Health & Fitness

These are the only leggings I’ll work out in—here’s why

Seriously, I own over a dozen pairs of Carbon38's Takara leggings.

Credit: Carbon38 / Reviewed / Tiffany Leigh

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Confession: I’m part of a cult following. It’s one devoted to ... leggings. But they’re not just any run-of-the-mill pair of exercise pants—they’re the gorgeously fashioned and functionally fantastic High Rise Full-Length Leggings In Takara Shine by Carbon38. They’re the sort of garment where the first time I slipped them on, I thought to myself, “Stop the presses, throw out the other garbage, and start stockpiling these.” Which is precisely what I’ve done, as I’m now on the fast track to owning these Carbon38 leggings in every conceivable color.

What is Carbon38?

I can’t recall the exact moment I learned about Carbon38 because it’s more likely the brand's ads found me through Instagram and the app’s preferences-predicting algorithm. I follow a lot of fitness accounts, so it was no surprise that I was one day presented with a sponsored ad for a pair of shiny leggings I immediately knew I wanted to have. Immediately I found myself perusing the website and noting how sleek and sexy the clothing was in comparison to the Lululemon and Nike items I owned.

Carbon38 is a performance activewear brand with a philosophy centered on stylishness, fit, fabric, and function. The brand's core creation is the Takara fitness line, which includes bra tops and leggings. What makes these items often imitated but never duplicated is the cut, design, ultra-flattering fit, silky-slinky feeling when you slip them on, and ultra-thin yet durable material they're crafted from. In addition to featuring its own collection, the company also curates a roster of other brands on its site, which makes it a convenient one-stop, virtual shop that spotlights higher-end designers like Balmain and Iro and other beloved activewear brands like Nike and Alo Yoga.

I resisted taking the plunge and purchasing the pair of wine-colored Takara leggings that I found most irresistible in that moment for two financially motivated reasons: They cost $109, which is even more expensive than most of Lululemon and Nike’s offerings, and I live in Canada, which means a currency conversion and duty fee would be added to my purchase. In total, this makes them about $143 CAD plus taxes for me.

But, as fate would have it, I was traveling to New York for work (in a pre-pandemic world, about two years ago) and the brand was offering a flash site-wide 30% off deal around the same time. Considering how much money I would be saving because I could get the parcel delivered to my hotel room and avoid custom fees as well, I took the chance and made my first purchase.

What should you expect when ordering Carbon38 leggings?

Carbon38 leggings range in size from XXS to XXL, which translates to 00/0 to 14/16. They are true to size but, as with most stretchy activewear, you can size up for a looser fit or down for a snugger one. The brand also has two primary cuts: regular rise, which hits just under the belly button, and high-rise, which sits just under the rib cage. I prefer the high-rise pair because I like more coverage, but both options are great depending on the kind of rise you usually like. From there, the leggings come in dozens of colors, from bright red to cool blue to a deep purple wine (which is the first color I went for), and special edition releases and finishes.

Dozens of pairs later, I’m in deep and don’t regret a thing—here’s why.

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Carbon38 Takara leggings look and feel great

Credit: Carbon38

The Takara leggings look great at the gym—and pretty much anywhere else.

There’s something about gliding these silky leggings onto my body that make me feel like a fitness goddess. Their cut and liquid feel makes them incredibly flattering and, because of this, make me want to go to the gym even more. (Hey, whatever motivation works, right?) The leggings have a wide elastic band on the stomach portion that feels and acts like Spanx in that it sucks in and flattens the tummy, but doesn’t leave me struggling to breathe. Rather than feeling restrictive, the stretchiness affords a full range of motion for everything from running to weight training (to, yes, lounging around).

Additionally, because they’re high-waisted, this bit of added coverage is great in case I need to leave the gym and quickly run errands. Weather permitting, I don’t feel the need to drape a shirt over my sweaty body post-workout and feel comfortable enough to walk around as is in my cami bra. I’ve also always gotten compliments from both men and women who ask me where I've purchased them.

In fact, they’re cute enough that I’ll put them on even when I’m not heading to the gym. Styled with a pair of thigh-high boots, kitten heels, pumps, or booties, these Takaras can easily be worn for social outings, date nights, and casual events. Because I wear them all the time, I’m able to get the cost-per-wear down and can justify the higher price tag of these leggings compared with other brands.

They’re also a breeze to clean: Machine-wash in cold water and lay flat or hang to dry. Even my oldest pair (at two years old) is still going strong—the only thing that’s faded is the interior printed-on “Carbon 38” labeling (and who cares?).

Takara leggings pass the “squat test” and hold up to long, sweaty workouts

Credit: Reviewed / Tiffany Leigh

The Takara leggings stay opaque even when stretched.

I’ve never experienced any see-through patches with Carbon38’s leggings, even when I’m in the deepest of Sumo squats. While the 90% nylon/20% Lycra fabric is skin-tight and paper-thin, it's opaque enough that I’ve never felt self-conscious or concerned that I could be exposing parts of my bum when bending over, crouching down, and any other activity related to the lower half of my body.

As the material is stretchy and durable, they hold up exceptionally well to sweaty workout sessions. Because they’re quick-drying, they never feel sticky and don’t create any unsightly sweat lines. Moreover, the stretchiness and what I describe as its ‘bounce-back rate’ is superb. They feel brand new every time I slip them on. The same can’t be said for my Nike and Lululemon leggings, which, in my experience, tend to grow baggy and pilly after about two years.

Carbon38’s comment community keeps it real

I visit Carbon38’s site frequently, and it’s not (just) to buy leggings. It’s also to read the comment section located at the bottom of each garment listing that’s written by my fellow Carbon38 customers. Like me, they’re brand devotees but aren’t afraid to voice their opinions and critique something if the design or functionality of something goes awry. It was also an important resource when making my first purchase, especially when (in my experience) it’s frequently a headache to return online purchases. In the comments section, my fellow fitness femmes include details such as the size they purchased the leggings in and their height, weight, and frame and build (such as “athletic” or “slender”), which helps guide me as to what size I should get.

What I don’t like about Carbon38’s Takara leggings: VPL

Although these leggings are squat-proof, because of their thin material, they're guilty of VPL (visible panty line). If you’re not wearing the "correct" underwear for these Takaras—you need ultra-thin, seamless, and high-rise undergarments—these leggings are unforgiving with their undie-visibility factor. I learned this the hard way when arriving at the gym once and glimpsing myself in a full-length mirror, then realized the outline of my underwear (ridges and all) in the front crotch and back bum areas was very, very noticeable. I had to seek out more “appropriate” pairs of undies (one high-cut bikini and one low-cut thong from Amazon). They also have the usual sewn-in cotton gusset, so if you don't mind going commando, that's a no-VPL option, too.

Are Carbon38 Takara leggings worth it?

Credit: Reviewed / Tiffany Leigh

Takara leggings have (clearly) become an integral part of my wardrobe.

When my relationship with Carbon38 was in its infancy, it was difficult to justify leggings that cost a week’s grocery bill for two people. The site has sales on occasion, but the staple colors, like black, are coveted and frequently sell out—as a result, they rarely go on sale. To fill out my collection and save a little, I’ve often gone for that wild bubble-gum pink or cerulean shade because they’re far more likely to be discounted, sometimes as low as $66.

But after my first and subsequent pairs, I’m addicted to everything about them. I highly recommend them to anyone seeking a sleek pair of workout leggings that not only look stunning on, but can hold up to any kind of fitness activity you’re doing.

Get the High Rise Full-Length Legging In Takara Shine from Carbon38 for $109

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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