How To Style Athletic Shorts If You're Over Spandex

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Bike shorts may be the trend du jour when it comes to athleisure-inspired fashion these days, but looser-fitting silhouettes are likewise having a moment. Biker shorts are, indeed, sporty and in line with the fashion industry's current nostalgia obsession. But for a less-clingy dip in the athletics pond, nylon running shorts, surfer-style board shorts, basketball shorts, and the like are proving to be a must-try trend among celebrities and influencers. Comfy cut-off sweats and Soffe cheer shorts are totally "in," too — these skew more leisure than active, but depending on how you style your athletic shorts of choice, there's a fresh feeling to them, just the same.

"The sporty shorts trend is a tapestry of nostalgia and escapism, each thread intertwining styles ranging from hyper-masculine basketball shorts to Soffe shorts of the '80s and the classic running short," stylist and designer, Mickey Freeman tells TZR. "The current resurgence demonstrates that good design and tailoring ultimately determine what looks good while bringing variety in an array of shapes and proportions for the feminine silhouette. From pleats to panels, a little volume can fill the void skinny- and slim-fit shorts have created."

Rachael Wang — a stylist and creative consultant whose clients include Nike, Bottega Veneta, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Levi's — says the sporty shorts trend feels current right now because of a heightened need for comfort in the clothes worn at home. Still, she maintains this type of comfort-first fashion can feel fresh. "I love integrating technical functionality into style-driven fashion," she says. "There are so many ways to wear sporty shorts in a fashionable way; the most fun is to pair them with something totally unexpected."

KJ Moody, a celebrity stylist who works with Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland, considers sporty shorts to be "the new wave" for statement style whether you dress a pair up or down. "You can easily try out this trend by mixing classic with sporty," he tells TZR, suggesting dresses, feminine tops, and sandals as key styling pieces.

Similarly, stylist Kirsty Stewart, whose clients include Patricia Manfield and Amy Jackson, stresses the importance of balance on top, like with a crop or tank top, and finishing with feminine accessories. "You can easily dress this trend up by adding a pair of thong heels and a small shoulder bag to finish the look off."

Whether sporty shorts are already in line with your aesthetic, or you're new to the concept with a willingness to experiment, ahead, all four stylists are doling out advice so you can pull off the look with aplomb. Take in their tips and shop the edit to earn a few new style points before season's end.

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How To Wear Athletic Shorts: Define The Waist

"I think a fresh way to approach styling sporty shorts is to imagine it's a little technical nylon mini-skirt," Wang tells TZR. "I would recommend wearing them high on the waist and pairing with a tank, bra top, or something kind of romantic, but cropped to create separation and define the waistline. Then pair with a tiny kitten heel sandal or mule and flirty sunglasses or earrings."

How To Wear Athletic Shorts: Commit To Sporty

Whether you opt for a Prada nylon running short or cut-off sweats, Stewart says to lean into athleticism when styling your go-to sport short. "I like to commit to the sporty look and pair mine with a sweater or tank top, tube socks, and chunky trainers. You could also add small gold hoop earrings and a baguette bag for a more feminine feel."

How To Wear Athletic Shorts: Keep It Casual, But Elevated

Wardrobe basics and ladylike extras are a chic way to elevate a pair of sporty shorts, according to Freeman. "I recommend a fitted white t-shirt with a chic tweed jacket or cardigan. Finish the look with kitten heels, and don't forget your diamonds or pearls."

How To Wear Athletic Shorts: Go Oversized

Wang recommends playing with volume when trying out a pair of sports shorts. "A more luxe approach would be to pair an oversized men's banker striped shirt with a nylon sport short, a pair of chic sandals, and great jewelry."

How To Wear Athletic Shorts: Style With Something Tailored

For a sophisticated-sporty vibe, Moody suggests adding a tailored piece in the mix with a pair of sporty shorts. "Do a sports bra with unisex gym shorts. To make the look even sportier, partner with a black drawstring blazer. Go either super loose and oversized or fitted on the blazer.

How To Wear Athletic Shorts: Dress Them Up For Evening

For those who don't already have a sporty aesthetic, Freeman suggests dressing up a pair of sporty shorts for a night out, evening if that currently means to grab your pick-up order from a neighborhood restaurant. "Pair the trend with open-toe high heels, preferable with a platform for a more feminine silhouette. A cropped top with an oversized blazer will complete this look."

How To Wear Athletic Shorts: Shop The Men's Section

When choosing the right pair of athletic shorts for you, Wang says to look beyond women's offerings. "I prefer the silhouettes of shorts marketed to men, I find that they're cut a bit baggier and with a higher rise so that they can be worn right up to the high waist," she tells TZR. "My favorite brands and styles are from Patagonia and Willy Chavarria. Sometimes, men's bathing suit trunks work great as well from Noah."

How To Wear Athletic Shorts: Novelty Is Key

For a playful take on sporty shorts, Freeman says to take things in a nostalgic direction with a novelty tee on top. "Oversized novelty t-shirts have been reworked and refined in an exciting way that actually looks good slightly tucked into your sporty shorts," he says. Quirky accents are Freeman's suggested finishes, including socks with sandals, a bucket hat, bold acetate sunglasses, and a mini clutch. "Socks with sandals look amazing when done correctly. The mini tote is as utilitarian as they are stylish."