Despite their apparent simplicity and relaxed spirit, few other garments building a gentleman’s essential wardrobe can give rise to such interminable debates as shorts do. Confusion often leads men to steer away from the effortless, refined and comfortable style that should define the shorts choice for summer. From length to cut and from fitting to the palette of colors and patterns, every single detail should be carefully considered. Even personal taste must cater for some rules that are plain unavoidable.

The following guidelines are meant to transform the shopping for shorts as a spring / summer 2013 fashion staple into a less intimidating activity. As they stand for both the modern and the classic appeal, shorts should not be missing from a gentleman’s wardrobe. The only extra step you could take this summer is learning how to wear them right.

mens guide to summer shorts

Men’s shorts: how long should they be?

Shorts are known to prompt all sorts of questions, amongst them the most common one refers strictly to length. So how long should shorts be? Like everything else, the shorts’ length must make you feel comfortable before anything else:

  • If you have any insecurities or you happen to be a guy characterized by modesty, opt for a longer look, like just above the knee. Anything longer than that and you will enter a different territory, as everything past the knees ceases to be shorts
  • Going an inch or two above the knee is another nice way of sporting shorts, while also showing a little bit of thigh
  • The shortest version shouldn’t go higher than the mid-thigh and works especially if you’re 6’1″ or under, however beware of the extremes

From left to right: Junya Watanabe – Houndstooth Check Cotton Shorts at Mr.Porter; Theory – Zaine Kino Shorts at Barneys NY; Orlebar Brown – Scotty Slim-Fit Tailored Denim Shorts at Mr. Porter;

How loose should your shorts be?

The fit is pretty much a matter of taste as it should reflect your personal aesthetic. With that being said you can always treat shorts the way you treat your regular pants:

  • Avoid baggy shorts unless you want to make your butt and thighs look big/bigger
  • Avoid loose shorts if you don’t have muscular legs as they will appear very thin by comparison
  • Stick with a slim-fit, featuring straight legs down to the top of the knees as it’s the most flattering fit of them all
  • Keep away from anything that is too tight especially if it’s also ultra-short

From left to right: Boss Black – Regular Fit Shorts at Harrods; Ami – Straight-Leg Linen Shorts at Mr.Porter; Barneys New York CO-OP – Slim Fit Twill Shorts at BarneysNY

Men’s shorts: the basic colours

From traditional to bold and eye-catching, colors have a great deal of influence over the general mood exuded by your summer shorts. Keeping things classy and conventional, solid colors such as tan, khaki, white and navy represent a safe bet, thus being the usually preference expressed by guys.

From left to right, top to bottom: J.Crew – Stanton Cotton-Twill Shorts at Mr.Porter; Slowear – Incotex Slim-Fit Cotton-Seersucker Shorts at Mr.Porter; Folk – Tomaz Short at Folkclothing; Old Navy – Men’s Slim-Fit Shorts at Old Navy

For a brighter and louder look, ditch the navy and white shorts for eye-catching shades of yellow, dusted pink, teal or royal blue. Don’t be afraid to sport some color as long as you keep your look polished.

From left to right, top to bottom: Polo Ralph Lauren – Hudson cotton shorts at; Toddland Shorts at Swell; J.Crew – Stanton Cotton-Twill Shorts at Mr. Porter; Old Navy – Men’s Broken-In Shorts at Old Navy

Prints & patterns.

Where bright colors fail to make a statement, leave it to the extra-loud patterns and prints to make a bigger and better impression:

  • Choose plaid and checks for a modern take on preppy
  • Stick with stripes for a timeless yet very much on trend rendition
  • Gain extra-style points by choosing something on the adventurous side, such as a lively bird print
  • Do consider sporting the new camouflage for summer for an extra tough look
  • Keep the Hawaiian inspired shorts exclusively for beach getaways

From left to right, top to bottom: Carven – Patterned Shorts at Farfetch; Ami – Bird-Print Cotton-Twill Shorts at Mr. Porter; Kenzo – Leopard Camo Print Cotton Shorts at Nordstrom; Topman – Navy Jungle Mid Shorts at Topman

Extra tips for the perfect men’s shorts.

  • Do consider wearing multi-purpose shorts, such as the stylishly tailored swimwear from Orlebar Brown, which will take you from the pool to the streets without needing to get changed (but at least get dry)
  • Dress shoes, as well as traditional wingtips or desert shoes, can be worn with a tailored pair but not so much with the baggy styles
  • Other shoes to wear with shorts are the boat shoes, loafers, driving moccasins, canvas sneakers, slip-on plimsolls and sandals
  • Skip the socks with shorts if you’re pairing them to sandals, boaters or loafers but remember that shorts worn with closed-toed shoes look best with ankle socks
  • Consider fabrics like linen, chino, madras and seersucker for your shorts but avoid denim and nylon
  • Style the shorts with shirts that are on the shorter side, so you can untuck them with ease when you sit
  • Collared short-sleeve shirts are usually the best choice for a casual shorts look
  • Stay away from cargo pockets, pleats and any dangly details
  • Look for tailored finishes, just as you would longer trousers

If you want to know more about what’s in for men come summer, then head to our spring 2013 fashion trends guide at that link.

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