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The Gent’s Guide to Shorts

Shorts first began to rise in the 1950s due to much encouragement from the trendsetters of Hollywood, California.  But shorts for everyday wear are a relatively new spectacle in our world. Before our time, shorts were reserved for young boys in the summertime and for men practicing certain types of athletics. Shorts have now become an acceptable piece of casual menswear, but when and how can you wear them like a gentleman?

First, shorts should only be worn when there is a good reason – high temps, or the right location or environment. A picnic with the family, a day trip to the beach, outdoor sports, and recreation are all perfect examples of shorts-appropriate events. Shorts should never be worn at formal events or when conducting business – even if it’s done outdoors over a game of golf.

How can you find the perfect pair of shorts?

Look for shorts that come to or partially cover your knee when you are standing up. Avoid anything that is 2-3 inches above your knee. When you get into mid-thigh length things get a little…uncomfortable. If you go past your kneecap you wind up wearing what are more akin to man-capris than shorts. Takeaway tip: The best men’s shorts are no more than 2” above and 1” below your kneecap.

It should be noted that if you are wearing athletic shorts, particularly the lightweight, running variety, you can get away with wearing mid-thigh length shorts. However, these shorts should be used only when working out, not when running errands or socializing in casual settings.

When buying shorts it is important to consider the cut of the shorts. Since shorts cover only from the knees up, they add bulk to the upper half of your leg. The baggier your shorts are, the bigger your butt and thighs will look, and the smaller your calves will look.

Shorts with a slimmer cut will give your legs a bit of shape without hugging them like spandex. They should fit like a nice pair of pants, only cut off at the knees. When it comes to pockets, cargo shorts are great for hiking or working outside, but should be left to rest when it comes to social settings.

Basic acceptable shorts colors are tan, khaki, white, navy, olive green and off-white. Picking a brighter color, such as a light blue, light green, red, or even a plaid print, can make shorts the centerpiece of your outfit. If choose to wear more eye-catching shorts, make sure you balance the look out with at least a polo shirt. In general, shorts can be paired with more causal shirts – with the best choices being of the collared short-sleeved variety. Skip the t-shirt – while it may be appropriate in casual settings, it certainly isn’t your best style choice.

Good fabric choices for shorts are madras, seersucker, chino and linen, all of which breathe comfortable and won’t be too hot. Avoid denim and nylon like the plague.

If you’re still unsure of how to buy and wear men’s shorts, check out this handy visual guide from Primer’s.

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Ben Davis

About Ben Davis

A serial entrepreneur, Ben Davis is founder of The Gents Place and a leading investor in gentlemen's refinement and confidence.

Ha! I agree with you on nylon shorts (why?) but disagree with denim. Denim shorts have actually made a good comeback the last couple years. You have to be careful what you wear them with, but they do work.

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