SUMMARY: Shirtless climbing in the gym

SUMMARY: Shirtless climbing in the gym

SUMMARY: Shirtless climbing in the gym 6720 4480 Matilda Söderlund

This has been an ongoing debate on the Stockholm climbing scene (and I guess a lot of other places too) for quite a while now. Well, summer is here and the climbing gyms feel like saunas some days. And that, my friends, surely makes it a highly topical issue. Somewhat a hot potato actually. Personally, the more I think about it the more torn I get. After discussing with some of my friends at the climbing gym I turned to the almighty source of opinions (yes, Instagram) and asked all of you what your thoughts are on the question. Here are the results.

Question: When it’s super warm in the climbing gym, do you think it’s ok to climb without shirt?

YES: 74%

NO: 26%

I then asked you “Why do you think YES / NO”. And oh my, I got so many interesting and elaborative answers (and some not so elaborative hehe). In total over 200 people shared their thoughts on the topic. Thank you! I’ve tried to summarize and sort you answers.  Let’s start by looking at the YES – side, which represent almost 3 out of 4 people that responded. The two core arguments pro shirtless evolved around Freedom and Temperature / Comfort.

Freedom: Everyone should be able to do what they want, it’s just skin or a human body and if it’s ok on a beach, why not when climbing? The most responses that I got was within this category. 

“We’re climbing walls, surely we should feel free enough to get around without a top”

“Its 2019, do what you want”

“We were born naked. So it’s only human”

“Let people do what makes them happy”

“It’s just skin”

“I feel more free”

“…No one should tell you how to dress/act”

“It’s like a beach situation, men topless, women in bikini/Sportsbra”

“It feels so good […] climbing is freedom”

Temperature / comfort: Lower body temperature = perform better and feel more comfortable. 

“It’s stupid to overheat because you must wear a shirt”

“Comfort is key”

“Climbing gyms get really hot and most don’t have AC”

“Climbing in a sauna-like gym is already painful, gotta feel as comfy as possible”

And then we have the NO – side, representing almost 25% of those who answered. The reasons against shirtless in the climbing gym varied more and I’ve tried to cluster them together in a (somewhat) logical way. 

Hygiene/sanitary reasons: Someone else’s sweat = Gross. Clothing absorbs sweat. 

“Definitely a big NO when someone else’s sweat is dropping off”

“I don’t feel like sitting on other peoples’ sweat. Keep it in your shirt people!!!”

“Nobody likes a sweaty mat”

Body image: Being shirtless contributes to unhealthy focus on being fit and / or skinny.

“A ‘normal’ / skinny body is seen as ‘better’” 

“The gym is a place for everybody to feel comfortable. It’s not a locker room”

“… people vary greatly on how comfortable they are with the human body and nudity”

“… I get jealous”


“I get uncomfortable”

Offensive (especially for families/children and new climbers) and people just do it to show off: The loud group on the boulder mats (often guys) – without shirts – is intimidating and annoying.

“Climbing is already intimidating enough for new climbers as is”

“Intimidating and unpleasant for new climbers and families”

“Basically no other sports allow it, why should climbing gyms?”

“Men in jeans and no shirt. Pliz! Stop.”

“I think more guys would do it as a way to show off instead of needing to cool off haha”

“Contributing to macho culture”

“It’s a public space and we are supposed to understand ALL the different opinions about it” 


I’m still twisting my head about the subject haha. Personally, during summer I climb without shirt all the time when I’m outside climbing to deal with the warm temps and for the same reason I’ve climbed without shirt in the gym (where it’s been allowed, I follow the rules)… Reading all of your thoughts, I totally understand both sides though. Climbing in the gym is an activity/form of training that is open to anyone and I definitely want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable while in the gym. It’s also easy to see the gym owners perspective in this, easy fix to ban shirtless climbing for a commercial gym that get complaints about it… Where climbing comes from, climbing without shirt is not considered strange and many people do it “when it’s time to send”. But commercial gyms are pretty far from climbing as it used to be/climbing outside in my opinion, it also caters to a broader audience that is not used to the “shirtless” culture. Well, the best solution for everyone would just be for the gyms to get proper AC 😉