What Are Basketball Shorts Made Of?

Basketball shorts can be used both for physical activity and leisurewear. Whether you are playing in the finals of your basketball team’s tournament or lounging around all day, basketball shorts offer a range of versatility that proves helpful in several circumstances. However, not all basketball shorts are the same. So, what are basketball shorts made of?

Basketball shorts are typically made from either nylon, mesh, polyester, cotton, or fleece. Each material has its own pros and cons in different circumstances of use. A manufacturer chooses the material with which to make its basketball shorts depending on several factors.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about what basketball shorts are made of. From classic mesh to breathable polyester, different basketball shorts may provide more comfort, mobility, lightness, and more.

Which Materials Are Basketball Shorts Made Of?

As stated before, not all basketball shorts are the same. To find what you are looking for, you must first learn about the different characteristics of the various materials in basketball shorts. Some shorts work better for being active, while others might be better suited for leisure or casual wear.

Basketball shorts can also be made of a combination of the materials below. However, to give you a more general sense, each material is listed individually. When you understand what advantages and disadvantages each material offers, it will be simple to understand hybrid-material basketball shorts.


Nylon is one of the most common fabrics used in the manufacturing of basketball shorts. Especially for basketball uniforms as a whole, nylon is great for activewear. You have likely seen nylon basketball shorts before: the smooth, straight fabric with a high-shine appearance.

Basketball shorts made of nylon are beneficial because of the strength of the material. It is not easy to stretch or damage nylon, proving useful for physical activity such as an actual basketball game. If you plan on using your basketball shorts for an active lifestyle, you might want to consider getting shorts made of nylon.

While nylon basketball shorts are great for activewear, they may not be the best choice if you plan to wear them leisurely. For example, if you are just lying on your couch watching television, there is not much stretch for any time you might change your lounging position. This may not bother you personally, but there are certainly more comfortable basketball shorts out there.

Also, while nylon shorts do an acceptable job of filtering sweat from your body, they are not the most breathable basketball shorts out there. If you sweat a lot, nylon might not be your go-to choice of basketball shorts. However, nylon fabric is easy to wash, so getting out odors is not very difficult. Still, if you are concerned with breathability while wearing basketball shorts, you should consider other options.

Easy to wash
Low comfort compared to other materials
Low breathability
Comparatively heavy


Mesh is another widespread material used to make basketball shorts, or at least it used to be. Traditionally, mesh was a popular fabric for basketball jerseys and casual wear. 

Although they are not as prevalent today, mesh basketball shorts do have their fair share of advantages. Manufactured with an open-hole structure, mesh is relatively breathable when compared to more simply-made basketball shorts. This can be great for physical activity, especially in warm temperatures.

Mesh is also a lightweight material that proves useful for easy movement. Additionally, since they are pretty breathable, mesh basketball shorts will likely not stick to your legs or cause any unnecessary discomfort.

On the other hand, mesh is certainly not the most high-end material. Other basketball shorts offer a much wider range of breathability and moisture-wicking capability. However, mesh basketball shorts can suffice in many circumstances.

Because of the holes in the fabric, mesh is not the most durable. If your mesh basketball shorts get caught on something, they can tear easily. And, as is similar to nylon basketball shorts, mesh basketball shorts may not be the most comfortable for lounging around.

Medium moisture-wicking ability
Low durability
Medium strength
Not as comfortable as softer basketball shorts


Polyester is one of the best materials used in making basketball shorts. With a polyester fabric, the pros far outweigh the cons. For one, polyester basketball shorts are incredibly lightweight, allowing for maximum mobility.

Polyester is also a highly breathable fabric, with moisture-wicking capabilities much more significant than most other basketball short fabrics. If you are wearing polyester basketball shorts for physical activity, they will likely be some of the most breathable shorts you can find.

While they are very lightweight, polyester shorts are still quite strong and relatively durable. With stretchy fabric, these shorts will move with your body and hold up against contact and general wear and tear. At the same time, the stretch capability of polyester does not take away from its wrinkle-free characteristic. Because of all of these advantages, polyester basketball shorts are some of the most high-quality shorts you can find.

Still, polyester basketball shorts are not perfect in every way. Because they are so lightweight, polyester shorts are not always the best for cold temperatures. However, some companies manufacture staple polyester fabrics that are very well suited for the cold. In many cases, though, this is not always taken into consideration. 

In addition, while polyester is very durable, it might not hold up for as long as some other, more tightly-knit materials – like nylon – will. But, given the many advantages, polyester is still a top-tier material for basketball shorts.

Synthetic materials like polyester are not the best for filtering out bacteria, leading to odors in your basketball shorts. So, you must make sure to clean your polyester basketball shorts when necessary.

High strength and medium durability
Not always highly insulated
Not as durable as more tightly-knit materials like nylon
Captures odors if not cleaned properly


Cotton is another very popular material for basketball shorts. They are great for loungewear and stylish outfits, and in some circumstances, they can work well in physically active environments.

Cotton is a heavy fabric, so when used for basketball shorts, it can be great for physical activity in cold or outdoor settings. It is also an extremely comfortable fabric, which makes cotton basketball shorts great for casual wear. Cotton basketball shorts are soft and durable, allowing them to last longer than many other types of basketball shorts.

Cotton shorts are also easy to clean because they do not trap odor. On the flip side, cotton is a highly absorbent material, so when you sweat in cotton basketball shorts, you do not have much – if any – breathability. If you wear cotton basketball shorts for too long, you will likely begin to feel the weight of moisture packing into the fabric.

Great for cold weather
Maximum comfort
Easy to wash out odors
Highly absorbent
Very heavy fabric
Low breathability


Fleece basketball shorts are very similar to cotton basketball shorts – with a few distinct similarities. While cotton basketball shorts are heavyweight and can be worn for cold temperatures, fleece basketball shorts go a step above. Fleece is a heavy, highly insulated fabric that keeps heat in. Of course, this may not be ideal for playing basketball or doing some other type of physical activity, which makes fleece basketball shorts great for loungewear.

Like cotton, fleece is also an easy material to get odors out of. In addition, fleece dries more quickly than cotton, so it is not as absorbent as a fabric. If you do not have too big of a problem with sweating, heavy-duty fleece basketball shorts may work great for you on a chilly fall day.

The comfort level of fleece basketball shorts surpasses most – if not all – other basketball short fabrics. If you want to use fleece basketball shorts as a casual outfit, they are one of the best options. They are durable and typically wrinkle-free, allowing for an extensive range of motion without causing discomfort.

Highly insulated for cold weather activities
Easy to wash out odors
Highly absorbent
Heavyweight is not great for warm temperatures

What Makes A Good Pair of Basketball Shorts?

After getting into the specific fabrics that basketball shorts are made of, you should understand the main characteristics people look for in them. This way, you will be better able to decide what material might fit your preferences.


In most cases, you will want to make sure your basketball shorts have an exceptional amount of breathability. Particularly if you are participating in physical activities and you also tend to sweat a lot, you want to make sure that your shorts allow airflow to add comfort.

With a breathable pair of basketball shorts, you will have less of a chance of feeling too hot and making that feeling affect your physical ability. Materials like nylon, mesh, and polyester are excellent for airflow. Breathability is one of the most important aspects of basketball shorts for physical activity.


You will also want your basketball shorts to do a nice job of moisture-wicking. This is equally – if not more – important than breathability. Moisture-wicking means that they help to transfer your sweat to the outside of your shorts and allow it to evaporate off. More high-end materials like nylon and polyester are going to provide the best moisture-wicking qualities.

Without moisture-wicking shorts, sweating in basketball shorts long enough can result in you feeling the weight of your sweat. This makes your basketball shorts feel a lot heavier, which can significantly impact your ability to function in them. Basketball shorts that lack a moisture-wicking quality are likely very absorbent, which is not suitable for activewear. 


It is also good to find lightweight basketball shorts. There is a big difference between heavy and light basketball shorts. Especially if you are actually playing basketball, lightweight shorts are essential for easy mobility and range of motion.

Unless you are wearing basketball shorts casually, finding a lightweight pair will be beneficial. Of course, if you are wearing them for leisure, you might not mind if your basketball shorts are more heavy-duty. For physical activity, most basketball shorts are relatively lightweight. However, polyester is usually the thinnest, lightest material.


Along with all of the practical attributes, comfort is equally important in your basketball shorts. If they do not fit you correctly or are simply not comfortable to wear, they are probably not the basketball shorts for you

There are differing meanings behind comfort when it comes to basketball shorts. If you are wearing them for physical activities, you want to look for comfort from durability and lightweight construction. Thus, nylon and polyester – and perhaps mesh – are great choices. 

However, if you are wearing them casually or for lounging, comfort might mean as loose-fitting, heavyweight, and soft as possible. Cotton and fleece are great for an instance such as this and in the case of physical activity in cold weather.


You also want to make sure your basketball shorts are made of durable material. If you are moving around in them a lot, you do not want their quality to fade from everyday wear and tear. Polyester and nylon are likely the most durable materials in basketball shorts.

Additionally, having a good amount of stretch capability in your basketball shorts is vital for durability. That is, as long as the shorts are somewhat wrinkle-free, and you are not risking their form being damaged from stretching too much.


Like durability, it is good to find a fabric for basketball shorts that will hold its own when it needs to. Strength is essential for basketball shorts. At the same time, however, closely-knit fabrics are not always as advantageous as open-hole structures.

You should look to find a nice balance between durability and strength. With soft fabrics, such as those used in basketball shorts, these qualities might sometimes be inversely proportional. You want your shorts to be able to stretch while maintaining their form, but you also do not want to risk them stretching too much and ripping. Finding an equilibrium between these is your best bet.

Good materials for finding equilibrium in your basketball shorts include polyester and nylon. However, cotton, fleece, and mesh are fully capable of lasting – as long as you treat your basketball shorts properly.

Why Is Material for Basketball Shorts Important?

As you have seen above, there are many aspects of the material in basketball shorts that make some fabrics better for certain scenarios. But to get more specific, below are in-depth explanations of why different fabrics are better suited for these environments.


As you can tell by the name, basketball shorts were initially created for playing basketball. It is impressive that basketball shorts have expanded their range of purpose in the past couple of decades. From playing basketball to watching television, to making a fashion statement, basketball shorts are great for many different activities.

If you are using basketball shorts for playing basketball, you will want to make sure you have durable, high-quality shorts. Depending on your personal preferences, you will probably want to look into getting nylon, mesh, or polyester basketball shorts. Either of the three is well-suited for physical activity and, based on the amount you sweat, you can find shorts with the level of moisture-wicking and breathability you need.

Other Physical Activities

Varying physical activities will also require different characteristics for your basketball shorts. For example, if you are doing an intense workout, you need shorts with breathability and great moisture-wicking ability to last through your entire workout. You should not have to worry about being weighed down from absorbent shorts that trap your sweat.

On top of that, different workouts will likely require extreme mobility. You need basketball shorts that can handle a lot of movement without being damaged. Polyester basketball shorts are probably your best bet in this case. You can opt for nylon or mesh shorts, but these are sometimes more restrictive than the durability of polyester basketball shorts.

Casual Wear

It is not at all uncommon for people to wear basketball shorts casually and for lounging around. Lightweight shorts like nylon, mesh, and polyester can suffice, but you will likely be better suited with cotton or fleece basketball shorts

With the comfort of cotton or fleece basketball shorts, you can be sure that your loungewear will keep you satisfied. Polyester basketball shorts can also be good because of their durability and stretchiness, but many people prefer cotton or fleece, especially in cool or cold weather.

Active Daily Routine

If you are wearing basketball shorts for your active daily life – running errands, hanging out with friends, etc. – the option is pretty much up to you. If you want comfort, go with cotton or fleece basketball shorts; if you want durability and lightweight, go with nylon, mesh, or polyester.

Whatever feels most comfortable to you is going to be the best choice. Different people have different preferences, so your preferred characteristics are completely valid when choosing the type of basketball shorts you want.


As you can see, basketball shorts can be made from several different materials. Different fabrics provide varying amounts of durability, strength, breathability, moisture-wicking, and more. At the end of the day, what you use comes down to the attributes you prefer, but each fabric has its benefits. Now that you know the differences between different fabrics of basketball shorts, you are well on your way to finding the right pair for yourself.

If you found this post interesting, be sure to check “Will Basketball Shorts Shrink in the Dryer?” & “Can Basketball Players Wear Gloves?“.

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