5 Stylish Ways to Dress Up Athletic Shorts

They're not just for working out.

Elizabeth Tamkin

Byrdie/Elizabeth Tamkin

During the pandemic, I found myself wearing athletic shorts most days. I'd usually pair them with a tank or tee for maximum comfort. But over the past year, I wound up growing my collection substantially and have played around with different ways to style them. Now that I'm venturing outside here and there, I've found ways to make my athletic shorts look dressed up but still maintain their comfortability. Ahead, I'm sharing my five tried-and-true tips on how to style your athletic shorts. P.S. These style methods work with those pajama shorts you stocked up on during the pandemic, too. 

Party on the Top

The easiest way to elevate your running shorts is with a fancy top. I love juxtaposing athletic or uber-casual pieces with dressier items, and this is the perfect example. Grab your favorite shorts, fancy top (think: volume!), and shoes of choice (you can even do a simple sneaker here and not be too sporty). Complete the look by throwing on a few accessories.

Monochromatic Moment

To make the shorts seem purposeful and not an act of laziness, wear a top of the same color. My favorite way to do this is with white or black athletic shorts. Pair them with a like-colored top, contrasting shoes, some accessories, and those shorts will instantly be too good for the treadmill.

Jackets Required

A dressy jacket can instantly elevate your athletic shorts. I’ve been embracing this styling trick pre-pandemic. A light blazer or linen jacket is perfect for the summer months, too. I love rounding out the outfit with a loafer to create a very crisp, clean look.

Party Shoes

Athletic shorts are the perfect blank canvas with which to pump up the volume in your footwear. Think: raffia platforms, strappy embellished heels, or statement mules. You can keep it neat with a clean button-down shirt or fresh tee.

Add a Belt

A fun way to wear athletic shorts is to style them with an oversized or long top (so that they’re just peeking out from the short's hem) and belting the top. They suddenly become more like biker shorts (but loose and flowy) and become an outfit enhancer rather than a distracting element.

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