Why 2024 Is the Year Guys Learned to Love Big Shorts (Again)

Summer is not without its nuisances: allergies, insects, and the low-rise, thigh-hugging cotton shorts that many men live in between June and August.

These less-than-slightly specimens are essentially a shortened version of the slim-fitting, flat-front chinos that have dominated men’s closets for well over a decade. But as that silhouette has been increasingly challenged by the ascent of higher-rise, wide-legged trousers with the once verboten pleat, so has its truncated form. The nascent summer season has already seen a prime batch of pleated shorts cut with longer rises and room to breathe from Polo Ralph Lauren, Loro Piana, and many other brands.

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Seemingly ahead of the trend was cult Swedish brand Rubato, which debuted its double-pleated Country Club short in the spring of 2021, when loosely cut options were still a rarity.

Rubato's Country Club shorts may have presaged the current trend; they debuted in 2021.
Rubato’s Country Club shorts may have presaged the current trend; they debuted in 2021.

“When we first launched the CC short four years ago, we did so because we could not find anything on the market that we ourselves wanted to wear,” says Rubato co-founder Carl Pers, who enjoys wearing the boxy style with the label’s lightweight knits or linen work shirts.

But the field has since tilted in Pers’s favor, as evidenced by new releases from major designers such as Todd Snyder, whose line now touts a double-pleated officer short with a five-inch inseam and a longer rise.

“The menswear pendulum has swung back to softly tailored pieces with a relaxed fit, reminiscent of the ‘80s,” Snyder tells Robb Report. “When it’s the height of summer, people want to wear shorts that instantly elevate their style, and more tailored designs with pleats or self-belted waists achieve just that.”

Such shorts are clearly a throwback; the debate may be just how far back the time machine goes.

Buck Mason's Larsen shorts are inspired by styles from the 1940s, '50s, and '60s.
Buck Mason’s Larsen shorts are inspired by styles from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s.

“We select our styles and fit intention based on vintage clothing from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s—a time period which we consider the ‘Golden Era’ of menswear,” says Buck Mason associate design director Wyatt Kaufmann. When speaking of the laidback label’s Larsen short—a high-rise, fuller-fitting model with a single reverse pleat—he references the menswear pantheon of Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and Alain Delon, who each wore similar styles.

“We find they look best with loafers or canvas deck shoes and either a camp shirt or knit polo,” he advises mere mortals.

But for all this talk of fuller, higher-waisted pleated shorts looking good, it’s key that they feel good, too. “The more relaxed fit is better suited to various body types and preferences,” Kaufmann adds. “Pleats add mobility, and a higher rise gives them a more classic appearance.”

Further co-signing their comfort and versatility is Sunspel’s creative director David Telfer, who says of the English maker’s single-pleated twill shorts, “In general a higher-waist short is more flattering, and the single pleat and looser leg give ease of movement while still looking smart.”

Todd Snyder's officer shorts are designed to look sharp and feel comfortable at the height of summer's heat.
Todd Snyder’s officer shorts are designed to look sharp and feel comfortable at the height of summer’s heat.

If 2024’s big-chino short has a father, it may be the double-pleated Tyler short that was once sold by Polo Ralph Lauren and is today widely available on secondhand markets including eBay. Brian Davis, founder of online vintage reseller Wooden Sleepers, regularly trades in models from the ’90s and aughts, and extols the virtues of its “massive” 13” leg opening.

“You don’t want your short shaped like a carrot,” he tells Robb Report. “You want it to just kind of go straight down, so that you have that nice breathing room and comfort when it’s 90 degrees and sweltering.”

In contrast to the current conversation surrounding men’s shorts online—which is fixated on inseam length—Davis encourages men to instead think in horizontal terms, noting that the “proper” inseam varies with height.

“What’s going to make you feel best is what’s going to look the best. In general, the trend has been moving to fuller cuts with more room, more drape, and more fabric, whether that’s at a short length that hits you at the top of the knee, at the knee, above the knee, or at the thigh—that’s really up to you.”

Just don’t waste time figuring out what makes sense in your wardrobe. After all, summer is short.

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