April 08, 2021

Men’s Athletic Shorts Styling Guide

These days, there are so many different rules when it comes to style, which can be intimidating—especially for men, since just a few decades ago, it seemed like the only need-to-knows were whether to wear pleated pants and how many buttons to fasten on one’s suit coat. Whether for better or worse (we at Willy California think it’s for the better), there are now societal expectations for men to know how to dress. And that’s not just at the office or on vacation—but in our day-to-day activities, including going to the gym.

That’s right: the days of simply throwing on whatever sweats smell the best are past. Today’s fitness-focused culture expects us to be as aware of our appearance at the gym as it does for a night on the town.

While that may be frustrating to some, we look at it as an opportunity. After all, the gym is more than just a place where we go to lift heavy things; the gym has become a social environment, where friends can catch up, neighbors can become better acquainted, and phone numbers can be exchanged (with a little tact and finesse).

So when we go to the gym, it’s important that we know what to wear—and shorts can often be the most important piece of a gym ensemble to show off our best assets. Luckily, we’ve put together a rundown of your options when it comes to athletic

The Long And Short

When it comes to men’s athletic shorts, there are different schools of thought as to how long to wear your shorts.

Some guys opt for the old-school basketball shorts look—on the baggy side, with the cuff falling well below the knee. This can be favorable to those guys who skip leg day, as a long, relaxed fit can hide thighs that haven’t seen a squat in months.

No need to be ashamed if you favor your pecs and shoulders over your glutes and hamstrings, but if you’re looking for a way to exercise your legs outdoors as we get into the spring and summer months, check out our tips for ways to stay active, and to stay outside.

For those of us who aren’t afraid to show off shapely gams, there are plenty of shorter and more form-fitting options when it comes to workout shorts. These shorter shorts come in a variety of lengths. Some styles are very short, with the cuff falling above the midway point of the thigh; others are a little less revealing, with the cuff sitting above the knee.

Proponents of shorts with shorter, slimmer fits tend to favor the way that such shorts accentuate their glutes and thighs—and if you’re trying to catch the eye of a fellow gymgoer, it might be preferable to show off the goods during your deadlifts.

There are also skin-tight options for workout shorts, often favored by competitive weightlifters, who are judged on their overall swoleness, and cyclists, who tend to wear tighter clothing to cut down on wind resistance. These shorts, often made of a thin, stretchy material like spandex, are easily the most revealing option—which can be a bonus if you’re looking to demonstrate all the work you’ve put into your gym routine. But for the casual gymgoer, they might feel a bit constraining, if not more than what’s necessary for a simple workout.

Simple Or Technical

When shopping for a new pair of athletic shorts, some guys might get overwhelmed by the number of options available when it comes to features. Some pairs of shorts come with multiple pockets, which can be very useful for guys who don’t want to leave their valuables alone in the locker room. Other guys might just want a couple of pockets—one for their phone, one for their keys. And some men might prefer a simple, streamlined pair of shorts with no pockets at all.

This is all about preference and how much you need to take with you when going through your fitness regimen. If you’re among those who want pockets in your athletic shorts, there are plenty of options—some with zippers for added security, some without. And if all you need is enough space for a credit card (so you can buy that post-run smoothie).

To Line Or Not To Line?

One of the most controversial features of workout shorts is the liner—some men swear by the added support (and ability to wear workout shorts without needing underwear), while others detest the feeling of an inner liner. Each camp has its reasoning, and neither is definitively correct, but we’ll briefly (pun intended) give you the rundown.

Many pairs of workout shorts come with an inner liner, which provides additional support while you’re running or working out. This can be very helpful for those who like the feeling of extra support, and an additional benefit is that an inner liner replaces your underwear—so you don’t have to bring an extra pair of boxer briefs to the gym (or simply wear sweaty boxer briefs on your walk home).

Inner liners are often made from stretchy mesh or other thin, moisture-wicking materials for optimal comfort and can come in many styles. Some liners are similar to briefs—without any pant legs to speak of—while others are cut like trunks or boxer briefs. The trunk or boxer brief cuts might be favorable to guys who like added support but don’t like the feeling of wearing briefs.

Workout shorts without inner liners are just as popular, with many men preferring these simple styles. While the lining can provide added support, there are plenty of guys who don’t want to feel constrained—and others who prefer to simply wear their own underwear underneath their shorts (or no underwear at all).


Similarly to the inner liner, there are varying schools of thought when it comes to drawstrings in workout shorts. Many men like the classic adjustability of a drawstring, while others prefer the more modern, streamlined look of workout shorts that are held up by elastic.

One drawback to the drawstring, as we’ve all been made aware at some point in our lives, is that one end (or both) can get lost inside the shorts, making for a frustrating game of fish-out-the-drawstring that can take time away from your day and your workout. But that’s a small price to pay for the adjustability you get with the string—once tied, your shorts stay securely fastened to your waist.

On the other hand, it can be very convenient to have shorts that simply fit your waist comfortably and hold themselves up with elastic. There are a couple of potential drawbacks here, however. For one, elastic has a way of wearing out as time goes on—the longer you wear them, and the more you wash them, the less life the elastic has left. In addition, if you have any juvenile friends who are still into “pantsing” their buddies, elastic waistbands make for easy prey for prankster predators.

Of course, there are also benefits to being able to quickly disrobe, but we probably don’t need to elaborate here.

Paint With All The Colors Of The Gym

When it comes to styling your workout ensemble, color is just as important as any other factor. Depending on how vividly you want to dress yourself when working out, you may opt for a brighter pair of workout shorts—especially preferable if you want to stand out at the gym amidst all the black and gray out there.

If standing out is your goal, there are plenty of workout shorts that offer vibrant, flashy colors. From subtle blues to bold reds and confident pinks, the brightness of your bottoms can really make an impact on how people look at you—and your glutes.

And if you desire a more subdued simplicity in your workout apparel, that’s fine, too. Most athletic shorts come in a basic black, gray, or navy, so you can spend less time figuring out what to wear to the gym—and more time focused on what you’re working on there.

Long Story Shorts

In the end, the pair of athletic shorts that’s right for you is the pair that makes you feel and look good—and the pair that helps you perform at your best while doing so.

At Willy California, we believe that working out should be stylish—and also that style shouldn’t come at the expense of utility. That’s why we design our workout gear not only to look good, but also to be performance-ready. But don’t take our word for it; check out our collection and see what we have to offer. Whatever style you’re going for in your workout, we’re sure that you’ll find the perfect pair of athletic shorts for you.