The Definitive Guide To Change Room Etiquette

'Be mindful where you put your naked bottom.'

The changing room at a gym, public pool or workplace (but, let's face it, especially gym) can be a really weird place.

In its very nature, it's a place to get changed, so of course some level of nudity is to be expected. On the other hand, do people really need to stand around drying their hair, applying make up and/or making phone calls while in the buff?

"There can be extreme differences in nudity comfort level, from getting completely changed in a cubicle, to strolling naked to the shower," etiquette expert and founder of The Good Manners Company, Anna Musson, told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Somewhere in the middle is appropriate as most Australians appreciate a certain level of modesty.

"To be specific, do your best to be relaxed when getting changed and drying off from the shower and wrap yourself in a towel on the way to and from the shower. When getting dressed it is fine to drop the towel to put your underwear on, but sitting checking your phone messages in the buff can make others uncomfortable, especially if you look fantastic -- it can make you seem like a bit of a show off."

Is it okay to still be nude when blow-drying your hair / applying make up?

"Blow drying your hair and putting on make-up should be done with a minimum of underwear on, but preferably when you are dressed," Musson said.

"It's mirror time so obvious displays of vanity should be downplayed -- no matter how good you look in your new lingerie or your Calvins. We can all picture the slow motion replay of a tanned, long haired blonde blow drying her hair in her underwear. Not that."

Does the level of 'acceptable nudity' differ between men and women?

"Men are often more comfortable with their nudity than women, but no one appreciates a show off.

"Keeping a towel over private parts when walking around is the bare (see what I did there?) minimum.

"This may differ between venues, the rugby club showers may be more relaxed than the local gym, similarly ladies may be more discreet at a friend's place to change for the pool, than a public gym.

"Many women over 35 are more confident with their body and less concerned with occasional nudity.

"Notably, men have half the real estate to cover than ladies, so it is understandably less effort to cover up."

What about if children are in the change room? (Obviously there won't be many kids at the gym, but at a pool or similar?)

"If it is a more public setting and children are present, be sensitive to the parent and how comfortable they seem with getting changed and keep the full nudity to a minimum."

Note: not everyone is down with nudity.
Note: not everyone is down with nudity.

How long is it acceptable to use the hairdryer/mirror space for? Should you move on once you have finished blow drying your hair?

"The rule of thumb is, be quick," Musson said. "After a work out, dry your hair and do your make up in the shortest possible time. Mirror and hair dryer real estate is at a premium, but returning to work with wet hair is bad form also. In peak times, relocate to an independent mirror to free up counter space around hair utensils and be mindful of wait times. We all have to work together."

Which way to face when getting changed near your locker? Towards the locker, or the other way?

"In a theatre, latecomers should move along the aisle facing the seated person they are moving past, to avoid ever having their bottom near another person's face. The gym is the same. It is better to bend over with your backside near a locker than near an aisle."

Thongs or no thongs (and yes, we mean the ones on your feet) in the shower?

"If you remember your thongs, great, bring them and wear them, it suggests you probably have other positive hygiene habits."

What are your thoughts on people getting changed in the shower cubicles (especially if there happens to be a big queue?)

"It is bad form to get changed in the cubicles in peak times at the gym and while a certain amount of body shyness is normal, coming to the gym is a great place to get over it. Find a corner where you feel less exposed and change there instead."

This guy seems to have the right idea.
This guy seems to have the right idea.

Can you eat in the change room?

"The changing room should smell like deodorant, sweat, smelly sneakers and deep heat, not kebabs and last night's curry," Musson said. "Eating in the changing room is unhygienic and many gyms have a cafe for this purpose. The changing room should have a transit feeling about it and lingering is usually discouraged."

If there are communal appliances (for example, hair straighteners), do any particular rules apply?

"When it comes to communal appliances, treat them as you would your own. If the appliances at the gym are better than the ones you own, it doesn't mean you should pop in to straighten or curl your hair on your way out. Clean up after yourself, be mindful of having clean hair and don't hog the straighteners to get the perfect flick."

Is there a time limit on how long you should take in the shower?

"In peak times, you should be in and out within a minute. Ladies should avoid washing hair in peak hours as this can take 10 minutes."

Are there any definitive change room 'no-nos' you'd like to share?

  • Should you discover items someone else has left behind, hand them in immediately. It generates goodwill in the gym and what goes around comes around.
  • Be mindful where you put your naked bottom. It's always preferable for a sweaty bottom to be on a towel than the bare bench.
  • It's not your bedroom, be mindful of taking one square metre of space and not the whole bench.
  • Spare the grunts and sighs -- it's a gym not a movie set, we've all worked hard and there's no prize for the sweatiest.
  • If you're having a good day, the outfit works, the hair works, you've been to the gym, there's no need to gloat. A quick check in the mirror is appropriate, but preening and checking side profiles is vanity and off-putting.