wearing athletic underwear as it’s generally made from synthetic fabrics. They’re going to be more compressive, have better staying power, and not absorb moisture. The most popular underwear cuts are boxer briefs and thongs. Boxer briefs will provide more coverage than a thong, but wearing a thong means you won’t have any concerns about picking wedgies during your workout. Choose whatever is the most comfortable for you and gives you the benefits you’re after.

Concealing The Bulge

Everyone knows wearing shorts distracts the eye from what’s going on down there, but there are more cards that you can play if your goal is to maintain modesty. Here are a few tips:

  • Seek out fabrics that are thick, opaque, and compressive. They’ll smooth out your bumps, minimize movement, and give you the best coverage.
  • Dark colors will reduce the contrast between highlights and shadows, obscuring your lower body.
  • Avoid leggings with seams that are in a contrasting color or fabrics that are boldly patterned in a way that causes the seams to stand out.
  • Wear underwear. As mentioned previously, it’s another layer of coverage and compression. If your leggings lose opacity as they’re stretched, make sure you wear dark, unpatterned underwear with your dark leggings—and unpatterned skin tone colors (or as close to it as you can; most guys have grays) with lighter leggings.
  • Buy leggings with a crotch pad. Matador Meggings for example are well-known for their foam insert, which is designed to smooth out lumps and bumps so that the region is less eye-catching.

If you are feeling a bit too exposed down there as you embrace the shorts-less look, you can also opt for a longer-length top to cover more of your butt and crotch. There will still be some peek-a-boo action, which is fine because if you were completely covered it would look like you were wearing a mini-dress. Unless that’s what you’re going for. No judgment here.


Leggings shopping can be a pain in the butt at times. That’s just the nature of wearing a skin-tight, performance garment. You’re not looking for a baggy pair of shorts with the right hip measurement. Leggings have to hug the right amount in the right places, fit your crotch correctly, maintain their fit through rigorous movement, and be made with a fabric that’s acceptably opaque, comfortable, and durable. That’s a lot of boxes to tick off. The good news is once you find a pair of leggings that meet your needs, you can buy a few of them and be set for years. Don’t rush this step, though. There’s nothing quite like the disappointment of purchasing a bad pair of leggings. Be picky. Don’t settle.

First things first: choose the right size. It sounds straightforward, but there’s a significant amount of size variation between brands. Even the same pair of leggings made by the same brand could have wildly different fits if the company doesn’t have sufficient quality control checks. That’s why you should shop based on your body and garment measurements. It’s much more reliable than sticker sizes. Plus, if someone else is doing the leggings shopping for you, having these measurements will allow them to be more accurate in choosing a pair that actually fit you.

For in-person shopping, I would recommend knowing the average waist measurement of leggings or compressive underwear (lying flat) that fit you well already. If you have longer or shorter legs than average, you should know your inseam. If you have a long or short torso, you should know your rise (or front center seam) measurement. To save time and limit frustration, shop with a tape measure so you can quickly check leggings’ measurements before bringing them into the fitting room.

For online shopping, you’ll need your waist and hip measurements, plus your rise (if you have a longer torso) and your inseam measurement (if you need longer- or shorter-than-average pant legs). When you’re ready to buy a pair of leggings, check out their size charts to make sure you purchase the right size based on your measurements. Read reviews if they have them to make sure the sizing is accurate for that particular piece of clothing.

The next step is to analyze the fit of the leggings:

  • Are these a complete pain in the butt to put on, to the point where I may neglect to wear them entirely? Did any seams pop during this process?
  • Is the waistband sitting where it should, and not digging in uncomfortably?
  • Do the hips, thighs, and calves fit comfortably? Not too tight or too loose?
  • Is the inseam a length that’s acceptable to me?
  • For public gym lifters: Would I feel comfortable wearing these in public?

Lastly, let’s test them out. Perform the movements you’re going to be doing when you wear these leggings to make sure they will function well for your purposes. Squat, deadlift, clean, jump, sprint, lunge, high knees—be sure to do a variety of movements. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they stay up or slink down? Does it feel like the size is too big or is the fabric not hugging tightly enough?
  • Are they too tight? Does the fabric feel like it’s getting concerningly tight and may rip during these movements, especially at the butt? Did any seams pop?
  • Does the waistband migrate down a concerning amount while leaning over or squatting down, leading to a plumber’s crack? (You can set up your phone and film yourself squatting from behind if you aren’t sure.)
  • Are they see-through, especially in the bottom squat position? (You can use your phone here, too.)
  • Are they bunching uncomfortably around the knees?

Don’t judge quality off of the price tag alone. I’ve purchased $25 leggings from Marshall’s that have lasted me 6+ years of intense use—and I’ve purchased $100 leggings that have lasted one month. While price can be an indicator of quality, there are a lot of variables factored into pricing and quality is only one of them. There are big brand names that make crappy leggings, good brands that occasionally have flops, and winning leggings that may come from surprising places. Stay open-minded and remember to judge the quality of leggings from what you’ve learned in these articles about fabric and fit.

Leggings Recommendations

Mike Burgos

I wear leggings mostly for jiujitsu. A pitfall I ran into early on was that I treated them similarly to gym clothes and left them in my hamper until laundry day. Big mistake. Not only did the garment retain a lot of other people’s body odor, but it retained whatever smell is on the mat as well (kind of a combination of bleach and fungus). The garments I used were from a cheaper Amazon brand and were a polyester/spandex combo (about 80/20). When using them in jiujitsu, I wear no undergarments underneath the leggings but I don polyester hook/loop closure MMA shorts over them.

I’ve had some use of them for conditioning training and would recommend using some kind of undergarment. Most leggings in the lower price range are pull-on closure and have a seam that runs midline along the rise of the garment. As the hips rotate during ambulation (running or otherwise) and the orientation/position of the male organ changes, the lateral oscillation can sometimes cause the anterior portion to rub repeatedly on that seam. Not comfortable. Or too comfortable, and now you’re running while sporting a raging partial. God forbid you sweat a little bit—now you’re eroding your flesh with every swipe. No one wants a scabby dick.

A lot of higher-end brands like Vuori, Nike Pro Combat, Lululemon, and Hylete don’t have this central seam issue. They either have built-in briefs, a perforated mesh pouch (usually Lycra or polyester), or a panel sewn at the inguinal creases that avoid the central seam altogether. This makes additional room for the scrotum to be supported from below.

Specifically, the Vuori Limitless Compression Tight is an example of a great design for general training. They’re a little thicker in fabric and may stand up to more demands for deep squats than say Nike Pro Combat or Nike Pro DRI-Fit Tights, which have similar designs but are thinner, with more sheer fabrics and subject to migration during movement.

Some companies like Lululemon have anti-slip beads or strips on the waistband occasionally to help prevent this migration. For women, this is a fairly common feature along the leg/cuff openings for companies like Athleta, FLEO, or IAB (Iambecoming).

Andrew Jackson

Nike has been my go-to for years. Virus is reliable as well.

My priority is material durability. I wear them mostly when doing snatches and cleans so I need them to be able to hold up to a lot of contact with the bar. The fit issues I usually ran into were length (usually too short) or the waist being too low and revealing butt. The material weight and color have a big influence on whether a second layer is needed. Too thin and/or light and you get a full junk reveal.

I almost exclusively used Nike and didn’t have those problems. I would typically wear thin boxer briefs made of lycra (I think) under the leggings with minimal seems. I knew of some guys that liked wearing thongs, but I never went that route. I think the boxer brief cut helped avoid bunching in the crotch. Thicker cotton wouldn’t work well—lots of weird bunching.




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