Men's shorts for summer: The dos and dont's of baring your knees

How to wear men's shorts: the ultimate guide. (Getty Images)
How to wear men's shorts: the ultimate guide. (Getty Images)

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Perhaps one of the oldest queries in men’s style: should grown men wear shorts? One side of the men’s shorts debate thinks they should be avoided like the plague, reserved for young royals in suits. On the other hand, men’s fashion is sometimes limited as it is, so why not embrace a whole new category?

Whilst some fashion pages might tell you whether you should or shouldn’t wear shorts at a certain event or age, if shorts are your bag no matter the circumstance, who am I to dictate your wardrobe?

However, there are circumstances in which a helping hand and a gentle steer towards what goes into picking the right pair of shorts that suit both you, and the event, is necessary.

So whether you’re a chinos and boat shoes man, or a cargo shorts and sandals kinda guy, this definitive guide to men’s shorts will help you pick the right style for you.

When should men wear shorts?

First things first, if you’re thinking about wearing a pair of shorts for the races, don’t. I know I said I wouldn’t dictate, but the fact of the matter is, you simply won’t be allowed in due to the very strict dress codes.

With that out of the way, we can look at other potential occasions.

Shorts are traditionally a casual garment, which frees up the wearer to move and be comfortable in warmer weather.

Hanging out with friends? Heading to the pub? Going to a private party? You'll do fine in a well-fitted pair of shorts.

You really can't go wrong with a monochrome shorts outfit for summer. (Getty Images)
You really can't go wrong with a monochrome shorts outfit for summer. (Getty Images)

Weddings, on the other hand, are the most dividing of events in terms of men wearing something a bit different in the summer.

Of course, it completely depends on the wedding. A beach-side wedding with the flower girls running barefoot? A fitted pair of linen shorts might work. A church wedding with luxury wedding breakfast? Perhaps not.

The problem is, men baring their legs in a public setting has become a total taboo. Which brings me to whether men should wear shorts in the office.

Have a corporate role where suits are the norm? You would probably be escorted out the building by HR.

But a more relaxed working environment? (Think start-up vibes with free snacks and table tennis tables) It would almost be rude not to, as long as you’re respectful of a certain number of unspoken rules.

How long should men’s shorts be?

Length is by far one of the most important factors in choosing a pair of men’s shorts that are deemed ‘appropriate’.

Short-shorts should really be left to the likes of swimming trunks and sportswear. Likewise, the days of super-long cargo-style shorts have been left in the ‘90s. So where, dear Goldilocks, does that leave us?

Two or three inches above the knee is the ideal length for a pair of men's shorts. (John Lewis)
Two or three inches above the knee is the ideal length for a pair of men's shorts. (John Lewis)

£20 at John Lewis

Two to three inches above the knee puts us perfectly in the sweet spot for men’s shorts. Think about sitting down in them: any longer and they will get caught up on the knee bend; any shorter and the risk of riding into the crotch area is just too high.

How to choose the right fabric for men’s shorts

Cotton and canvas are by far superior material choices for men’s shorts in my humble opinion, keeping the wearer cool and comfortable in the warmer weather.

They’re also easier to structure, so can come in the delightful forms of chino-style shorts and golf shorts, with a traditional fly-zip and button fastening, plus hoops for a belt of your choice.

A pair of linen men's shorts are perfect for keeping cool in the summer. (ASOS)
A pair of linen men's shorts are perfect for keeping cool in the summer. (ASOS)

£26 at ASOS

Linen is also a great choice for summer. The breathable hemp fabric just screams summer, but it does come with a few limitations.

It's much less malleable than conventional cotton, and doesn’t give as much stretch in combination fabrics. So look for a drawstring and zip fastening for ease and longevity.

How to choose the right colour for men’s shorts

As with many men’s trousers, shorts should really be the base to the rest of your outfit. Aim for colours that can be worn with multiple items; you’ll be grateful when one pair of shorts sees you through a few days of outfits on holiday.

Black, deep greys, navies, are all perfect for rooting your outfit, and allowing for a bit more fun on the top half.

On the other hand of the spectrum, pastel shades are also rising in popularity, and for good reason. A light khaki, baby blue, and even a pale pink salmon shade are also brilliant options for summer shorts.

Of course, it does beg the question of what to wear with those shades. Darker versions of the colour (e.g. navy with baby blue) is a safe bet, and you also can’t go wrong with a simple white T-shirt for a well put-together, but still casual, summer look.

Five best men's shorts for summer

Linen Lyocell Shorts | £29.99 (Was £49.99) at Mango

Cotton Rich Stretch Garment Dyed Shorts | £29.50 at M&S

Barbour Roller Shorts | £59.95 at John Lewis

Howick Oakley Slim Chino Shorts | £17 (Was £30) at House of Fraser

Chino Shorts | £70 at Ted Baker