What Did People Wear in the 90s for Workout Sessions?

The 1990s were a time of bold fashion statements, and workout attire was no exception. From colorful leggings to neon sports bras, the fashion choices of the era were all about making a statement. But what did people wear to workout in the 90s? Let’s take a look back at some of the most iconic and trendy workout outfits of the decade.

In the 90s, working out was all about showing off your style, and that meant wearing bright and bold colors. Leggings were a staple piece of workout attire, often paired with a matching sports bra and a cropped tank top. Neon colors were particularly popular, and it was not uncommon to see people wearing neon green, pink, or yellow while working out.

Another popular trend in the 90s was wearing oversized clothing. Oversized t-shirts and sweatshirts were popular choices for working out, as they provided a comfortable and relaxed fit. Many people also wore denim overalls or jeans while working out, as they were a practical and stylish choice.

Athletic shoes were also an essential part of the 90s workout wardrobe. Many people opted for brightly colored running shoes, which could be worn with any workout outfit. It was also common to see people wearing cross-trainers or aerobics shoes, which were specifically designed for various types of exercise.

Overall, the 90s were a time of bold and colorful fashion choices, and this was especially true when it came to working out. Whether you preferred leggings, oversized clothing, or brightly colored athletic shoes, there was no shortage of stylish options for working out in the 90s.

Quick Answer:
In the 1990s, people’s fashion choices for workout sessions were heavily influenced by the popular trends of the time. Aerobics and other fitness classes were popular, and people often wore leotards, leg warmers, and neon colors. Many women wore their hair in high ponytails or buns, while men often wore basketball shorts and t-shirts. The overall aesthetic was one of practicality and comfort, with a focus on breathable fabrics and moisture-wicking materials. However, as the decade progressed, fashion began to play a more prominent role in people’s workout wardrobes, with designer brands and high-end sportswear becoming more popular.

Popular Fitness Trends in the 90s

Aerobics and Step Aerobics

Jazzercise and Dance-Based Fitness

Aerobics and step aerobics were popular fitness trends in the 90s. Aerobics is a form of exercise that increases the heart rate and improves cardiovascular fitness. Step aerobics is a variation of aerobics that involves a step or bench, which is used to elevate the workout and add variation to the exercises.

Aerobics classes were typically held in gyms or fitness centers and were led by an instructor. Participants would follow along with the instructor as they performed various exercises and movements. These classes were popular because they provided a fun and energetic workout that could be tailored to different fitness levels.

Step aerobics classes were similar to regular aerobics classes, but with the added challenge of using the step. The step was used to elevate the workout and add variation to the exercises. Step aerobics classes often incorporated high-energy music and choreographed routines, making them a popular choice for those looking for a fun and challenging workout.

High-Impact Aerobics

High-impact aerobics was another popular fitness trend in the 90s. This type of aerobics involved performing exercises that had a greater impact on the joints, such as jumping and bounding. High-impact aerobics classes were typically more intense than regular aerobics classes and were designed to provide a more challenging workout.

High-impact aerobics classes were often led by an instructor who would guide participants through various exercises and routines. These classes were popular because they provided a high-energy workout that could help participants burn calories and improve their fitness levels.

In addition to providing a challenging workout, high-impact aerobics classes also offered a sense of community and support. Participants often formed friendships with other class members and felt motivated to continue their fitness journey.

Overall, aerobics and step aerobics were popular fitness trends in the 90s due to their ability to provide a fun and challenging workout that could be tailored to different fitness levels. Whether participants were looking for a high-energy workout or a more challenging routine, these classes offered a great way to stay active and healthy.

Bodybuilding and Weightlifting

Men’s Workout Wear

During the 1990s, men’s workout wear for bodybuilding and weightlifting was dominated by loose-fitting cotton T-shirts and shorts. The clothing was designed to allow for a full range of motion during exercises and was typically plain in design, with minimal branding or logos. Many men also opted for knee-length socks to help prevent blisters and support their shins during intense workouts.

Women’s Workout Wear

Women’s workout wear for bodybuilding and weightlifting in the 1990s was often form-fitting and made of moisture-wicking fabrics to help keep the body dry during intense exercise. The clothing was designed to be practical and functional, with a focus on providing support and coverage during weightlifting and bodybuilding routines. Popular styles included tank tops, shorts, and leggings, often worn with a sports bra for support.

In addition to the clothing, accessories such as wristbands and ankle weights were also popular among women in the 1990s. These accessories were designed to help enhance the workout and provide additional resistance for strength training.

Yoga and Pilates

The Rise of Yoga in the 90s

Yoga, which originated in ancient India, experienced a significant resurgence in the 1990s. The decade saw a rise in popularity for this form of exercise, as more people became interested in its physical and mental health benefits. One of the primary reasons for this increase in popularity was the growing awareness of the connection between mind and body, leading to a greater interest in mind-body fitness practices.

As a result, yoga studios began to pop up in various cities across the United States, and yoga classes were offered at gyms and fitness centers. Celebrities, including actors and musicians, were also seen practicing yoga, further boosting its profile and appeal. The various styles of yoga, such as Hatha, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga, offered different levels of intensity and flexibility, making it accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels.

Pilates and the Focus on Core Strength

Another popular fitness trend in the 1990s was Pilates, a form of exercise developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Pilates emphasized the importance of core strength and body control, which became increasingly popular in the fitness industry during the 1990s. The low-impact nature of Pilates made it appealing to people looking for a gentle yet effective workout, while the focus on core strength provided numerous benefits, such as improved posture, balance, and overall physical fitness.

The 1990s saw the growth of Pilates studios and instructors, with many gyms and fitness centers incorporating Pilates into their classes and programs. Additionally, Pilates equipment, such as the Reformer, became more widely available, allowing individuals to practice Pilates in the comfort of their own homes. Celebrities and athletes also began to adopt Pilates as part of their fitness routines, further enhancing its popularity and reputation.

In conclusion, the 1990s were a significant decade for the rise of yoga and Pilates as popular fitness trends. These mind-body practices gained widespread recognition and adoption due to their numerous benefits and accessibility to people of all ages and fitness levels.

Influential Fitness Brands and Companies

Key takeaway: In the 1990s, aerobics and step aerobics were popular fitness trends. High-impact aerobics classes were more intense and focused on body sculpting, while step aerobics classes incorporated the use of a step for added challenge. In terms of workout clothing, tight-fitting activewear was popular, including leggings, bike shorts, and aerobic shoes and sneakers. Additionally, Lululemon emerged as a major player in the fitness apparel industry, offering high-quality, technical athletic wear that combined function and fashion.

Lululemon and the Rise of Luxury Athletic Wear

Lululemon’s Founding and Early Success

Lululemon, founded in 1998 by Chip Wilson and his wife Shannon, started as a small yoga apparel store in Vancouver, Canada. The couple recognized a gap in the market for high-quality, technical apparel designed specifically for yoga and other fitness activities. The store quickly gained popularity, thanks to its unique designs and the rise of yoga as a mainstream fitness trend.

Lululemon’s Impact on the Fitness Apparel Industry

Lululemon’s early success was not only due to its focus on yoga, but also its innovative designs and commitment to quality materials. The brand’s dedication to technical fabrics and form-fitting designs made it stand out from other fitness apparel brands, which typically offered baggy, sweat-wicking garments. Lululemon’s aesthetic was more reminiscent of high-end athletic wear, which appealed to consumers seeking a more sophisticated look for their workout attire.

The brand’s influence extended beyond its products, as it also played a role in shaping the broader fitness culture of the 1990s and 2000s. Lululemon’s promotion of yoga and other mind-body practices helped to further legitimize these activities as viable forms of exercise, encouraging more people to incorporate them into their fitness routines. Additionally, the brand’s emphasis on style and self-expression fostered a more inclusive and diverse fitness community, where individuals felt empowered to express their personalities through their workout attire.

As Lululemon’s popularity grew, other fitness brands began to take notice and adapt their own offerings to meet the demand for high-quality, fashionable athletic wear. The rise of luxury athletic wear in the 1990s and beyond can be partially attributed to Lululemon’s success in merging technical performance with sleek, modern designs. By setting a new standard for fitness apparel, Lululemon played a significant role in shaping the way people dressed for workout sessions during this time.

Nike and Reebok: Sneaker Culture and Athletic Apparel

Nike’s Iconic Sneakers and Workout Gear

During the 1990s, Nike emerged as a dominant force in the fitness apparel industry, offering a wide range of athletic clothing and footwear for workout enthusiasts. Nike’s iconic sneakers, such as the Air Jordan and Air Max lines, became highly sought-after by both casual and serious athletes. These sneakers were not only stylish but also provided excellent support and cushioning for various physical activities.

Nike’s workout gear, including tank tops, shorts, and sports bras, were also popular among those who frequented gyms and fitness centers. These garments were designed with functionality in mind, offering comfort and mobility during intense exercise sessions. The Nike brand’s focus on innovation and technology enabled them to create high-quality athletic wear that met the needs of active individuals.

Reebok’s Innovations in Athletic Footwear

Reebok, another major player in the fitness industry during the 1990s, made significant strides in athletic footwear. The company’s focus on technology and design led to the creation of several innovative shoe models, such as the Reebok Pump and the Reebok InstaPump Fury. These shoes featured unique air-filled chambers that provided customizable support and cushioning for the wearer’s feet.

Reebok also introduced the Reebok Velcro Fast Cut, a lightweight and breathable shoe designed specifically for indoor soccer players. The shoe’s unique Velcro strap system allowed for a customizable fit, providing both support and flexibility during play.

In addition to their footwear, Reebok offered a range of athletic apparel, including sports bras, shorts, and tank tops. These garments were designed to meet the needs of various sports and activities, providing comfort and support during workout sessions. Reebok’s commitment to innovation and technology in athletic wear helped to establish the company as a leading force in the fitness industry during the 1990s.

Workout Clothing Essentials in the 90s

Tight-Fitting Activewear

In the 1990s, tight-fitting activewear became a popular trend for workout sessions. This type of clothing was designed to provide support and mobility during intense physical activity. Two materials were commonly used to create tight-fitting activewear: Spandex and Lycra.


Spandex is a synthetic fiber that was first introduced in the 1950s. It is known for its ability to stretch and recover its original shape, making it an ideal material for activewear. In the 1990s, Spandex was widely used to create tight-fitting workout clothes such as leotards, tights, and crop tops. These garments were often worn by professional athletes and dancers who required maximum flexibility and support during their training sessions.


Lycra is another synthetic fiber that was popular in the 1990s for activewear. It is made from a type of elastane yarn that provides excellent stretch and recovery properties. Like Spandex, Lycra was used to create tight-fitting workout clothes that hugged the body and provided support during movement.

Tight-fitting activewear was not only functional but also fashionable in the 1990s. Neon colors and bold graphics were popular design elements that added a touch of glamor to the otherwise practical clothing. Neon colors, in particular, were highly visible and could be seen even from a distance, making them ideal for outdoor workouts. Bold graphics, on the other hand, added a fun and playful element to the clothing, making it stand out even more.

Overall, tight-fitting activewear was a crucial component of workout attire in the 1990s. The combination of functional materials and fashionable design elements made it an essential part of any fitness routine.

Tank Tops and Sports Bras

Functional Design and Comfort

During the 1990s, tank tops and sports bras were among the most popular workout clothing essentials for both men and women. These garments were designed to provide comfort, support, and freedom of movement during physical activity. The functional design of these garments allowed for ease of movement and ventilation, which was particularly important during high-intensity workouts.

Crop Tops and Muscle Tanks

Crop tops and muscle tanks were also popular workout clothing options for women in the 1990s. These tops were often made of lightweight, breathable fabrics such as cotton or mesh, and were designed to provide support and compression during exercise. Crop tops were typically shorter in length, exposing the midriff, while muscle tanks were longer and more modest, covering the stomach and lower back.

Overall, tank tops and sports bras were popular workout clothing options for their functional design and comfort during the 1990s. These garments provided the necessary support and ventilation for a comfortable and effective workout session.

Aerobic Shoes and Sneakers

Lightweight and Durable Materials

During the 1990s, workout clothing was designed to provide comfort, support, and flexibility to the wearer. One of the most important components of a 90s workout wardrobe was the aerobic shoes and sneakers. These shoes were designed to be lightweight and durable, providing support and stability during high-impact activities such as running and jumping.

Aerobic Shoes and the Popularity of Cross-Training

Aerobic shoes and sneakers were a staple of the 90s workout wardrobe. These shoes were designed to provide support and stability during high-impact activities such as running and jumping. The popularity of cross-training during the 90s also contributed to the popularity of aerobic shoes and sneakers. Cross-training involved a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercises, which required a specific type of shoe that could provide support and stability during both types of activities.

In the 90s, aerobic shoes and sneakers were made from a variety of materials, including synthetic and natural fabrics. Synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester were commonly used in the construction of aerobic shoes and sneakers because they were lightweight and durable. Natural fabrics such as leather and suede were also used in the construction of some shoes, providing a more comfortable and supportive fit.

Aerobic shoes and sneakers were designed to provide support and stability during high-impact activities such as running and jumping. The soles of these shoes were made from a variety of materials, including rubber and gel, which provided shock absorption and support to the wearer. Some shoes also featured specialized technology, such as air pockets or cushioning systems, which provided additional support and comfort.

In conclusion, aerobic shoes and sneakers were an essential part of the 90s workout wardrobe. These shoes were designed to provide support and stability during high-impact activities such as running and jumping, and were made from a variety of materials including synthetic and natural fabrics. The popularity of cross-training during the 90s also contributed to the popularity of aerobic shoes and sneakers.

Leggings and Bike Shorts

Versatility and Functionality

During the 1990s, leggings and bike shorts were essential components of a workout wardrobe. These garments provided a versatile and functional alternative to traditional gym wear. Leggings, in particular, were popular among women for their ability to support the legs during a variety of physical activities. They were also worn as a fashion statement, often paired with a t-shirt or sports bra for a casual yet athletic look.

Fashionable Designs and Logos

Leggings and bike shorts in the 90s featured bold designs and eye-catching logos. Brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Reebok produced colorful and trendy leggings and bike shorts that incorporated their signature logos. Many of these designs featured neon colors and abstract patterns that reflected the vibrant and energetic culture of the decade. Additionally, celebrities and professional athletes often endorsed these brands, making them even more popular among the general public.

In summary, leggings and bike shorts were crucial elements of 90s workout attire. They offered both functionality and fashion, allowing individuals to exercise in style while remaining comfortable and supported during their physical activities.

90s Celebrities and Their Fitness Style

The Impact of Celebrity Endorsements

Celebrity-Owned Fitness Brands

In the 1990s, celebrities played a significant role in shaping the fitness fashion trends. Many of them launched their own fitness brands, which had a significant impact on the industry. These brands not only popularized specific workout clothing styles but also introduced new materials and designs that catered to the needs of fitness enthusiasts.

One notable example is the “Athletic Fit” line by Calvin Klein, which was popularized by actor Mark Wahlberg in the 1990s. The brand’s marketing campaigns featured celebrities such as Christy Turlington and Kate Moss, showcasing the versatility and comfort of the Athletic Fit line.

Another celebrity-owned fitness brand that gained popularity in the 1990s was the “Body” line by Jessica Simpson. The brand’s signature low-rise jeans and sports bras became a staple in the wardrobes of many women who wanted to stay comfortable and stylish during their workout sessions.

Influential Fitness Trainers and Coaches

Celebrities were not only launching their own fitness brands, but they were also becoming influential fitness trainers and coaches. They used their platforms to promote healthy lifestyles and endorse specific workout styles.

One notable example is actor Matthew McConaughey’s endorsement of the “Lincoln Navigator” in the late 1990s. In a commercial for the car, McConaughey is seen jogging and lifting weights while wearing a tank top and sweatpants, promoting a casual and comfortable workout style.

Similarly, actor Sylvester Stallone became a prominent figure in the fitness industry, endorsing his own line of workout clothing and promoting the “Rambo” and “Rocky” styles. His influence helped popularize the idea of wearing specific athletic brands and styles to enhance one’s workout performance.

Overall, the impact of celebrity endorsements on fitness fashion in the 1990s was significant. Celebrities not only launched their own fitness brands but also used their platforms to promote healthy lifestyles and endorse specific workout styles. This helped shape the trends in fitness fashion and made a lasting impact on the industry.

The 90s Fitness Aesthetic

The 90s was a time of great change in the world of fashion, and this was especially true when it came to workout clothes. During this era, people’s approach to fitness attire was characterized by a desire to stand out and make a statement.

One of the key trends in 90s fitness fashion was the adoption of baggy clothing. This included oversized t-shirts, sweatpants, and shorts that were designed to be comfortable and allow for a full range of motion during exercise. This style was popularized by celebrities such as Will Smith and the cast of the hit TV show “Friends.”

Another important aspect of 90s fitness fashion was the influence of sportswear. Brands like Nike and Adidas began to incorporate sports-inspired elements into their workout clothes, such as bold colors and logos, as well as performance-enhancing features like moisture-wicking fabric. This trend was embraced by many celebrities, including Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow, who were often seen working out in athletic wear from these brands.

In addition to these trends, the 90s also saw the rise of grunge and alternative fashion. This style, which was popularized by bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, featured a more laid-back approach to dressing, with a focus on comfort and practicality. Many people incorporated grunge-inspired elements into their workout wardrobes, such as flannel shirts and Doc Marten boots.

Overall, the 90s was a time of experimentation and expression when it came to fitness fashion. People were eager to show off their unique style and express their individuality through their workout clothes.

Fitness Apparel Evolution Since the 90s

The Rise of Technical Fabrics and Performance Wear

In the 1990s, fitness apparel underwent a significant transformation. Technical fabrics and performance wear became increasingly popular among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. These new materials offered a range of benefits that were specifically designed to enhance workout sessions.

Moisture-Wicking and Quick-Drying Materials

One of the key innovations in the 1990s was the development of moisture-wicking and quick-drying materials. These fabrics were designed to draw sweat away from the body, keeping athletes dry and comfortable during intense workouts. This was a significant improvement over traditional cotton-based clothing, which could become heavy and uncomfortable when it became saturated with sweat.

Moisture-wicking fabrics were typically made from synthetic materials such as polyester or nylon. These materials were engineered to be highly breathable, allowing air to circulate around the body and keep it dry. Quick-drying properties were also incorporated into these fabrics, enabling them to dry faster than cotton.

Breathable and Stretchy Fabrics

Another key innovation in the 1990s was the development of breathable and stretchy fabrics. These materials were designed to provide greater flexibility and comfort during workouts. Breathable fabrics allowed air to circulate around the body, preventing overheating and promoting better performance. Stretchy fabrics, on the other hand, offered greater freedom of movement, enabling athletes to perform at their best without feeling restricted.

Breathable and stretchy fabrics were typically made from a combination of synthetic and natural materials. For example, fabrics like spandex and lycra were often used in combination with natural fibers like cotton or wool. This combination provided the benefits of both types of materials, allowing athletes to enjoy greater comfort and flexibility during their workouts.

Overall, the rise of technical fabrics and performance wear in the 1990s marked a significant turning point in the evolution of fitness apparel. These new materials offered a range of benefits that were specifically designed to enhance workout sessions, enabling athletes to perform at their best and achieve their fitness goals.

The Influence of High-Fashion Designers

Luxury Athletic Brands

During the 1990s, high-fashion designers began to collaborate with athletic brands, creating a fusion of fashion and fitness apparel. Luxury athletic brands, such as Nike’s “Air Max” and Adidas’ “Y-3” line, emerged as a result of these collaborations. These brands offered stylish, high-performance workout clothing that incorporated fashion-forward designs and premium materials.

Athleisure and Streetwear

In the 1990s, athleisure and streetwear became increasingly popular as casual, everyday wear. This trend extended to workout attire, with people wearing comfortable, fashionable activewear for their fitness sessions. Athletic brands began to produce clothing that could be worn both during workouts and as part of a person’s everyday wardrobe, leading to the rise of the modern athleisure industry.

The influence of high-fashion designers on athletic wear was not limited to luxury brands. Streetwear brands, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, also incorporated fashion-forward designs into their activewear lines. This resulted in a more diverse range of workout clothing options, catering to individuals who sought both style and functionality in their fitness attire.

The collaboration between high-fashion designers and athletic brands during the 1990s marked a significant shift in the fitness apparel industry. It not only expanded the range of available clothing options but also encouraged the fusion of fashion and function, leading to the creation of innovative, stylish activewear that could be worn both during workouts and as part of everyday wardrobes.

Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Fitness Apparel

Recycled Materials and Ethical Production

As the world becomes more conscious of the environmental impact of fast fashion, the fitness industry has followed suit by embracing sustainable and eco-friendly fitness apparel. This trend towards sustainability is driven by the increasing demand for ethical and environmentally friendly products, as well as the recognition of the role that the fashion industry plays in environmental degradation.

One way that the fitness industry has embraced sustainability is through the use of recycled materials in the production of fitness apparel. These recycled materials can include plastic bottles, old t-shirts, and other discarded fabrics that would otherwise end up in landfills. By repurposing these materials, the fitness industry is able to reduce its carbon footprint and minimize its impact on the environment.

Minimalism and Functionality

In addition to using recycled materials, the fitness industry has also embraced a minimalist and functional approach to fitness apparel. This approach emphasizes the importance of functional, high-quality materials that are designed to meet the specific needs of athletes and fitness enthusiasts. This includes moisture-wicking fabrics, breathable materials, and stretchy designs that allow for maximum range of motion and comfort during workouts.

The minimalist and functional approach to fitness apparel is also reflected in the simplistic and understated designs that are popular in the industry. Gone are the days of flashy and logo-heavy workout gear, and in their place are simple, sleek designs that allow the wearer to focus on their workout rather than their clothes.

Overall, the trend towards sustainable and eco-friendly fitness apparel is a reflection of the growing consciousness of the environmental impact of the fashion industry. By embracing recycled materials and a minimalist and functional approach to design, the fitness industry is able to reduce its carbon footprint and promote a more sustainable approach to fitness and wellness.


1. What type of clothing did people wear for workouts in the 90s?

In the 1990s, people wore a variety of clothing items for workouts. Many preferred loose-fitting clothing, such as tank tops, sweatpants, and shorts, which allowed for greater range of motion during exercise. These clothes were often made of moisture-wicking materials to keep the body dry and comfortable. Some people also wore compression garments, such as leggings and compression shorts, to help support the muscles during intense workouts.

2. Were there any specific brands or styles that were popular in the 90s for workout wear?

Yes, there were several brands and styles that were popular for workout wear in the 1990s. For example, Nike and Reebok were two of the most popular brands of athletic shoes, and many people wore them for both running and other types of workouts. Additionally, brands like Champion and Adidas released workout clothes that were designed to be comfortable and functional, such as oversized t-shirts and sweatpants. Some people also wore spandex and Lycra clothes, which were popular for their stretchiness and ability to hug the body closely.

3. How did workout wear in the 90s differ from workout wear today?

Workout wear in the 1990s was generally more relaxed and comfortable than it is today. Many people preferred loose-fitting clothing that allowed for a full range of motion during exercise, rather than form-fitting garments that are common today. Additionally, materials used in workout wear in the 90s were not as high-tech as they are today. For example, moisture-wicking fabrics were not as advanced as they are now, and there were fewer options for compression garments. Today, workout wear is designed to be both functional and fashionable, with a wide range of styles and materials available to suit different workout needs.

A look at the ’90s fitness trends

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