How To Wear Gym Shorts Like A Fashion Editor

Sportcore is here.

by Aemilia Madden
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Aemilia Madden
Women In Sports Issue
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Having spent the latter half of my life dabbling in one sport or another (there was my soccer era, my volleyball stint, my short-lived track career, and now, my run-for-fun era), my gym shorts drawer contains a full wardrobe of styles, with every length, color, and fabric represented. And with so many great looks at my disposal, it feels like a shame to relegate the workout mainstay to lazy weekends or an evening boxing class.

Sporty shorts — basketball, running, and the like — are surprisingly well-suited to pairing with more structured, formal items. (See: trendsetters like Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber, who’ve made a habit of dressing them up in unique and stylish ways.) Sure, it might feel counterintuitive to wear them for a night out (with heels, no less) but I’m here to say that it can be done — all it takes is a little creative thinking. Sometimes that might mean wearing Nike running shorts with a blazer and cowboy boots; other times, it might mean throwing on a lightweight nylon pair and a button-down. Here, four playful ways to style the athleisure staple.


Courtesy of Aemilia Madden

This is my second time living through the Y2K style era, and at 32 years old, I’m embracing baby tops and baggy shorts just as earnestly as I did the first time around. Part of what makes this sport-short combo so much fun is its utilitarian playfulness. Chunky hiking sneakers mean I could climb a mountain (or at least the hill to my Brooklyn apartment) in my sheer shirt and basketball shorts. Odds are, however, you’ll find me sitting at a local coffee shop doing my best to blend in with the cool Gen Z art students I call neighbors.

Pretty Cottagecore

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Having owned the same pair of Nike Tempo Shorts since high school, I’ve found myself wearing them for plenty of unexpected occasions, including a few dressy get-togethers. Sporty shorts may, admittedly, not seem like the most natural mate for a flouncy top and strappy sandals, but I revel in the idea of playing with unexpected groupings.

Quirky Corporate

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Now that I work from home, all bets are off when it comes to workwear. If I could envision an outfit that embodies my best corporate self, it would be this — playful and sporty, yet refined. My white running shorts have a light, airy feel, while the mohair vest and wool blazer feature lusher textures — a tactile play in opposites. Adding cowboy boots, instead of your usual streamlined black booties, adds a fun finishing touch that’s subtle enough to keep the look from feeling costume-y.

Laid-Back & Preppy

Courtesy of Aemilia Madden

This time of year my casual summer style starts to give in to cravings for structured tailoring. When I’m straddling these two states of mind, my go-to look is a classic striped button-down paired with lightweight nylon shorts. It’s athletic with a preppy twist, it’s corporate with a casual bent, it’s Zoom on the top and soccer pitch on the bottom. These days, however, a Zoom-only combination simply isn’t enough; shoes have to make it into the equation — in this case, a pair of G.H. Bass penny loafers.

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