Whether you are tall or short, lean or muscular, there is a comfortable pair of shorts out there for you. It might sound rather foreign to some of you to have to select the correct type of shorts for your body type. Some of you might think, “Can we just simply grab any color in any style of short that’s being sold at any store and simply call it a day?” We highly recommend not falling into this and promise you there is a better way than simply grabbing anything and throwing it on.
How to Find the Best Shorts for Your Style & Body Type
Here’s the thing, everyone on Earth has their own unique body type and when you discover yours, you’ll find that shopping is a much more pleasurable experience and it’s much easier to style yourself. To help you better understand how to discover your ideal style of short, we’re going to be covering five key components: fit, length, color, material, and style.
What’s The Ideal Fit?
It is very important that you pay attention to the fit of the shorts that you decide to wear. The reason is, the way clothing sits on a person helps determine the kind of perception others may have of them even before that person even opens their mouth to speak a word. Let’s take a look at three different fit options to help you better understand what to stay away from when shopping for shorts.
This issue tends to be able to be noticed more when the shorts are also quite long. The main issue here is that there is an overall lack of shape and if you happen to be someone who has very thin legs to begin with, the disparity between the leg opening of the shorts and your thin legs will be enhanced that much more. Very often, people like to associate wearing something loose as a means of masking they’re very thin frame. In reality, this actually has the opposite effect, and they often look quite smaller than before. You can learn more about this concept and our style guide for the slim man video.
Baggy cargo shorts are probably one of the worst offenders in this loose category. Not only are their leg openings far too wide, they also have extra added bulk from the large pockets and whatever you decide to jam in there.
The next area we want to cover is having shorts that are far too tight. I’ll go ahead and admit it myself, I have been a repeated offender of this as well. This mistake is very easy to make especially in today’s world where it’s very easy to see that slim fit is often the standard being presented everywhere.
So, keep in mind that depending on how you are shaped it might be very easy or very difficult to actually see when something is too tight. The key here is to make sure that you take a look in the mirror and check for excessive pull lines, especially near the pocket region and by your thighs. And also, when you look in the mirror, if it looks like your main center button or clasp-like enclosure is crying out for mercy, you might want to either adjust your size up or at least adjust the fit to help you find something that’s a little bit more comfortable.
This is what we really want to shoot for: the just right category. Having your shorts fit just right is the ultimate goal, but what does that look like? Now that we know exactly what to not do, it’s important to pay attention to how your body moves and operates in certain fabrics and designs.
For example, I tend to carry some weight near my waist and upper thigh region, so I tend to stay away from things that are listed as too skinny, especially if there is zero stretch at it. That is usually quite uncomfortable. However, my legs from my knees to my ankles actually look a little bit slimmer, so wearing anything that’s too long or too loose looks equally as ridiculous. In the warm summer months, I usually choose to wear cotton-based shorts that have added stretch for extra comfort and a moderately slim fit. This allows one to stay comfortable and not look too sloppy, regardless of whatever the casual setting I might be in.
When you’re first learning about how to figure out what fit is going to work best for you, it’s best to try on as many different fit options as you can possibly get your hands on, but always try to find something that is both comfortable and fairly timeless for you. Also, when you’re at the store if you find a pair of shorts that you seem to like but that are really listed as relaxed or loose or slim or skinny, try asking a salesperson for some assistance. Go ahead and take a look at the rest of the store’s presentations about how they advertise their clothing. You might start to notice a bit of a trend. Some might look quite loose and relaxed, while other extremely skinny and almost spray-painted on the mannequins.
Shorts also listed with a traditional waist size like a 32 or 34 will also be helpful. It’s very important to address the wider portions of your physique first and then you can start paying attention to things like length, material, and color.
A few great places to shop for some great timeless short options would be Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic, J.Crew, and Ralph Lauren. Now that we’ve discovered your ideal fit, let’s move on to finding the ideal length for your body type.
What Is The Ideal Length?
Different lengths and shorts will be appropriate for different occasions. Different lengths will say different things, so be mindful of it.
1. The 11-inch Length
This is a much more conservative length and is usually best to be worn by someone who’s well over 6-feet tall.
2. The 9-inch Length
This is usually my personal go-to. This length is quite the sweet spot for many men who happen to be between 5’9″ and about 6’1″. That’s like this conservative enough but still quite timeless. You won’t look like you’re wearing three-quarter workout pants but you also won’t be exposing too much skin.
3. The 7-inch Length
This is a length that many, but not all, preppy guys will opt to wear. A casual look and a greater amount of exposed skin will not work for everybody, but still a viable option for a lot of guys.
4. The 5-inch Length
This length is ideal for men who are well under 5’10”. Let’s get to remember that the shorter the shorts, the longer you start to make your legs look. If you already have quite long legs and you decide to wear 5-inch shorts or anything shorter, you start to look a little bit unbalanced.
5. The 3-inch Length
We don’t know how many are actually sold and it’s been a while since we’ve seen them, but they are out there. This length is usually seen on bathing suits or athletic shorts but they’re also available on a casual short option as well.
Remember, the key is to make sure that the length and fit match your body type. Keep in mind that when discovering what length looks best on you and your body type, using your height alone is usually not the best determining factor to only use when choosing one versus another.
For example, let’s say, we have two friends who happen to both be the exact same height. At 5′ 9″, it’s very easy to assume that they both wear the exact same length in their shorts. However, in this situation, that is not true. Why? Because one friend has a longer torso with shorter legs while the other friend has a shorter torso with longer legs.
If another person happened to be shopping for both of these friends and was not paying attention to these differences, they would both find themselves looking extremely different in both of these shorts even though they’re both wearing the exact same size. This kind of rule of thumb is also very important to remember when shopping even for suits, shirts, and even pants.
Please keep in mind that not all lengths will look ideal on all body types. Having a length that falls just above the knee is the most timeless and conservative. It’s also very important to remember that fashion is cyclical. Shorter shorts have actually been considered “in” for the last 10 years or so, most likely to counteract the longer and baggier styles from the late 90s into the 2000s. However, shooting for a short cut just above the knee is always going to be a safe bet.
What’s The Ideal Material?
There is a wide array of different material options for you to choose from when selecting something for your shorts. When shopping around, you might start to learn that different designers and manufacturers will use more of one particular material or material blend than another brand. The more you start experimenting with different brands and styles, the more you’re gonna start to learn what material or material blend will look best for you and your personal style. Some of the more commonly used materials or material blends are:
Easily one of the most commonly used fabrics in clothing, using cotton to create shorts as quickly and fairly inexpensive depending on the quality of the cotton being used.
Linen comes from a long history dating back well over 30,000 years. Linen was made from fibers of the flax plant, it is strong and absorbent. Today, linen is enjoyed as a breezy and relaxed style and everything from suits, shirts, and of course, shorts. Linen’s ability to dry faster than cotton makes it the popular choice. Keep in mind linen has a natural wrinkle.
Some of you might be envisioning the equivalent here of biker shorts and you wouldn’t be wrong but there are other uses for the spandex material as well. The spandex is often combined in various quantities with other fabrics to create a specific amount of give or stretch. In other words, you’re not going to find 100% spandex shorts outside of perhaps, athletic wear.
Polyester is a synthetic fiber, sometimes it is combined with the natural fabrics or fibers to create a cloth with different properties. In general, we recommend staying away from polyester. Other than the small amounts of heat and odor it holds, it doesn’t wick moisture and wrinkles unattractively. It may also wear out more quickly than natural fibers.
Denim being used as a base for a pair of shorts or jorts isn’t new, however, it does look extremely casual, and jorts have a bit of a pent stylish reputation, to say the least. Cut-off denim shorts were incredibly popular in the 1970s into the 1990s but unless you’re wearing them to Coachella, it’s best to leave them in your closet.
One that’s quite popular is the cotton and polyester blend. This blend is strong and much more wrinkle and tear-resistant than cotton alone. This blend is also going to help you in terms of shrinkage resistance. A few other very popular fabric combinations happen to include cotton and linen, cotton and spandex, and polyester, and spandex.
What About Patterns?
The ever-popular seersucker is actually a patterned weave fabric. It was originally used in the United States for a broad array of different garments. Seersucker is also known as a railroad stripe. It was all cotton and usually warm with stripes but can also be found as a checkered pattern as well. A fun fact — the word seersucker came into English from the Persian words shear and shakar meaning milk and sugar.
Madras is a lightweight cotton fabric with a patterned texture. The word madras actually is the former name of the city of Chennai in India. Madras is easily recognizable from popular styles. There are also other types within the category, like madras plaid and patchwork madras, which we cover comprehensively in our madras guide.
Other pattern options would include a pinstripe, a plaid, or even a print. If you’re just starting out, it’s best to stick to solid colors that are quite neutral, and then down the road maybe you can start introducing the occasional pattern. Solid colors tend to be much easier to filter into your wardrobe.
A few other weaves that you might find when shopping around for shorts happen to include jacquard, jersey knit, twill, or an embroidered pair of shorts as well.
Foundational Shorts Colors
Depending on what the manufacturer’s dye is like, the navy blue in question might look almost black or almost like a bright royal blue. The ideal navy color that we’re looking for is neither too dark nor too bright, and it’s interchangeable with a variety of different shoe and shirt options.
Sometimes it looks more grey, sometimes it looks more brown, but it’s a neutral color nonetheless and if you can’t find or simply don’t care for this color, we recommend checking out a taupe or a cream shade as well.
As functional and as versatile as khaki is, I see that sometimes, many people find it quite polarizing. Some find the ease of manipulating khaki into so many different outfits fantastic. Other people find that color to be quite a trigger reminding them of their school dress code days. Whichever side of the aisle you land on, just know that you can’t go wrong with having at least one pair of khaki shorts in your wardrobe. They are simple and effortlessly timeless.
Going Beyond the Basic Colors
Do you already have all of the foundational colors? If so, consider adding some of the following to mix up your wardrobe. We have passed out blue for a very breezy feel. There’s also olive green for something that’s a little bit more unique than having a khaki pair of shorts, or perhaps even adding a pink for something that’s a bit more bold.
Of course, there are many other colors we could’ve listed here, however, these colors are fairly timeless and offer you at the ability of being able to create multiple outfits without feeling tempted by the entire store’s offerings.
Popular Shorts Styles
As you might have imagined, just as there are many color options or also a lot of style options made available to you when selecting your ideal shorts, there are also popular style options.
These tend to sit a little bit lower on your waist unless you’re intentionally buying a pair that has a higher rise.
Pleated shorts tend to sit a little bit higher on your waist. These shorts are a much more traditional approach compared to the flat front short. They might look a bit stodgy but they do have their place. If the fit on these pleated shorts is flattering, we would consider them.
As we mentioned before, cargo shorts are increasingly out of style and for good reason, cargo shorts are often baggy, bunchy, and weighed down by items and their endless pockets. Best to remember to steer clear of the style unless you are camping and truly need the extra storage.
The Bermuda shorts are also known as walk or dress shorts. These shorts are seen as a semi-casual option that can be worn by either men or even women. Bermuda shorts happened to air on the longer end of the short length spectrum. We dig deeper into this, and many other short styles and their history in our guide to men’s shorts.
It might feel very overwhelming to try to find those ideal shorts. There are so many options being made available — different colors, different lengths, different material options to consider. Some people would rather throw their hands up and say I’m not even gonna bother trying. When you feel frustrated, it’s important to remember those five things that we learned about today: fit, length, color, style, and material, and your next shopping experience will be much more pleasurable.