Why can’t we wear tank tops to the gym?

Photo by Chris Crews

UNC Charlotte is known to be one of the most inclusive and diverse universities in North Carolina. According to a report by US News, UNC Charlotte is ranked as No. 194 of the best National Universities. They go on to say that our campus has a lot of different programs to help students understand and support diversity and inclusion. We typically support people for who they are and what they stand for. Our campus is proud to let students express themselves in whatever way they choose. As far as dress code goes, we are allowed to wear pajamas or spandex to class. Tank tops and crop tops are permitted too, and I have even seen someone show up to class in a swimsuit. Our dress code policy truly is amazing until you enter Belk Gym. There is a strict no tank top policy in the gym here on campus. If you show up in one, you are offered a huge black T-shirt to change into or the option to go home. Many students have strong opinions on whether this policy is fair. I have even heard from students who say this policy has stopped them from going to the gym. If we are allowed to wear what we feel comfortable in everywhere else on campus, why is it any different when we step into the gym?

Students go to the gym to workout and to feel good about themselves. In my opinion, we should not have any rules that could potentially stop a student from making this healthy lifestyle decision. I asked Allison Bridgers, a second year student at UNC Charlotte, to comment on a recent event in which she was denied access to the gym due to a tank top she was wearing. Here’s what she had to say: “When I was denied the right to workout because of my ‘inappropriate attire,’ I felt very isolated. I still don’t understand how a workout tank top is considered inappropriate.” She went on to tell me that the woman who asked her to leave made her feel this was because she pointed to every other girl in the gym and said, “See, every other girl in the gym is wearing a T-shirt with sleeves and you aren’t.” Allison then said that “this incident has made me not want to step foot back into the Belk Gym.” This does not sound like an inclusive and comfortable environment to me.

Some have stated that having that extra inch or two of sleeve is simply more sanitary, but you are able to wear tank tops at so many other gyms such as Planet Fitness, Burn Boot Camp and local neighborhood gyms as well. You’re even allowed to wear tank tops to fitness classes on campus, but why does it suddenly become such a huge hygiene issue in Belk Gym? Do you really think that that little extra fabric is going to stop a common cold from spreading? It’s ridiculous; we’re all adults and there are wipes provided for a reason. Some have even gone on to say that they feel even more uncomfortable when everyone is wearing t-shirts and you can see their sweat lines, whereas tank tops resolve that issue.

I do understand that this rule may be in place because they may not want others to compare themselves to each other when working out; to avoid that feeling of being insecure. But I feel like that is pretty inevitable no matter what gym you go to. When you choose to go to the gym, you are choosing to better yourself and do something good. Whether they are showing a little more of their shoulder shouldn’t make that big of a difference.

It’s sad to me that it’s 2019 and some places still prohibit the showing of our shoulders in public for whatever reason they may have. A lot of fitness places have removed their rule of “no tank tops” and I honestly think it’s time Belk Gym does so too. There are so many other ways to get sick and spread germs; the two extra inches of sleeve is not a secure way of preventing it from happening. Ultimately, everyone at the gym is trying to better themselves and feel good, so why not let them wear what they feel the most comfortable in?

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