Fashion bike shorts have been a part of mainstream consciousness for several years, but this summer — with so many of us housebound — is even more primed to be the season of bike shorts. They’re comfortable, first of all, having long been worn to reduce thigh chafing in hot weather. Not to mention they’re versatile, like leggings, and affordable, playing well with everything from oversized T-shirts to going-out tops. And it doesn’t hurt that you can wear them straight from a workout to running errands to your couch. Stylist Alison Deyette considers them a wardrobe basic and a way to show off some curves when strategically paired with other stylish pieces. When we asked her how to wear them, she said “I particularly like bike shorts paired with a button-down top and an oversized blazer,” adding that “they also make a great addition under a sheer dress when just wearing underwear seems too revealing.” We spoke to Deyette and seven other stylish bike short-wearing women (as well as a few Strategist writers) about the best pairs and how to wear them.
Best under-$25 bike shorts
Strategist staffer Liza Corsillo (and one of the writers of this story) loves these Danskin shorts. “I probably wear these bike shorts too much,” she says. “The fabric is really soft without losing its shape, even after throwing them in the washing machine over and over again,” she adds. Corsillo also said the shorts don’t aggressively squeeze her thighs or waist the way other leggings and bike shorts sometimes do. “Plus, they’re actually very good for biking and don’t chafe or irritate my skin even on miles-long rides.” She chose the five-inch shorts, but notes that the longer pair would be suitable for hanging out with friends in a park or dressing up with little wedge sandals. “Most importantly, they make me look sporty and hot.”
“This affordable pair combines two of the summer’s biggest trends: bike shorts and tie-dye,” says celebrity and personal stylist Samantha Brown, who suggests wearing them with a knotted T-shirt or hoodie and a pair of Nikes for an “effortless, casual look.”
At only $8, these high-waisted leopard bike shorts are by far the most affordable on this list. “You can’t beat that price,” notes blogger and designer Amarachi N. Ukachu. Ukachu says that she loves that they can be dressed up with a strappy heel and oversized shirt or more casually with some sneakers and a cute sports bra.
Best under-$50 bike shorts
Three of the stylish people we spoke to all name-checked Girlfriend Collective’s high-rise bike shorts as favorites. “You can feel good knowing your shorts are made from 17 water bottles and saved over two gallons of water in production,” notes social media and community manager and activist Kara Smith. “Girlfriend Collective can do no wrong in my eyes: sustainable, ethically made, and size-inclusive,” echoes Ukachu. She calls their bike shorts a “must-have” because of “the superhigh waistline and the color options available.” If you’re torn about which color to choose, Strategist junior writer Jenna Milliner-Waddell recently bought them in bright orange.
“These are the bike shorts I wear most often — not for working out — and recommend to all my friends,” says Nicole Akhtarzad Eshaghpour, market editor at Who What Wear and curator of the Instagram account Trust Me Buy This. She notes that the slightly thick material has a “smoothing effect and makes you feel very ‘hugged’ by the shorts.” And, because of the high waist, “they’re perfect for wearing with longer tops and sweaters as well as shorter styles.”
Edith Young, photographer, designer, and author of the upcoming book Painterly Palettes, says that while she’s afraid to wear bike shorts while actually biking “after sustaining a gory, bike-related injury to the shin hours before a friend’s wedding in Ojai last summer,” she does love to style them for non-exercise related outfits. “I recommend pairing them with a black tank top — my favorite is by Filippa K — under that one dress in your closet that turned out to be almost prohibitively sheer, much more transparent than it looked online,” she says. “I’ve found that these three-inch Nike Pros are up to the task!”
Stylist Kiarra Logan loves these bike shorts from independent boutique A Bomb Muvas Thrift Shop, owned by retail entrepreneur Jae White. For summer styling, she suggests “an oversized white V-neck tee or a classic white button-up and low-top sneakers” For the transition to fall, “pair with a boyfriend blazer and ankle boots.”
Best under-$75 bike shorts
When we asked Candace Hampton, a fashion and beauty blogger who owns several pairs of bike shorts, to recommend a favorite, she enthusiastically suggested this faux-leather option from Spanx because of the “thicker fabric and a high-waisted style.” Deyette is also a fan, and adds that they have “just the right amount of texture and shine with its leather detailing to look super cool on your Zoom workout and that social-distancing hike with friends.”
Brown loves the “leopard detail,” and the “added pocket for your keys and phone,” if you need to run some errands. Plus, the shorts are available from a size XXS to a 4XL.
“Gil Rodriquez is a Latinx-owned brand creating elegant essentials through slow fashion,” says Smith, who loves these shorts that come in “the perfect shade of heather grey.”
Stylist Allison Deyette suggests these shorts “for those of us that like a little more coverage.” Deyette also told us that due to the sweat-wicking fabric, you don’t have to worry about dark spots emerging when you’re out and about. “And let’s all agree that we have so many pairs of black leggings and black shorts in our drawer that adding a bit of color can break up the monotony,” she says, which is why she loves this burgundy pair.
Best under-$100 bike shorts
“Incorporate some color into your workout or couch hang with these stretchy shorts by Organic Basics, a Denmark-based brand centered around sustainable thinking,” suggests Smith. The seamless shorts are made with sweat-wicking, breathable material to keep you cool and comfortable on the stickiest summer days.
Crystal Anderson, co-founder of A Very Good Job, an event production, branding, and content house, calls these Matek shorts “a personal fave,” due to their 11-inch inseam. “I have really long legs, and sometimes bike shorts make me look more Tour De France, less cool gal.” While the shorts also come in blue and black, she is particularly smitten with the rust color.
Ukachu told us that when she is shopping for workout and leisurewear, she looks for two things: comfort and style. “The Tumi workout bike shorts are not lacking in either department.” The colorful Ankara design is “definitely a showstopper,” and the shorts “do not ride up and they have pockets.”
“These Daily Paper shorts are for the days you’re trying to add a little razzle-dazzle but still need to be out the door in half a second,” says Anderson. The contrast-colored technical stitching adds a pop to each of the three colorways: black with lime, grey with yellow, and green tie-dye with black.
Both Brown and Deyette namechecked several of Koral’s styles. “These are very cool-looking black shorts. If you just buy two new pairs for summer, this should be one of them,” says Deyette. She also loves this “sleek” color-blocked pair from the brand. “The high shine on these will bring some attention,” adds Brown. “I’d wear these with an oversized T-shirt or a crop top and denim jacket.”
“If you love the look of tie-dye, but don’t want to get your hands dirty, check out Cotton Citizen’s options, which range from big splatters of color to more subtle desert hues” like these, says Deyette.
Best splurge-worthy bike shorts
For a pair of bike shorts with a prominent logo, these Alexander Wang shorts fit the bill. They hit all the marks with a high waist, fun zipper detail, and flattering leg length. “Style with a cropped off the shoulder T-shirt and Nike blazer sneaker for the daytime vibe,” says Logan. “If you want to wear them for night, throw on an ankle wrap heel and knotted button-up shirt.”
According to Brown, “This luxe version of a bike short is where the trend gets a polished upgrade.” While pricey, they are made from a stretch knit material, which makes them the “chic version of your favorite exercise staple.” Brown’s styling tip: Pair these with a half-tucked silk blouse and strappy sandals.
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