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Tops-on policy

From 15 May 2023, TCA is introducing a tops-on policy across all centres. This is a common policy in gyms and for that reason we expect many people to be familiar with it.  The reasons for this change are:

Making everyone feel welcome

We receive complaints in person, via our annual survey and in online reviews about shirtless climbers and how they make some people uncomfortable.  This may affect anyone, including families and people of certain religions (which frequently includes those from minority ethnic backgrounds). We want everyone to feel welcome at TCA.



TCA would like to ensure that there is equality for all climbers in centres. While temperatures do get hot in the summer, not all customers feel comfortable climbing tops off. All customers may choose to wear vests or crop tops in hot weather. Top international climbers compete whilst wearing tops, so it is possible to climb hard without being shirtless.

The demographic of visitors to indoor centres has changed for the better to more accurately reflect our society and with that we have a desire to make all visitors feel equally at home.


Minimise intimidation

“I think the number of people climbing shirtless is a significant hurdle for newer climbers to feel comfortable at TCA”. Climber feedback

We want to encourage new people to try climbing. That includes people who are unfit, overweight or self-conscious. Seeing lots of topless, often uber-fit men when you are just starting out has potential to emphasise feelings that you shouldn’t be there. Clothing is an area in which we can affect change – to the benefit of those who feel uncomfortable but not to the significant detriment of those who like to climb with their tops off.


So what can we wear?

Vests, crop tops and sports bras are fine – and of course heavier layers.


But wait…

We’ve thought long and hard about this and understand that some people may object, although taking the key critiques into account, we found that the policy still makes sense:

Objection: If it’s OK on the beach or at the swimming pool, it should be OK in a gym
Response: People expect to see more flesh at a beach or swimming pool but there is no reason that they would necessarily expect to see so much in a climbing centre.

Objection: It will restrict performance
Response: Gains from going shirtless are marginal. A tops-on policy will create an even playing field for all climbers – in comps and weekly training. Climbers may seek to attain marginal gains through use of cooling technical fabrics and/or light vests.

Objection: Bra tops are more revealing than vests, so why are they allowed?
Response: Many loose fitting vests are actually more revealing. For reasons of equality, all climbers are allowed to wear the approved clothing.

Objection: It is restricting my rights
Response: For reasons of equality we want the same rules to apply to all visitors.


Your response

Most responses on social media and vis email have been positive so far although inevitably those who prefer to climb tops-off are upset. The comment below helps to distil the intentions of our policy and as such we thought it would be useful to share.

“Thank you TCA for making your approach more inclusive to women, minorities and people who are self conscious of their bodies…

We should all be striving for equality, and yes what that looks like is being asked to do something for other peoples benefit that might not make sense to you at first, because you are not from a minority/persecuted background/do not hold the same beliefs/have not had to live with sexism or sexual violence. Just be pleased you’ll be playing a big part in becoming an ally to people who have had to suffer in a way you haven’t…it will be hard for some egos to not take this personally. It’s not a personal attack on you. Minorities have only just recently begun to be seen and acknowledged, and accepted in society here in the UK – (and there’s still a way to go). Please help us by trying to understand what is a fairly small change for you that will not impact on your happiness or your ability to be an excellent climber, but will bring so much happiness and enjoyment for others…thank you TCA 🔥”
Climber comment on Instagram 


If you would like to provide feedback on this policy, please visit the locations page and email your local centre.