Tyffaine Akkouche looks at bicycle shorts, a love them or hate them trend that keeps hanging around.
A lot like marmite, this Tour de France necessity turned night-out-must-have either leaves a bad taste in your mouth, or makes you eager to take another dip into the jar. Years ago, the mention of bicycle shorts would have conjured images of mums in the 80s doing a home workout with Cindy Crawford on the TV. Fluorescent headband in place to hold back their perms.
Times have changed since the 80s, and apparently so have our tastes in good fashion. With the likes of Kim Kardashian and Bella Hadid rocking bicycle shorts like their lives depended on it, it seems like most of the world has followed suit. And perhaps for Kim Kardashian, her livelihood does depend on it: with husband Kanye West (who may be equally as controversial as these shorts) including this trend in his 2017 Yeezys season 6 collection, it can only do good things to her bank account if they suddenly became the next big thing.
The modern rebirth of this trend occurred during Karl Lagerfeld’s 2014 Chanel catwalk, hosted in the eternally glamorous venue of The Grand Palais. Although at the time Vogue described them as ‘pantaloons’, any modern fashion forward person (or anyone who has seen a cyclist before) would now identify them as bicycle shorts. From then on brands such as Alexander Wang and Dolce and Gabbana also styled their runway models with this glorified sportswear, turning it into the perfect accessory to a glam but effortless look.
The most notable and perhaps iconic use of cycling shorts was in Off-White’s 2018 Spring/Summer inspired by Princess Diana. Model and contributing editor to Vogue Naomi Campbell closed the show in a ruffled blazer with the shorts layered underneath. This homage to one of Diana’s outfits as she headed to the gym shows the exact evolution of cycling shorts and how their importance in the fashion world has trebled.
Currently, high street brands such as TopShop, River Island and H&M can be found selling them at prices ranging from £8 to £30, deeply contrasting OffWhite’s £400 price tag. Although they are comfy and can be cute, you need to have a certain body confidence to wear such a figure hugging item.
This brings us to the dark side of this trend. Although celebrities endorse it, many people avoid bicycle shorts like the plague for many reasons. As stated above, some strongly believe sportswear should never cross over to the realm of high fashion. However, Alex Lyles, founder of fashion wholesale distributor Claret Showrooms, explains how athleisure is slowly becoming a trend in its own right. She says that it is especially popular with mums picking up the kids from school, looking effortlessly stylish and put together a major element of a woman’s day.
If I were to brave the trend, I would take inspiration from Princess Diana herself, styling them with a baggy, vintage jumper and sneakers – the only flattering way people with shapeless bodies can wear them. If you are blessed enough to have a shapely body, wearing bicycle shorts with a simple tee and heeled boots brings a hint of glam to the outfit. Versatility is definitely a strong point for this trend. For instance, by simply switching out a few pieces – trainers for pointed heels, a cross body bag for a leather plaid bum bag and light jewelry for layered chains and statement hoop earrings – you can bring it from a casual, comfy day look to a stylish and bold night look.
In the end the only resolution to debates like this is to agree to disagree. Nobody’s opinion is 100% correct and always viable to change. If Karl Lagerfeld can change his opinion on sweatpants, which he called “a sign of defeat” before later releasing a line of his own, then maybe one day cycling shorts will become the nutella of trends instead of marmite.