WHY WE LOVE THEM
Here’s a challenge: Find an adopter of the bike shorts trend who has stopped at a single pair. Becca O’Dunne, who was originally inspired two years ago by a fashion-forward yoga instructor, just bought her third pair, an exuberantly patterned version from Outdoor Voices. “They’re perfect for when you wake up in quarantine and you plan to work out at some point but you probably won’t get around to it for a while,” the 41-year-old Brooklyn political activist and educator said of the garment’s appeal for days lived in limbo.
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When images of Kim Kardashian West in super-tight Yeezy shorts flooded the internet in early 2018, the stretchy style became a staple of influencers. It has fans in Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber and the countless regular folk who praise their pull-on-and-go ease. Newly minted members of the biker gang also point out that skinny shorts read as more tailored and pulled together than equally comfy sweatpants. Pairing them with a boxy blazer or a roomy white button-down and some leather booties will ensure your ensemble is more daywear than gymwear.
Ceramist Lindsey Howard, 23, used to wear Dickies work pants to the studio, but bike shorts have become her new work uniform. Her latest pair, from direct-to-consumer brand Girlfriend Collective, has pockets for storing her phone and tools. “[They’re] athletic wear, which is useful if I’m loading a kiln or throwing on a wheel,” she said, “but they’re cute.”
Sheer novelty is what made a convert of Los Angeles yoga instructor Kyle Miller, 36. “I’ve gone through three zillion pairs of leggings and I just can’t anymore—I’m completely over them,” she said. She finds the shorter solution less constricting, as they allow the knees and shins to breathe. When paired with Tevas and a loose T-shirt that’s tucked in at a single point, “bike shorts are unexpectedly flattering,” Ms. Miller said of the style, which smooths and squeezes in all the right places. “You kind of look like a sophomore in college, but in a good way.”
WHY WE HATE THEM
Blame Peloton, because it can’t be a coincidence. Just as countless domestic corners are turning into private cycling studios, it is suddenly fashionable to sport tubular shorts whose silhouette leaves little to the imagination. This second-skin style has become trendy not only for pushing the pedals, but for lounging, lunching and most any other nonathletic activity you can imagine. The late Princess Diana popularized bike shorts when she wore them en route to workouts in the 1990s, pulling them over her toned thighs and pairing them with baggy sweatshirts, puffy white socks and sneakers, a slouchy-sleek look that has served as a template since. However, we don’t all have legs like Lady Di. And she knew better than to sport the gym-clothes equivalent of sausage casings for cocktails or high tea.
“Kids at my school wore them with oversize graphic tees,” said New York stylist Rachael Wang, 36, referencing her ’90s Los Angeles childhood. “It was supernormal—not what I’d call directional fashion.” While Ms. Wang praises their inclusivity (today’s bike bottoms are fairly affordable and available in a full spectrum of sizes), she reserves her pairs for hiking and at-home yoga. “I dress in a very emotional way and it just hasn’t inspired me.”
One of New York hairstylist Jessica Gillin’s clients, a beauty editor, recently came into the salon wearing the shorts with an oversize white button-down and Birkenstocks. “She looked so chic,” Ms. Gillin, 36, recalled. But she can’t bring herself to hop into the spandex saddle. “Whenever I put them on, it feels wrong,” she said. “I’m not sure clothing should be that tight.”
It was during a summer stroll in downtown Manhattan that Brynn Wallner’s love affair with bike shorts came to an abrupt end. The 30-year-old creative consultant walked past another blond woman who was wearing the exact same vintage Iron Maiden T-shirt with black bike shorts. “I felt so generic,” she admitted. “We both looked like wannabe influencers. It was pretty embarrassing.”
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