Muay Thai shorts- everything you always wanted to know about them but were too afraid to ask
If you were ever curious about which boxing shorts were chosen by Wiz Khalifa, why the fashion critics laughed out Pharell Williams and what Selena Gomez has to do with Thai boxing, please read along.
Muay Thai, same as most other fight disciplines, requires a special kind of wear for the training and competitions, allowing maximum freedom of movement and comfort to the fighter. Unlike some other East Asian martial arts, such as judo or taekwondo, Muay Thai had evolved to promote use of vivid colours and expressive designs.
A quick google search will present you with hundreds of different Muay Thai shorts models, varying in style and design. Our shop alone has more than 100 Muay Thai shorts on offer.
This article ought to capture the interest of both beginner adepts of martial arts, as well as experienced ring bruisers. We aim to tell you what makes the Muay Thai shorts so unique and how their style had changed along the years, as well as include a few anecdotes from the world of showbusiness. Enjoy!
What makes the Muay Thai shorts so special?
Although fight sports might seem similar at the first glance- after all, it’s always about being stronger, faster, more agile and smarter than your opponent- each discipline has unique rules and requirements. This means the designers of sports clothing will have to adapt to specific conditions of the particular discipline. Judo fighters rarely use kicks, and so they will do very well using a rather stiff kimono; Muay Thai boxers, on the other hand, require clothing that provides maximum freedom of movements of every limb. On top of that, there are also cultural differences, particularly important in national sports such as the Thai boxing.
Being a highly dynamic sport, Muay Thai allows any number of strikes with elbows, knees, legs and fists, as well as the famous Thai clinch and the leg sweep or leg grab- catching your opponent’s limb and dropping them on the canvas. Loose clothing, quite useful in sports like taekwondo, would be a major hindrance in Muay Thai, as it would allow your opponent to grab you with ease and knock you out of balance. Moreover, any heavy clothing will slow down the fighter, as well as contain their body heat, which is not always a good thing in a sport as intensive as Muay Thai. Minimalism is the rule of the sport, at least with regard to the number of clothes worn by the fighters, and so professional (male) Muay Thai boxers will typically go out into the ring wearing only a pair of shorts and boxing gloves.
Contemporary Muay Thai dates back to the second decade of XX century (although the martial art itself has a much longer tradition, going back hundreds of years). Rules and regulations of the sport were established in the second half of the XX century. They were mostly based on Queensbury rules for boxing, modified for the specific conditions of Muay Thai; prize fights were divided into 5 rounds, 3 minutes each, take place in a square, canvas ring, fighters were to wear western-style boxing gloves, boxing shorts and groin protectors. The spirit of the original Thai Boxing, Muay Boran, remained, even if the on the outside the sport resembled more the western style of boxing. And even that, only for a limited time, for soon the clothing was adapted to the specific needs of the Thai fighters.
Shorts are a perfect example- traditional British and American designs were not allowing enough freedom of movement, and a fighter performing a flying knee kick or a high kick risked having their shorts ripped. Because of that, Muay Thai pants became progressively shorter, had stronger stitching, and got a special cut on the side of the thigh, allowing more movement. Curiously enough, boxing trunks became longer after time, while Muay Thai shorts got ever shorter. Cultural differences also play a role- western-style boxing gear is toned, using two or three colours, but Muay Thai gear is often flashy, confusingly colourful. Surely, a nice change from the conservative designs of British boxing halls.
Are Muay Thai shorts necessary to train Thai boxing?
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer, as it depends on how intensive are your trainings and what are the requirements of your gym.
If there is no strict ‘dress code’ at your gym, you probably won’t have to put on proper Muay Thai shorts- most likely, a pair of running shorts, boxing trunks or even leggings will do, paired with any comfortable T-shirt or rashguard.
It is important to remember, however, that Muay Thai is a respectable sport with a lengthy, impressive tradition. If you frequent a club or a gym that takes these traditions more seriously, you will need to adapt. Certain behaviour and attire might be required, and so you will need to equip yourself with a pair of Muay Thai shorts. It is safest to ask your coach or just dress the same way your other gym mates do.
Stories about having to achieve certain level of proficiency in martial arts before donning a pair or Muay Thai shorts are just that- stories. Muay Thai shorts, of any colour, are not in any way equivalent to karate belts; they are designed to be functional above all, and are available to all prospective fighters.
What to avoid
As Muay Thai grew in popularity, more and more western (ie. EU and US based) brands took up production. They are usually decent quality or better, but manufacturing Thai-inspired fighting gear poses a different problem- Muay Thai, as mentioned, is a traditional discipline, important part of Thai cultural and religious heritage. There are certain rules for designing Muay Thai wear, that the farangs, unaware of the importance of symbols, inadvertently break. For instance, it is unacceptable to put a Thai flag, any Thai national, royal or Buddhist symbol or writing on the pants. The area below the waist is, generally speaking, impure, and placing a respected symbol there will be seen as a great disrespect. Make sure the Thai writing on your shorts is not in offensive this way.
Main types of Muay Thai shorts designs
Muay Thai shorts may vary in shape, size, or design, but generally speaking, we can point out two styles, typically called ‘traditional style’, and ‘retro style’. Recently, owing to the evolution of fashion market, ‘retro’ design is gaining in popularity.
Muay Thai shorts in pop-culture
Muay Thai were always designed with functionality in mind; they were never meant to be a fashion statement. It is rather surprising how their original design was used by popular celebrities. On the other hand, the sport is becoming ever popular, not only among the regular folk, but also the show business personalities, such as famous American rapper Wiz Khalifa, whose picture in Yokkao boxing shorts circulated in the social media around the world. Also Joe Jonas, of Jonas brothers fame, Hollywood A-lister Idris Elba and model Mia Kang have proclaimed their passion for the Thai boxing. No wonder that the sport got attention of other stars as well. In 2018 Pharrell Williams began cooperation with the Japanese brand Nigo, and as a result started using Muay Thai trunks as casual short pants, and allowed himself to be photographed dressed this way. However original this idea might be, he was not the first to discover the fashion potential of Muay Thai shorts- famous singer Selena Gomez performed in shorts made by a Thai brand Raja in 2016.