Now that the weather has gotten sufficiently warm, I thought it would be important to discuss a clothing item that will no doubt be indispensable for many of us for the next several months – a pair of shorts.
Believe it or not, but for much of the 19th and early 20th century shorts were something only schoolboys would wear. In Europe (specifically the UK), shorts were a part of schoolboy’s uniform and were only swapped out for a pair of trousers once the boy had reached a certain age (usually around puberty).
It wasn’t until around World War II did adult men begin to wear shorts more routinely – typically as a part of their uniform when fighting in tropical locations. Even still, the perception of shorts only being for young boys took many decades to change. Even now, there are still style purists who believe that men should never wear a pair of shorts into the city. Of course, we know better!
The reality is that a pair of well-fitting shorts can be a great addition to any man’s wardrobe. For men with well built physiques, a pair of shorts can do a masterful job of highlighting all of our hard work in the squat rack. While on the other hand, for guys who may be lacking in leg development a pair of shorts can be a wonderful motivational tool. Whatever the case may be, we fully endorse men wearing shorts!
With that said, it’s important to understand the single, most important rule when it comes to wearing shorts.
The Golden Rule
The most important rule to remember when wearing shorts is to ensure that they hit you at or above the knee. Depending on the length of your legs this usually means shorts with an inseam around 9 inches. If you want to show off a little more thigh, then a pair of shorts with a 7 inch inseam would work well (even a 5 inch inseam can be an option for some). Anything longer than a 9-10 inch inseam usually means that your shorts will hit you below the knee. This is not ideal for a couple of reasons:
- From the standpoint of aesthetics it looks sloppy. It’s the equivalent of wearing a t-shirt or polo with sleeves that run past your elbows. In both cases the extra material hides any shape or definition you may have in your extremities. Remember, there’s no sense in spending hours in the gym every week only to cover up your hard work with baggy, ill-fitting clothes.
- For men of average height and below, shorts that run past your knees make you look shorter! This is because shorts that run long throw off the natural proportions of your body and make your legs look stubbier than they are. That’s why it’s important to wear shorts that fit you correctly because they can give you the appearance of being taller than you are by elongating the leg. It’s the same reason why men of below average height are typically advised to wear trousers with little to no break.
What about board shorts? Those are shorts that go past the knees!
In North America it is very popular for guys to wear board shorts as a piece of casual wear during the summer months. Personally, I don’t think this is a flattering look as it seems to be another instance of sportswear being substituted for everyday casual wear that has become all too common. You have to remember that board shorts were initially designed for aquatic sports (e.g. surfing) and were never meant to be worn casually. In this case, if you are at the beach to do a little surfing, skim boarding, jet skiing etc. then by all means throw on a pair of board shorts. But if you are planning on meeting some friends to hit up a patio for drinks, wear proper shorts.
Special note for guys with muscular legs
For guys with more muscular legs, I highly recommend you look for shorts that are in a “classic cut.” Believe it or not, but these shorts will actually fit you much like a pair of slim shorts would on a regular guy. The other option would be to select a pair of “slim” shorts that are 1-2 sizes larger in the waist. This will give you more room in the seat and the thigh but you will have to get the waist taken in.
How to Wear
Shorts can be paired with just about anything including t-shirts, polos, button up shirts, etc. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend wearing a tie or tailored jacket with a pair of shorts. There are men out there who do this (and some do it well), but as someone who is just getting their feet wet with improving their style there is no need for you to swing for the fences on your first at bat.
In terms of dressing up a pair of shorts, I recommend pairing them with a nice button up shirt (sleeves rolled), a leather belt, and either a boat shoe, penny loafer, or driving moccasin (sans socks). I would also keep a light v-neck sweater or cardigan on hand if you know the evening will be a little bit on the cooler side.
When it comes to dressing down a pair of shorts, it’s pretty easy. A basic t-shirt or polo with a pair of canvas sneakers (sans socks) will generally do the trick. If you want to mix it up a little, swap out the t-shirt or polo for a short sleeved button up or popover and a pair of boat shoes.
When it comes to patterns and colours I recommend keeping things pretty basic. Navy, grey, and khaki are all simple colours that will be easiest to pair with most of your wardrobe. If you want to branch out into some of the brighter shades my only recommendation is to keep whatever you wear on top more muted. For example, if you intend on wearing a pair of canary yellow shorts it probably wouldn’t be the best move to combine them with a bright red t-shirt. Instead, you’d probably have better luck with a basic white t-shirt. The same rule applies with patterned shorts. If you decide to wear a pair of patterned shorts (e.g. camo, madras etc.) then keep whatever you wear on top more simple in design.
Now that summer is just around the corner you will want to do your best to beat the heat with a pair of shorts. Just remember to follow the advice laid out in this article in order to ensure that you do so in style. Because a well fitting pair of shorts will not keep you cool as the mercury rises, but they will also make you look good.
Here’s to looking sharp!