Men’s Shorts: How to Make Them Work for You

With so many men donning shorts as soon as the weather permits, it’s hard to imagine that they were once out of the question for city wear. This indicates how relatively casual society and fashion have become. But casual can still be smart, as opposed to sloppy and unflattering. Many men who would happily live in shorts could use a few tips on how to avoid the latter. The goal is to be comfortable and stylish. And yes, sexy.

As with pants in general, the length and fit of shorts are most important. While there are probably more length options in men’s shorts than ever, not every man looks his best in every length and cut, and some styles should be shunned altogether. In general, too short a length suggests active sportswear, while too long and/or baggy can look just plain dorky. It’s remarkable the difference a couple of inches can make. Just like pants length, shorts length is measured by the inseam, i.e., how far down they extend from the crotch. An 8” inseam is a pretty dependable length for a man of average height, being 5’10” for Americans. Men under 5’8” can go to 7″. Those under 5’6″ or who are comfortable and in shape enough to feature a bit more thigh can go as short as 5″. Men 6’ feet tall or who simply like a longer length can go to 9”, and so on. Generally, anywhere from two a few inches above the knee works for most men, while anything shorter is best relegated to the beach, gym or boudoir. If you are older, more conservative or self-conscious about your legs, Bermuda shorts are an option. They should just hit the knee and not below. Note that the more relaxed fit of Bermudas works best with a more tailored, tucked-in shirt to balance the proportions.

Asides from wearing shorts that are too long, men should avoid wearing them too wide. Unless you have very thick legs, look for “slim fit” shorts or have your baggy ones tailored. The general rule is to avoid their being wider at the bottom than at the top. That trapezoidal shape makes for an unflattering silhouette and stick-figure legs. Shorts should taper with the line of your body. That doesn’t mean they should be tight, but fitted and comfortable with a bit of between them and your skin – no more than an inch or two. Hems are a matter of style preference, so long as they follow the tailored fit of the shorts, and don’t look bunched or flared.

Here are a few more pointers:

  • No pleated shorts – unless you’re on the golf course.
  • No athletic shorts unless you’re at the gym or actually doing something athletic.
  • No cargo or carpenter shorts unless you’re on the job.
  • No oversized pockets, logos or hardware
  • No long hanging strings, frays or distressing.
  • Yes, board shorts are awesome, but not for the city.
  • Jean shorts are borderline. If you like them, make sure they look tailored and neat.

Whether khakis, brightly colored or printed, shorts should always look clean and crisp. That certainly doesn’t preclude upbeat and sexy. Keeping the style emphasis on the fit gives you a lot more leeway. Shorts today being available in the spectrum of colors, pick ones that you know can easily wear and coordinate. Prints also can be very cool, and Madras prints especially are classic. Again, choose colors that either blend or pop nicely with your shirts and Tees. When in doubt, a button-down white shirt always works with any print or color shorts.

If you find bargain priced, baggy-style shorts that you love, have them tailored. For $15-$25 it will be worth it. Just remember that while the length and fit can be tailored, and the waist tapered an inch or two, the seat and crotch cannot, and need to fit from the start or the shorts will look end up looking ridiculous after altering.

Most important of all, keep your legs in shape, and shorts will look all the better on you.