As a man, have you ever wondered, “how long should my shorts be?” It’s a very good question, considering all the variations in length we have seen over the decades. Are short shorts in? Are board shorts better? Oh, the conundrum. Where to begin? We’ll tell you. In this post, we’ll present you with a brief, helpful guide that should assist you in finding stylish, well-fitting shorts.
Let’s start by quickly reviewing the most common short lengths: 5” inch inseam, 7” inch inseam, 9” inch inseam, and 11” inch inseam. Just as pants are measured by the inseam (from the crotch to the hem), so too are shorts. The 7” inch, 9” inch, and 11” inch inseam are the most popular choices, but as you may have noticed, 5” inch inseam shorts are slowly making a return from the ’80s. It’s all a matter of how short or long you want to go.
When trying to decide what short length to go with, you will first need to consider your height. It goes without saying that the taller you are, the longer the shorts will likely need to be. For men shorter in stature (we’ll use 5’7 as an example), steer clear of the longer inseams; they will just end up looking oversized and sloppy.
Next, we'll discuss how much of your thigh you actually want to be exposed when you’re wearing shorts. Clearly, shorter inseams mean more thigh exposure (a few inches above the knee) and longer inseams mean more coverage (usually right to the knee). The “sweet spot” is usually 1”-4” inches above the knee.
You knew this one was coming. The only way to truly know if shorts will fit well on you is to grab a pair and try them on. Grab a few different styles in different lengths and try them all on in a full-length mirror. This will give you a sense of how short or long you want to go. If you're still feeling uncertain, the 7” inch inseam is a length that generally looks good on everyone; so when you want to play it safe, go with the 7” inch inseam. That said, you should still try everything on before you decide to buy.
As we wrap up our discussion on length, note that going below the knee is a bit of a fashion faux pas. It may have briefly been in style in the early aughts, but no longer is wearing long shorts considered fashionably acceptable. The knee is the longest length you should go to; any longer and it’s the “danger zone”.
We’ve discussed quite a bit about the length of shorts, but we can’t forget to talk about the importance of width. Shorts should never be baggy. We’ll say it again: long, baggy shorts are no longer in style. Shorts should fit you the same way a comfortable, flattering pair of men’s pants should fit you. If you need a belt to hold up your shorts, they are probably too wide. Still feeling unsure? Use the pinch test (you can use this method to test the fit of pants, too). Relax your stance and pinch the material around your thigh. You should be able to grab anywhere from a half-inch to a full inch of the material. If you can’t pinch that much then the shorts are too tight; pinching more fabric than an inch and the shorts are too wide.
Now we’ll talk a little about the best short styles and how to wear them to create classic, stylish outfits. If you want a versatile option, nothing beats a pair of chino shorts. Good colors include gray, olive khaki, and navy. With those neutral colors, you can pair the shorts with things like a fitted tee and a beige men’s cardigan sweater. For a warmer day or when you want to perfect a dressy/casual look, pair chino shorts with a men’s dress shirt or a V-neck tee. If you're dressing up for a date night with a significant other on a sweltering summer evening, opt for white denim shorts with a light blue button-down shirt. Finish the look with a pair of brown leather oxfords and your favorite pair of sunglasses. This is a fabulous look for the spring and summer seasons and can be worn day or night. If you're on a beach vacation, you can wear swim trunks as shorts and dress up the look by pairing them with a solid color button-down shirt.