January 2020 UPDATE: Rumor has it that the C9 line might be getting phased out in favor of a new Target activewear brand? That’s a bit of a bummer. BUT. That also means most of their C9 stuff is now 50% off. Many thanks to Todd S. for the tip.
About the Author: Ryan N. is a professional web developer for (and alum from) the University of Delaware, who keeps a close shave as to not be confused with his strongly-bearded twin brother. He plays guitar and drums, loves going to concerts with his wife, and loves being a dad.
I’ve been using C9 activewear for quite some time, but fabrics have come a long ways since then. And with the annual New Years Resolutions period quickly approaching, we decided it was time to take some of the newer stuff for a spin. Will this stuff hold up to Lululemon? I… honestly don’t know. I’ve never tried super-high-end stuff. So, while it may be best to take this with a grain of salt, overall, I’m impressed with what I’ve seen here. Time will tell how well they will hold up to a multitude of wash cycles and gym punishment, but so far? Not bad! Especially considering the dirt-cheap price points. Read on for the specifics.
SIZING NOTE: I’m 5’9″ / 160, all tops shown are a size small, while shorts and joggers/pants are a medium.
An essential. I was initially a bit disappointed in how basic this thing is (lack of pattern, venting, bells and whistles, blah blah blah). But I would have missed out on a great basic staple if I wouldn’t have tried the thing on. The sleeves are a bit long, but since this seems to be a recurring theme among active wear brands, I’ve concluded it’s just to give a little extra mobility when you’re moving your arms around. I don’t find it uncomfortable at all. All of the C9 shirts here are tagless, and the materials (for this shirt: 94% polyester, 6% spandex) are noted on the tag by the lower left hem. But the star of the show? LOOKIT ALL THAT STRETCH. For real, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It’s like Stretch Armstrong. Why does it need to stretch this much, C9? Seems to snap right back to form, though. Suuuuper comfortable.
Men’s C9 Soft Touch T-Shirt – $8.49 ($16.99)
Oddly, this has a COMPLETELY different materials makeup than the long-sleeve counterpart, clocking in at 47% polyester, 47% rayon, and 6% spandex (note, the website wrongly reads 62% poly, 33% rayon, and 5% spandex). This results in ever-so-slightly less stretch, but still PUH-LENTY. I really wonder why the difference between these, as they’re both labeled with the “Soft Touch” moniker. The dark red color is nice and low-key, unlike most “I might be on fire!” reds you see from active wear brands.
Men’s C9 Tech T-Shirt – $6.49 ($12.99)
Now.. now I’m just perplexed. This guy has the same makeup as the black long-sleeve (94% poly, 6% spandex).. but it’s the least stretchy of the three. Perhaps it’s a slightly tighter weave? Just letting you know if stretch is one of your main consideration points in active wear, it’s going to be hit or miss depending on the specific style you pick. A few quick notes here. These are thankfully cut long enough that your waist won’t be exposed on overhead lifts, which is a nice change from their older stuff I replaced. Another nice use of color here that’s not overwhelming. Stitching is a little sloppy, but, c’mon, it’s $13.
Personally, this wasn’t as comfortable as the others, but this does appear to be more of a base-layer or running shirt than a do-everything training shirt, so it’s likely not meant to be quite as mobile or stretchy. The color and pattern are really nice and subtle, continuing the trend. Sleeves have thumb hooks, perfect for a base-layer, and the material is thick but not too thick. 58% polyester, 39% nylon, 3% spandex.
As an avid golfer, these are some of my favorite shirts on the course. Obviously, not the season for most of us, but there are a lot of things I like here. The color is sharp, the fit slim but not tight, and the sleeves roomy enough to swing a club. One of my favorite design elements is the long tail, which many tech polos don’t have. This allows it to tuck all the way into the waistband, and not slide out easily. The slippery fabric of shirts like these make them come right on out because the tails aren’t long enough, but this will stay in all day. In my opinion, a little bit too long to wear untucked. Lastly, the collar, like every one of these I’ve ever had, is somewhat floppy and awkward, but looks sharp when buttoned all the way. There’s just nothing structural to it without that top button. While Amazon’s polo feels polished and not “techy,” this one should probably stay on the links.
Men’s C9 Gym Shorts – $8.49 ($14.99)
I won’t spend too much time here, because these are pretty solid, if generic, workout shorts. 100% polyester, so they should be good at wicking sweat. Even with no spandex, these move really well. My go-to cardio is Les Mills BodyCombat, with a lot of jumping kicks and lunges, and they move just fine on those kicks, so they’re a yes for me. The fabric is smooth but not shiny, with a nice matte finish. Just a reminder that while I’m a size Small in all the tops, I went with a Medium on all of the bottoms.
Bringing up memories of your dad’s grey Champion sweats, but more modern and streamlined, these are quite comfortable. Fleecy and soft inside, but smooth on the outside. Slash pockets with flush zippers also hide a small extra interior hidden pocket on the right side. Now, there are some strange quirks to these, like the cuffs and waist. C9 chose to go with a fabric front, but a black elastic back to both the waistband and the leg cuffs.. mmkay. Reminds me of a mullet – business up front, party in the back. I guess it does look better than flat grey (and especially better than all black cuffs would look), but it’s a strange choice to me.
Men’s C9 Hybrid Run Pants – $14.99 ($29.99)
In contrast to the mullet-esque grey pair, these are all sleek, baby. With a refined silhouette and sharp lines, these are pants that could take you from the gym to that “athleisure” zone. Definitely had to size up in these as well, because the size Small was almost painted-on. These are a happy medium (and size Medium!) between too tight and too loose, but on me, the calves are still tight. Good amount of movement but not necessarily much stretch. Didn’t get the high kicks going on these. Adding to the sleek figure, another sweet extra is a hidden pocket on the back right flank, that becomes basically invisible. Great for stashing an ID card or your earbuds between sets.
Editor’s Note: Got a tip on any affordable but still well-performing gym gear? Send those tips into firstname.lastname@example.org. Big thanks to Ryan for taking all of this for a spin. Now if you’re more team Amazon than team Target, head here to check out our roundup of Amazon’s Peak Velocity stuff. And one last thing. While I hope all of your New Year’s Resolutions come true, there’s a very smart school of thought which says: Don’t exercise for weight loss. No, seriously. If that’s your main motivator, you’re kinda sorta doing it wrong. Good luck out there and at the gym. Be safe. And remember. There are rules.