This Summer's Athletic Shorts Trend Is Sporty and Subversive

You don't have to be an Olympian to wear them.

a collage of three women wearing the athletic shorts trend while walking in New York City and Los Angeles
(Image credit: Getty Images; Lauren Chan; Backgrid)

I usually watch from the sidelines when fashion and sports intersect. Aside from leisurely dance classes and a quarter-life crisis half-marathon—yeah, it's a thing—I'm what people in high school would call a NARP (non-athletic regular person). Yet even I have noted how an athletic shorts trend has come out of gym bags and into street style this summer.

Swooshy running shorts and Adidas basketball pairs with those iconic three stripes are everywhere in non-athletic contexts. It doesn't feel like #spon courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Committee ahead of the Paris Games. Outside the Paris Couture shows this week and just around New York City in general, fashion insiders are channeling their inner Sporty Spice with a simple formula. Pair an athletic-looking short with anything but a jersey on top and steer clear of a cleat or sneaker on the bottom.

three women wearing athletic shorts to fashion week with oversize jackets

Guests at Haute Couture Week in Paris (left) and standard-issue fashion week (center and right) have been pairing running shorts and basketball shorts with oversize jackets.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Celebrities have been some of running shorts for running around's biggest advocates. And unlike when they wear exaggerated dresses and leather gloves in 80-degree heat ( à la Jennifer Lopez) or coats with nearly naked cut-outs (like Rihanna recently), these feel like outfits anyone can replicate. There's enough juxtaposition to feel like we're doing fashion, but not to an inaccessible degree. Dressed-up tracks or basketball shorts are a style moment when stars really are just like us.

Hailey Bieber is the reigning gold medalist in the athletic shorts trend. Before and during her pregnancy, she layered vintage shorts from Fila and micro shorts from Alo Yoga with extra-oversized leather jackets or tailored top coats. Speaking for my fellow city girls, I've made a run for a sweet treat at my nearest bodega in an outfit along these lines.

Hailey Bieber wearing a black leather jacket with fila shorts while walking in a back alley

Hailey Bieber is a longtime proponent of dressing up athletic shorts. She'll take vintage pairs from Fila or microshorts from Alo and juxtapose them with bulky leather jackets.

(Image credit: Backgrid)

Once you start wearing track, basketball, or running shorts beyond the court or field, you don't stop. For editor (and runner) Aemilia Madden, Adidas sport shorts and an Alex Mill button-down have become her "go-to uniform." "It's casual enough that I can wear it with Birkenstocks and a baseball cap when I run out to grab coffee, but throw on a fancy shoe like I did here, and it's an unfussy-yet-dressy look that fits the vibe for my favorite wine bar," she tells me.

Lauren Chan, an NYC-based model, writer, and entrepreneur, grew up wearing basketball shorts and hasn't quit them as an adult. "Now, I make them part of my wardrobe by elevating them with a collared shirt—I'm dying to wear a double polo shirt soon—as well as a heel or a Mary Jane moment," she says.

Chan adds there's more to the look than just a nod to the basketball games of her youth. "I think this trend—and others like it, ahem, low-rise baggy denim Bermudas—is rising in popularity as women buck the male gaze and lean into what makes the feel cool and powerful in the female gaze." Amen to that.

two fashion editors wearing athletic shorts with button down shirts in new york city

Model and entrepreneur Lauren Chan (left) and editor Aemilia Madden (right) both style up their Adidas basketball shorts with button-down shirts.

(Image credit: Lauren Chan; Aemilia Madden)

A lot of the athletic short movement comes from actual sportswear, but there are a few brands taking varsity stripes and nylon in a for-women, by-women direction aligned with Chan's styling approach. Take Relax Lacrosse, the sporty shorts "MVP" for Marie Claire fashion features editor Emma Childs. (For the record, she has "never once picked up a lacrosse stick.") "I have always been comedically bad at sports—to paint a picture, my team of choice in high school was the newspaper," she tells me over Slack. Relax made her want to embrace her inner athlete—to a degree. "The New York-based, editor-favorite sportswear brand uses unexpected color combinations—cherry red and bubble gum pink, for instance—and girlish details like rosettes and bows to give the bottoms a cutesy, fashion-oriented feel."

The label recently partnered up with Lisa Says Gah for limited-edition pairs embellished with two giant ribbons at the waistband. It's what I would imagine queen mother of the girlhood aesthetic Sandy Liang would wear if she was a varsity captain.

Emma Childs wears athletic shorts while out in New York City

Despite not playing the sport, Marie Claire editor Emma Childs loves Relax Lacrosse's colorful shorts.

(Image credit: Emma Childs)

There are some fashion investments you can only wear on one specific occasion: a drop-waist dress that's really only for a Lake Como packing list or a bubble skirt that's purely for the summer wedding circuit. Athletic shorts are a little more flexible (and not only because they're made from stretchy, breathable, win-the-400m-hurdle-race fabrics). They work for working out; they're also fit for errands, easygoing dinners, and even more creatively-minded offices, Olympian or not. I will wear mine with a button-down like Chan and Madden from here on out—and from the comfort of my couch.

This Way to More Athletic Shorts for Summer 2024

Halie LeSavage
Senior News Editor (Fashion & Beauty)

Halie LeSavage is the senior fashion and beauty news editor at Marie Claire, where she assigns, edits, and writes stories for both sections. Halie is an expert on runway trends, celebrity style, emerging fashion and beauty brands, and shopping (naturally). In over seven years as a professional journalist, Halie’s reporting has ranged from fashion week coverage spanning the Copenhagen, New York, Milan, and Paris markets, to profiles on industry insiders including stylist Alison Bornstein and J.Crew womenswear creative director Olympia Gayot, to breaking news stories on noteworthy brand collaborations and beauty launches. (She can personally confirm that Bella Hadid’s Ôrebella perfume is worth the hype.) She has also written dozens of research-backed shopping guides to finding the best tote bags, ballet flats, and more. Most of all, Halie loves to explore what trends—like the rise of doll-like Mary Janes or TikTok’s 75 Hard Style Challenge—can say about culture writ large. (She justifies almost any purchase by saying it’s “for work.”) Halie has previously held writer and editor roles at Glamour, Morning Brew, and Harper’s Bazaar. Halie has been cited as a fashion and beauty expert in The Cut, CNN Underscored, and Reuters, among other outlets, and appears in newsletters like Selleb and Self-Checkout to provide shopping recommendations. In 2022, she was awarded the Hearst Spotlight Award for excellence and innovation in fashion journalism. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Harvard College. Outside of work, Halie is passionate about books, baking, and her miniature Bernedoodle, Dolly. For a behind-the-scenes look at her reporting, you can follow Halie on Instagram and TikTok.