Maybe you saw someone at the gym wearing Gymshark's cult-famous, glute-hugging, £32 Flex leggings. Perhaps you saw a paparazzi photo of a celebrity sporting Gymshark's matching two-piece workout sets. Or maybe you're one of the combined 5 million people who follow Gymshark's three different Instagram accounts.
Regardless of how you stumbled upon Gymshark, it's hard to resist the UK-based brand's workout apparel. Gymshark has all the makings of a millennial fitness brand: the clothes are flattering for Instagram photos and come in trendy pastel colours. And, unlike other athleisure brands, Gymshark's pieces are reasonably priced; the most expensive item they sell is £80, which is what you'd pay for one pair of leggings from most other competitors.
If it seems like Gymshark materialised in your Instagram feed out of nowhere, that's because it kind of did. The brand was founded in 2012 by an English app developer and fitness fanatic named Ben Francis, who was 19 years old at the time, and his friends. Francis had a sewing machine and screen printer in his garage, and would custom-make workouts clothes himself. He and his friends wanted workout tanks that were longer, stretchier, more fitted than what was available, he explained in a YouTube vlog detailing the company history. "It was more a case of 'I really want to wear this,' so I made it," he told the BBC.
But Gymshark really exploded when the brand started recruiting some of their favourite fitness influencers (mostly bodybuilders at first) to wear and review the apparel on YouTube and Instagram. "At the time, no one else was doing [influencer marketing]," Francis explained in a YouTube vlog. "It came totally naturally to us because we were just fans of the guys."
When Gymshark eventually launched a women's line, they found popular influencers like Nikki Blackketter and Whitney Simmons to rep the brand, which attracted a new audience, he said in the YouTube video. The first women's product to truly go viral was the "Flex Leggings," a seamless pair of workout leggings with a "sculpting detail" under the gluteus maximus, which sold out in minutes. "Women [are] a huge part of the community," Francis said in the YouTube vlog.
While it's unclear how much these influencers are paid (a Gymshark representative tells Refinery29, "we play our cards quite close to our heart when it comes to influencer marketing"), becoming a Gymshark athlete is clearly a coveted position. There are dozens of unsponsored YouTube vlogs dedicated to people trying on the clothing, or showing off a Gymshark "haul" after their Black Friday 70% off sale. Influencers, and wannabe ones, seem to agree that Gymshark clothes are comfortable, flattering, and functional for a number of different workouts.
So, should you wade in the Gymshark waters? Gymshark leggings are insanely affordable. Their items come in dozens of different colour ways, and can easily be mixed and matched. In terms of fit, they only offer sizes extra-small to large, which is limiting. But if you're looking for a new workout brand to rep at the gym or on the 'gram, Gymshark has lots of fierce options.