Looking sharp when the temps rise during the summer months means finding shorts that not only look cool but actually fit. I’ve always struggled finding clothes. I’m not the tallest guy in the world— 5’6” on a good day—so finding pants and shorts that don’t look like they’re drowning me is tough.
Keep reading below....but if you want to check out the video version of this story, click here.
To further illustrate what I'm working with, my ideal inseam for jeans is somewhere in the 26” neighborhood. It’s fair to say that I have short legs. We’re not here to cry about things we can’t change so let’s figure out how to get the look we want and like how we feel in our clothes.
Before we get too much further, I want to make clear that I am not advocating a particular fit, style or look in general for every guy, but instead, how you can look at the clothes available to you to make better decisions and know if they will lead toward your desired look or not. I will be using myself as an example and how my personal preferences influence the specifics and measurements of the shorts I ultimately choose.
What’s that, you don’t have a desired look? No worries, that’s the fun part. The sky's the limit, with no right answers. I personally use a couple of tools to help get inspired and evaluate whether it actually works on me or not. Here’s the gist of it:
Take pictures. Let's say you like the look of a pair of extra long denim cut-off shorts paired with a slim fighting tee and you found a similar outfit on the internet, bought it and now are ready to rock the town in it.
Before you take the tags off, snap a pic of yourself from a few angles. It’s best from a bit of a distance and not a selfie so get someone to help or a tripod with bluetooth remote shutter will work too (both can be found for super cheap online).
Look at the pictures asking yourself “Does this work for me the way I wanted it to?” I find it can be hard to accurately evaluate myself in the mirror so a few pics at a distance from a few angles really help. The point of this isn’t to come to a right versus wrong conclusion, but rather to learn what works for you and what doesn't.
The Finer Points of Shorts
Good enough for now. Let’s get back to figuring out how to find kick-ass shorts. First, let’s go over some of the different short components so we can understand how the “good fit” happens. There are a couple of points of measurement that influence the way a garment fits. For shorts, the main points are:
- Total length
- Leg opening/thigh
I’ve noticed some shorts are starting to list what their inseam length is, which is awesome, but it’s not the whole picture. The other factors we have to look at are the total length, the rise of the shorts and the thigh or leg opening. For example, you could have a pair of shorts that lists the inseam at 6”, but when you try them on, they go way further down your leg and are super baggy.
Let’s use some real life examples to make all this more meaningful. These two examples all look pretty similar. But let’s grab a flat tape and see how they measure.
Let’s now look at what those measurements mean and how they impact fit.
Not to be too obvious, but the longer shorts look longer. It's at this point where we can compare our results with the ideal look we are going for. We can ask ourselves some questions.
- Would a shorter or longer total length work better on me?
- Would a slimmer leg opening make me look slimmer by removing extra bulk from the shorts?
- Can I move around in a normal way without feeling pulling or unwanted tightness?
Tips on the Points of Measure for You
- You have short legs. I am in this camp, and I find I like the way a pair of shorts looks best when the total length is between 15" and 16" with an inseam between 6-7". For me, I feel the longer the shorts are, the shorter I look.
- Normal or longer legs. It seems that folks in this category have a lot of flexibility in the length. You can go below the knee, slightly above or a couple inches above. It really comes down to what length matches your ideal look.
- Thick legs. This may result in a slimmer fit from what would be a relaxed or loose fit on others. How slim you go is up to you. What are you comfortable with? And what allows you to move with ease and still look how you want?
- Slim upper body. I lean more to the huskier side, so this isn't something I have to work with, but if it was, I would want my shorts to be more tailored and slim fitting so my torso didn't look extra small. I would seek to find a balance between the tops and bottoms I wore.
- Bigger belly. Stretch or elastic waist banded shorts may help give you the flexibility you need to be comfortable. I personally really dislike when the button closure of my pants/shorts digs into my belly.
My point is not to tell you what’s right for you, but instead to share some tools and tips to help you evaluate what you like best and what helps you achieve the look you want. When I wear shorts, I like a clean, casual look. I prefer clothes that aren’t baggy so I lean toward slim fit items with a little stretch to them for comfort. My ideal summer look is one that is put together and manages to be approachable and casual.
Do you have some tips that I left out that have helped you? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below.