Fashion trends of eras past are constantly cycling in and out of style, but after welcome bike shorts back into our wardrobes a few years ago, the summer staple has proven to have serious staying power. Originally designed to make riding a bike more comfortable in the early 19th century (hence the name), these form-fitting bottoms were repurposed in the ’80s and ’90s as a fashion statement, and surprisingly came back around in 2017 as an extension of the athleisure trend. Flash forward to 2021, when we’re still choosing comfortable clothing over more traditional, structured pieces, and biker short outfits continue to be our go-to on warm weather days.
While some consider cycling shorts difficult to wear, or claim they’re a controversial garment, meant more for the gym over everyday activities, we’d argue that they’re quite versatile, and there’s no right or wrong way to style them. Drawing inspiration from style icons like Princess Diana, as well as “It” girls of the ’80s and ’90s, like Sarah Jessica Parker and Tiffani Thiessen, influencers have taken this once functional item and making it seem fashion-forward.
To get you on board, and prove that these babies can be dressed both up or down, we’ve rounded up some of the best biker short outfit inspiration we could find on Instagram.
With a Sweatshirt
Coupling a loose sweatshirt with form-fitting bottoms, such as a pair of biker shorts, has the ability make the loungewear staple look less sloppy. Whether you prefer a hoodie, quarter-zip, pullover, or cropped sweatshirt, the body-conforming bottoms will offset your top’s lax fit. Add minimalist jewelry like hoop earrings, a single chain necklace, or a simple bangle give things an elevated twist.
With Heels or Boots
If you think sneakers would be the most appropriate footwear for a bike shorts outfit, think again. Throwing on the unexpected shoe choice, such as a pair of heels or chunky boots, is an easy way to make your sporty bottoms feel fancier and more fashion-forward. Go the sleek route by color coordinating your pumps, knee-high boots, or chunky Dr. Martens with your shorts, then choose a more formal shirt, or a basic that can easily be dressed up, to wear up top.
With an Oversized T-Shirt
Oversized tees are a look all their own, so go ahead and rock your favorite with a pair of bike shorts and sneakers. The final result is a super comfortable outfit that takes less than five minutes to throw on (an ideal option if you’re on a time crunch). Looking for something that feels special? Mix prints to create an even bigger statement.
With a Sports Bra
This pairing is probably a no-brainer, but fitness enthusiasts aren’t the only ones sporting the combo. For a fashion-forward twist, add a blazer overtop and some strappy heels, or opt for a bomber jacket and clean sneakers combo with high socks. Also, don’t sweat it — we won’t tell if you don’t actually intend on working out in this ensemble.
As a Matching Set
2020 was the year of coordination, and it doesn’t look like the trend is going anywhere anytime soon. But keep in mind, sweater sets don’t have a monopoly over monochromatic styles: Athleisure is all over this trend with complementary sports bras, leggings, and, yes, even biker shorts sets. Brands like MissGuided, Lululemon, Alo Yoga, and Gymshark, among others, carry matching pieces that can be dressed up or down, depending on your mood.
With a Blazer
How can you level up your bike shorts from athletic to office-appropriate? Add a blazer. Whether you prefer a tailored fit or an oversized jacket, blazers give the look a professional, sophisticated feel you can build off of with accessories. And if your outfit is looking a little too monochromatic for your liking, this structured jacket can serve as a pop of color.
Under a Skirt
Hiding a pair of biker shorts underneath a skirt or dress is a neat trick a lot of people know about, but don’t take advantage of enough. The extra layer provides warmth in chilly temps and can help you feel less exposed in a flowy garment that can pick up and blow all over in windy conditions. Even if your shorts peek out a little bit, own it. So many nostalgic trends are coming back, and it’s a great way to nail that ’80s vibe.
With a Crop Top
Celebrities like Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski made the crop top and bike shorts combo an iconic pair. Amp up this sporty duo with sneakers and unbuttoned flannels in the fall, flip flops and oversized sunnies in the summer for a street style, or add a sports bra (and a mask) if you’re headed to the gym.
With Puff Sleeves
Voluminous sleeves are still going strong, and if you’re looking for a way to wear this whimsical trend in a way that’s toned down and less over-the-top, bike shorts provide the perfect balance. The unexpected combo is what makes this outfit idea a head-turner, but at the same time, it’s comfortable enough to wear from morning to night. There’s no need to go super simple with accessories, either: Add chunky socks, layer necklaces, or top things off with a fun hat to ensure your look go well beyond the basics.