How To Style Your Gym Shorts When You’re Not Working Out

They’re unexpectedly cool.

How to wear workout shorts
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Last summer, I chatted with Allison Bornstein, a well-known stylist and author of Wear It Well, about the viral “wrong-shoe theory” she pioneered. And I still recall one piece of advice she gave that struck a chord with me: There’s never a wrong or right choice when it comes to fashion (hence the name of the aforementioned styling hack). Just look at the current gym shorts craze as another example. Though it may sound, well, wrong to do, the influencer crowd is making a convincing case for wearing your athletic shorts well after your workout class, particularly alongside dainty, ladylike tops and shoes.

The celebrity set has taken a liking to the conversation-starting trend, too. More specifically, Bella Hadid has been the blueprint for the sporty look (and an early adopter). Back in Sept. 2022, the model stepped out in her gym shorts twice in one week. On the first occasion, Hadid grabbed dinner in a leather Supreme jacket, black basketball shorts, and knee-high Niihai boots. Then, the following day, the Ôrəbella Fragrance founder sipped on her Juice Press smoothie, wearing a long-sleeve tee from Hysteric Glamour with navy blue Champion bottoms. Ever since, slowly but surely, workout shorts have continued to gain popularity.

Hailey Bieber is no stranger to athletic bottoms, either. As you may remember, Bieber made headlines last August when her teeny-tiny orange running shorts made an appearance on date night at Giorgio Baldi with her husband, Justin Bieber. And then there’s Kristen Stewart, who rocked Chanel short shorts in New York this past March. Thanks to these street style stars, the look has fully gone mainstream.

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More recently, up-and-coming pop star Tate McRae has put her stamp on the risk-taking trend. “When I styled her for her [Are We Flying] tour, we did really big basketball shorts because she moves around a lot on stage, and we also thought it was a fun way to bring in an athleisure look,” the “Greedy” singer’s stylist, Joanie Del Santo, tells TZR. Her go-to spots to source McRae’s styles? Vintage shops and on eBay.


If you’re ready to take your workout shorts for a spin, glean outfit inspiration from the six looks ahead.

With A Little Top

“If the shorts are really baggy, I think it’s fun to pair them with a tiny top,” says Del Santo. Up the ante with lace-up ballet flats and a medley of gold jewelry. And if you’re wearing said outfit in the summer, finish the look with cool shades.

With Athletic Sneakers


Elevated on top, sporty on the bottom — that seems to be what Texas-based influencer Aarica Nichole was after with this outfit. Comfy sneakers, like her red and black pair from Salomon, are a sound idea if your afternoon requires plenty of walking. From there, keep things from looking overly athletic by opting for a cream pullover and a leather tote.

With Elevated Accents

Accessories play an important role when it comes to making your gym bottoms read, well, less gym-like. If you’re pairing them with an equally relaxed graphic tee, consider donning sleek ballet flats and a logo-heavy bag (this Coach one feels straight out of the early aughts, no?). Then, take things a step further with a statement hair scrunchie.

With Your Intimates

Thanks to a cute collaboration with stylist and writer Michelle Li, Lacrosse Relax Brand’s shorts have become a mainstay in influencers’ wardrobes. New Yorker Aïsha Farida, for one, owns the floral-adorned look and often styles them with a lingerie-like tank top. Follow her lead and complete the ensemble with a neutral shoulder bag and chain necklace.

With A Smocked Top

If you’re not one to ditch your punchy, feminine pieces, style your nylon bottoms with a striped smocked tank top (bonus points if it’s peplum!) and a chunky floral pendant necklace. For a hint of polish, round out the look with sleek black loafers and white tube socks.

With A Knee-High Boot

Instead of denim Bermuda shorts, pairing a sweater with a long sporty style creates a cool contrasting effect. And, the bottoms will look even more unexpected if you add a luxe knee-high boot, which Del Santo thinks will be a trending combo come summer.