Who wears short shorts? We do. And, hopefully, so do you!
This in-depth guide is all about how to wear shorts, with an emphasis on the shorter build (under 5’10” or so). Of course, this info is really applicable to any man who wants to look and feel great in shorts.
Whether you’re wearing chino shorts, tech shorts, denim shorts, athletic shorts or swim trunks, the same basic rules apply (with some exceptions, such as running shorts or compression shorts).
Good fit is good fit, and if your shorts fit properly, you’re going to look great. If they don’t, you run the risk of looking like a teenager from the 90s (trust me, I was one myself) or like a cliche tourist on summer vacation.
Most men wear shorts that are too big and baggy for their body, which is why the majority of this guide will focus on fit.
How Shorts Should Fit
Compared to jackets, shirts or pants, shorts are very simple garments. It’s not too hard to figure out how shorts should fit, but it does take some effort to actually buy and wear the right shorts.
Let’s start at the top…
Just like with your pants, shorts should fit comfortably and snugly around your waist. Ideally, you won’t need a belt to hold your shorts up.
We still recommend wearing one if your shorts have belt loops, but you shouldn’t need to cinch it so tightly that the waistband folds over and bunches up on itself. This excess fabric leads to discomfort and is a sure sign that your shorts are too big in the waist.
On the other hand, your shorts shouldn't be so tight that you have trouble buttoning them. You shouldn’t feel restricted as you walk, climb stairs or sit down. If that’s the case, the shorts are likely too small for you.
Rise is the distance from the top of the front waistband (top of the belt in the front) to the top of the back waistband (top of the belt in the back). This is typically divided into two measurements: front rise and back rise.
For reference, here's how you measure front rise (it's the same process for the back):
Just like pants, shorts come with different types of rises. Low rise shorts have a shorter rise and are therefore meant to be worn below your natural waist on your hip bones.
Higher rise shorts have a longer rise and are meant to be worn above your hips at your natural waist (usually a few inches below your navel).
Some very high rise shorts are meant to be worn even higher up near your belly button, but this is more common with contemporary womenswear and vintage menswear.
We recommend avoiding trends and sticking with a mid-rise shorts that sit right around your actual waist (usually the widest part of your belly).
Your hips are measured around the widest part of your butt. Most men have hips that are about five inches wider than their waist.
To follow the shape of our bodies, shorts (like pants) are wider in the hips than the waist. You want to avoid shorts that are too wide in the hips because they’ll look saggy in the rear - not a great look.
Of course, you also want to avoid shorts that are too tight around the hips, as this will hinder mobility and cause discomfort. Men with bigger hips (we’re looking at you, hockey stars and squat lovers) often find that most shorts are too tight around the hips, even if they fit in the waist.
It’s crucial that your shorts aren’t too tight in the hips, so size up if you have too. The waist can always be cinched with a belt or alteration.
The Thigh & Leg Opening
Just like pants, shorts shouldn’t be too tight or too baggy through the thigh. Regardless of what’s trendy - super baggy or ultra skinny - a nice fitted pair of shorts will always look great.
Think of the silhouette your shorts create. If they’re too wide at the opening, they create a trapezoid shape. This is kind of like the shorter version of bell bottoms or bootcut pants.
We don’t want this shape. It swallows up your legs and throws off all of your proportions. In fact, we want the opposite shape.
If your shorts sit closer to your body and follow the actual shape of your leg, you’ll have more of an upside down trapezoid, which is a much more athletic, flattering silhouette.
We’re not saying your shorts have to be tight around your thighs and legs. If they’re too tight, they’ll grab onto your legs when you sit down and stand up - not a good thing.
But they should be fitted so that they follow the natural curve of your lower body.
How long should your shorts be? This is probably the most contentious and misunderstood part of wearing shorts, and we believe that the vast majority of men wear shorts that are simply too long.
Here’s the bottom line: your shorts shouldn’t go past your knees.
Wearing shorts that go past your knees is a very youthful look, and not in a good way (in our opinion). It’s also not very functional, as the excess length makes moving around more difficult, and it diminishes the cooling effect you get with shorts when it’s hot outside.
Just look at swimming trunks. Is it easy to run in and out of the water with soaking wet, baggy board shorts that go four inches past your knees? No way! They get all tangled up and become a tripping hazard. There’s a reason competitive swimmers wear tight trunks and speedos, right?
We think shorts should end just above the knee or a little higher. If you want to go a few inches above the knee, that’s totally fine too.
For most guys, this means no longer than 9” shorts. Many men, especially not-so-tall guys, look best in 7” shorts. Guys under 5’7” can definitely rock 5” shorts, no problem.
Which Kinds of Shorts to Avoid
Wearing big, long, baggy shorts will make a shorter, smaller man look even shorter and smaller. Bulky cargo shorts have the same effect.
It’s all about scale. Most cargo shorts have huge pockets that sort of dwarf the smaller frame, especially if the shorts go past the knees.
In fact, cargo shorts don’t look great on bigger guys either. So, unless you really need that extra storage space, we recommend avoiding cargo shorts altogether.
Same goes for long board shorts. Unless you’re a pro surfer, spending time at the beach doesn’t require 11” board shorts. These rarely flatter the average guy’s figure, and they definitely don’t work for shorter men.
We should also talk about “jorts” or denim shorts. It’s our opinion that chino shorts are almost always a better choice, as they’re more stylish, breathable and comfortable than jean shorts.
How Peter Manning NYC Shorts Are Different
PMNYC makes shorts for men who are tired of wearing shorts that are too long and baggy. If you can never find the right waist/length combination with shorts, we’ve got you covered.
Our chino shorts are available in two different lengths. The rise is perfect for guys under 5’10” or anyone with shorter legs.
The legs are fitted but not skinny, and the leg opening is scaled down perfectly.
Plus, all of the details, such as the size and placement of the back pockets, have been adjusted to flatter shorter men.
If you’re not satisfied with the shorts your finding off the rack at the mall, you should give Peter Manning NYC shorts a try.
Shop PMNYC Chino Shorts // Shop PMNYC Tech Shorts