Henry David Thoreau famously warns us to beware any enterprise requiring new clothes. Mark Twain and Shakespeare, on the other hand, tell us that clothes make the man. Who’s right when it comes to aerial class? We think there are some good points on both sides.
If it’s your first class, follow Thoreau. You don’t need the latest workout wear to have a fine time in an intro class — in fact, you’ve probably already got everything you need! We do have a few recommendations to help you feel comfortable and get the most out of your class:
- Circus involves a certain amount of friction as your body interacts with your apparatus. When you’re starting out, your skin can be extra sensitive to this friction. We recommend covering the skin most likely to be in contact with the equipment. This includes the backs of knees, armpits, and waist. If you’ve got pants that come past your knees and a shirt with sleeves that covers your waist, you’ll have an easier time with some skills.
- At certain points in an intro class, you may turn upside down. Super loose tops that fall over your face and impede your vision might make this experience less than stellar (being upside down is confusing enough on its own!). Also, we don’t care a bit if your shirt lifts up and we see your belly, but if you do, consider wearing a leotard or tucking your shirt into your pants.
- Form-fitting clothing is preferred, as it is less likely to tangle in the apparatus (frustrating and possibly dangerous) and allows your instructor to keep a close eye on your form.
- You’ll be moving around a lot, so wear clothing that won’t impede your range of motion.
What Not to Wear
The suggestions above are for your safety and comfort. If you don’t have exactly what we recommend, don’t sweat it! We can probably work around it or offer you something from our Box of Opportunity (aerial-friendly loaner clothing). There are a few restrictions that are important either for your own safety or for the safety of our equipment. Expect us to be strict about the following:
- Any clothing with metal pieces can severely damage our fabrics, rendering them unsafe and unusable. We cannot allow metal zippers, grommets, buttons, or anything else that might get caught on the fabric and cause it to tear. This includes jeans!
- Jewelry can also be an issue. Dangling necklaces or earrings are a definite safety issue for you. Rings can lead to fingers getting pinched (ouch!) or can be bent by trapeze and lyra bars. Protect yourself and your jewelry by removing it prior to class.
Sock It to Me!
One of our most frequently asked questions is, “Can/Should I wear socks?” On most apparatuses, it’s your choice — do whatever feels best to you. On fabric and other climbable apparatuses, you will probably want to go barefoot. Socks might be too slippery to allow for mastery of some skills.
If you’re starting out on pole, you can pretty much ignore everything above (except the bit about jewelry). Pole requires exposed skin to stick to the apparatus, so you’ll need shorts instead of pants and a tank top instead of a sleeved shirt. Close-fitting clothing is still recommended.
So, are we totally siding with Thoreau here? Not necessarily. While you don’t need to purchase something new for your first class, as you advance, you might find that certain types of clothing keep you more comfortable, are easier to take care of, or make your training easier.
When in Doubt, Use Layers
As you get more comfortable in the air, you might decide that you actually prefer sleeveless tanks or leotards when you train — until the day you try your first fabric drop and your poor armpits beg for mercy. Likewise, shorts might keep you cooler during hot summer months, but they might also lead to some painful moments on the trapeze ropes. Wearing (or bringing) layers to class allows for maximum comfort — wear what you want most of the time but cover up (or strip down) when you need to. Especially in the winter, we strongly recommend starting your training session in heavier layers, which you can shed as your body gets warm.
We’re talking about the ones that go on your body here, not the ones you climb. What your workout clothes are made of can make or break the ease with which you master certain skills. Slick fabrics can hinder your progress by making you slip and slide too much; more cotton-y fabrics are preferred for better stability. You might also want to check your bottoms to make sure they’re truly opaque. In strong light, bend over in front of a mirror (or a trusted friend) and find out if London and France are visible. If you’re showing more than you bargained for, throw a pair of booty shorts on over the leggings.
The Long and the Short of It
Beware low-rise bottoms. They might look great in the store, but they can end up exposing too much skin when you’re in the air, leading to burns and abrasions on your waist and back. Choose high-waisted pants, wear a leotard, or make sure your shirt will stay tucked in as you bend, reach, twist, and invert. Similarly, check the length of bottoms. For most students, the ideal length leaves some exposed skin down by the ankle but fully covers the backs of knees.
If you’ve got bits that dangle, you will probably be more comfortable if you keep them contained. Workout gear doesn’t have to be super spendy, but it’s worth shelling out for a few high quality sports bras that keep everything in place without making you feel like you’re being strangled by your own underwear. Aerialists with external genitalia might also want to invest in a dance belt (more on this subject here).
Don’t Be Afraid to Shine
We place a strong priority on safety and comfort, but we also want you to feel your best (which helps you do your best) while you’re training. If feeling your best means leggings featuring neon rainbow unicorns, a sleek black snakeskin pattern, or your favorite cartoon characters, go for it! There’s a wide variety of workout gear out there to help you put the fun in functional. Find something you love that allows you to spend class time focusing on your form, not your fashion emergencies.