PHOTOS: These totally-not-gay workout pics from the ‘80s are so wrong they’re right

Ah, the ‘80s. When shorts were shorter, fabrics were shinier, and necklines were deeper. Plenty of those trends are back on the rise, particularly for men, who are again embracing crop tops and itty-bitty shorts as god intended. But to truly appreciate the style revival, we need to return to where it all began: the equally loved and reviled fitness fashions of the 1980s.

The decade, known for its decadence, gave rise to seemingly infinite fitness trends — from racquetball to home aerobics to jazzercise — and each activity demanded a wardrobe to match. Style icons like Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton-John set a standard for turning out looks every time you hit the gym, and the public was happy to oblige, donning Spandex and leg warmers in spades. 

Meanwhile, magazines like Muscle & Fitness and International Male were in their heyday, putting the male physique on full display — or, as full as they could get without veering into the pornographic. It was a perfect storm that spawned a generation of oiled up men in the tiniest outfits imaginable. Were those outfits in good taste? Debatable. But are they fun to look at? Absolutely! And love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re back in style in a big way.

Now, click through these totally tubular pics to see how guys “got physical” in the ‘80s

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  • RIGay

    Oh. My. God! I had like everything from the International Male catalog that you have here! LOVE the “Onion Skins” shorts!

    • anton

      I had those Onion Skin shorts. I got a lot of compliments on them. The Aussie Rower in the next to last pic got me compliments too.

    • Ken Vinal

      I had a pair of those onion skin shorts. The pouch was a bit small but I guess that was part of the appeal

  • Moriconi

    Fun article. Short and sweet, lots of fun ads from the 80’s. I don’t know if you know but there is a documentary out about International Male. It is called All Man: The International Male Story and available to stream. I worked at IM in the eighties and what a fun time for men’s “fashion”. Workout wear was shorter and tighter than ever. Take a look at the doc and let me know what you think. Dennis Mori

    • metta

      I have tickets to go see it in LA this Sunday as part of Outfest. It will bring back memories. I used to shop the catalog and go to the store in WeHo. 🙂

  • anton

    I used to buy a lot of my clothes from IM…..

    A lot of straight men bought from IM because many of their more ‘gay’ items were available in solid colors such as black, navy, sweatshirt gray, and olive green. This made them acceptable in the straight world, I guess.

    What was that line of underwear they were so famous for?

  • GrantS

    The two hottest workout videos of the time were from the early 1990s and on MTV: Eric Nies’ The Grind video on the beach and Baywatch’s Michael Bergin’s Daily Burn video. I had both on VHS.

  • JJinAus

    Nope. I was there in the 80s. I didn’t live in WeHo, SF and NY. Nobody wore any of that. It’s extreme fashion.

    • Colorado Couple

      We were wearing them in Lincoln, NE & Denver, CO in the 80’s & the 90’s.

  • dbmcvey

    My childhood!

  • Bob M

    Man, I miss short shorts! Men’s shorts these days are UGH-ly! Lol Thanks for the article!

  • Colorado Couple

    My husband & I had several pairs of the onion skin shorts back in the late 80’s & the 90’s. Loved them.

  • dmarcus

    No surprise that gay men clutched onto these short shorts, bikini briefs, and barely there shirts for decades. They’re hot fashions.

  • someplace

    I was so deep in the closet I convinced myself I was getting the IM catalog for the clothes.

  • bachy

    Some of these fashions bring Richard Simmons to mind!

Comments are closed.