Is it okay to go shirtless at the climbing gym?

If you’ve been to a climbing gym in the summer, you’ve likely seen quite a few guys climbing shirtless. Are you wondering why they are doing this? Or whether or not it is okay to climb shirtless? Maybe you want to go shirtless yourself but you need some reassurance?

In this article, we’ll answer your questions about climbing shirtless.

Is it okay to go shirtless at the climbing gym?

Whether or not it is okay to go shirtless at a climbing gym, depends on the region where the gym is located as well as the gym itself.

For example, in most Asian countries, climbing without a shirt on is not acceptable. But in many European and American gyms, no one will bat an eye at shirtless climbers.

This is because going shirtless is considered ‘okay’ in both EU and NA countries but inappropriate in most Asian countries.

For example, Norwegian climber Magnus Midtbø, known for climbing shirtless most of the time was asked to put his shirt back on during his trip to Japan.

magnus mitdbo was told to put his shirt back on after he was spotted climbing shirtless in a climbing gym in tokyo
watch the clip here.

Similarly, climbing shirtless was listed as one of the big no-nos in a rock climbing etiquette video by Boulder Movement Singapore.

climbing shirtless is considered inappropriate in signaporean climbing gyms
Watch the clip here

So if you go climbing in Asia, avoid confrontation and looking disrespectful and climb with your shirt on.

If you are climbing in EU or NA gyms, you might get away with climbing shirtless, but it will still depend on the gym.

Most hardcore climbing and bouldering gyms have no problem with shirtless climbers. Some commercial gyms, on the other hand, might have rules against going shirtless.

My home gym, a hardcore bouldering gym in Belgium, has no AC and during the summer most guys are climbing shirtless. But the big, commercial bouldering gym 30 minutes from my home has a strict no-shirtless policy.

In the end, it all depends on the gym you are going to. Many EU and US gyms allow it, but it still varies from gym to gym.

If you want to avoid confrontation, or looking like a jerk, you can always ask the staff if it is considered acceptable to climb shirtless.

Why do climbers go shirtless?

Here are some reasons why climbers go shirtless.

They like to show off

Obviously, a big reason guys go shirtless, is to show off their sculpted bodies. The majority of climbers who climb shirtless, have the body to do so. They are proud of their six pack abs and v-shaped backs. Whether they will admit it or not, they are putting those climbing gains on display for everyone else at the gym to see.

The show-off buff

In a similar way that make-up and nice clothes might make women feel more confident, men get more confident once they take their shirts off at the climbing gym. Especially when they look great underneath their shirts.

I call this effect the ‘show-off buff’. If taking off your shirt boosts your confidence, you will climb harder. That’s just science.

It gets hot at the gym

Not every climbing gym has an AC unit to cool down the place. So during the summer months, it can get extremely hot at the gym. This causes many climbers to climb shirtless to cool off just that little bit.

Like I mentioned earlier, that’s how most guys climb at my local bouldering wall. During the summer months, it’s almost rare to find a guy that isn’t shirtless.

Shirts are annoying

Many climbers who start climbing shirtless, have a hard time going back to wearing a shirt. This is because shirts can be very limiting during climbing. A tight shirt is just going to make you sweaty and sticky and a loose shirt could potentially throw you off your game.

Shirt drag is real, and some climbers can’t stand it (or refuse to). The best way to climb is to go shirtless. Right?

What do climbers think about shirtless climbers?

I couldn’t really run a test in my local climbing gym, because climbing shirtless is simply so normalized. My climbing friends are 100% used to seeing shirtless climbers and are even numb to it. You barely notice it anymore. But of course, not every gym is like my local gym.

So I did some digging online to see what people think about shirtless climbers.

Here’s a little compilation of what people think of shirtless climbers at the gym:

what do people at the climbing gym think of climbers who climb shirtless?

Generally, it seems most people are okay with it. There are of course people who don’t understand it or see a need to do it. And then you have a bunch of people who considered it to be obnoxious.

So yeah, it’s a mixed batch. But for the most part, you should be fine climbing shirtless, as long as other climbers are shirtless as well. Unless you are Magnus Midtbø, don’t be that one guy that goes shirtless in the gym.

Is it okay to go shirtless if you are a beginner climber?

This one is a bit tricky. While everyone should be able to climb however they please (as long as the dress code allows it of course), there is a bit of social stigma around new climbers going shirtless.

After all, going shirtless is in the ‘show-off’ region of things and if you want eyes on you, you want to at least do it in style. If you are going to struggle on a V2 boulder, you might want to keep your shirt on.

Of course, if you are comfortable taking off your shirt as a beginner climber, by all means, go ahead. But know that people are going to look, and potentially judge.

So if you want to avoid that, keep your shirt on. If you don’t care, you go bro.

is it okay to climb shirtless if you are a beginner climber?

Or you could be like this guy and see climbing shirtless as a ride of passage.

climbing without a shirt is a sign that you are a good climber

Once you pass a certain threshold, you can take off your shirt. 😉

Do you have to be in shape to climb shirtless?

Most shirtless climbers have great bodies. That just comes with the territory of climbing. If you are good at climbing, you likely look good shirtless. But this isn’t always the case of course.

Not everyone is blessed with great bodies, even if they are sending hard. If this is the case for you, don’t worry about it. Climbers don’t judge (that much). They are more likely to judge you for showing off if you are struggling on beginner problems than if you have a little chub while you are crushing V7’s.


So there you have it. Climbing shirtless is considered okay in most EU and NA climbing gyms. If they do have a dress code that disallows going shirtless, in most cases they will at least have a sign saying so. Of course, to avoid confrontation, you might want to ask a staff member first. Especially if you appear to be the only one going shirtless.

Climbing shirtless can offer some benefits, especially in a poorly climate-controlled gym during hot summer months. But you should know, that if you are going to go shirtless, people are going to look and they are going to have expectations. They will expect you to be good and if you aren’t, well, that might cause some laughs.

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