How Men’s Shorts Should Fit

By: Peter Nguyen
Last Updated: April 30, 2019

If there’s one thing as expected as shorts in the summer, it’s my inbox getting flooded with emails from guys asking “How long should my shorts be?”

In today’s post, I’ll walk you through a few fit points you should know when you’re shopping for shorts no matter what your body type. I’ll also show you a few different options on how to rock them whether you’re heading to the office or chilling poolside.


Like pants, shorts are measured via inseam – the length from the crotch to the hem.

Common short lengths are 5”, 7”, 9”, and 11”.

What length short you should get really depends on two factors:

Short fit factor #1: Your height

The first factor – your height, usually determines how long your inseam is. The taller you are, the longer you’re probably going to need the length to be so you don’t get into daisy duke territory.

Shorter guys like myself (Team 5’7”) should avoid longer inseam, so you don’t look like a Juggalo.

Short fit factor #2: How confident are you about your thighs?

A short fit factor that I haven’t seen other men’s style sources discuss your thighs.

While I could technically wear a 5” length for shorts, I don’t exactly have an MMA fighters body to pull it off.

So, if you’re like me and want to leave something to the imagination, opt for a longer length.


Here’s what I do when I’m short shopping with a private styling client:

The quickest way to figure out what length you should get is to grab a pair of each length, then try them on to find the one that hits the sweet spot – about 1-3” above your knees.

If you got the thigh confidence to get a 5”, do it!

If you’re a bit self-conscious or be a little bit more conservative, go with something a bit longer.

Some great examples of shorts done well

In general, I’ve found that 7″ is a pretty universally flattering length. I still recommend testing out all lengths to find what you’re comfortable with.

The only rule you MUST obey: Shorts should never go past the knees. Ending on your knee about halfway is ok. Anything past that is too long.

Bad and Sad Moments in Short Fit History: Too long, too wide, and too much of both


As a general rule, your shorts should fit the same way your pants should fit.

Use “The Pinch Trick” to quickly test if your shorts are the right width.


The Chino Short

Chinos shorts are a great versatile, easy option. Treat them as you would your chinos – any outfit you’d typically wear with chinos pants, swap in your chino shorts when it starts getting hot. In terms of color, it’s always a good idea to start with neutrals – navy, grey, khaki are all great options. My personal favorite: olive.

Shown: Short sleeve chambray shirt, Bonobos ($88), Stretch shorts, J.Crew ($65), Sunglasses, Stussy ($128), Invisible socks, Falke ($18), Leather & Suede sneakers, Nike ($90)

White Denim Shorts

Denim shorts are tricky, and I usually advise against them. One exception, however, is white denim shorts. White hides that “cut off jeans” look, and brightens up your look for Spring and Summer without needing to go pastel.

Shown: Denim shirt, Bonobos ($128), White 511 jean shorts, Levis ($29), Invisible socks, Falke ($18), Brown Lincoln loafers, Thursdays ($170)

Swim Trunks

The perfect vacation style hack is wearing your swim trunks even when you’re nowhere near a body of water. Matching tip: If your swim trunks are a tropical or patterned print like stripes, opt for a solid shirt. If your swim trunks are a solid color, freshen up your look with a tropical print shirt.

Shown: Felix Mélange Cotton-Piqué Polo Shirt, Orlebar Brown ($145), Board Shorts, Bonobos ($68), Canvas Espadrille shoes, Castaner ($105), Two-tone denim bag, Cleverly Laundry ($75)


I spent the last few months shopping and testing dozens of shorts from a handful of brands for my private clients. I’ve whittled down the 6 best shorts you can buy right now, including one for guys that don’t skip leg day!

Get the free shopping list bonus below!

Click here to download the bonus

You also might like these posts…

How a Denim Jacket Should Fit a Man

How a Denim Jacket Should Fit a Man

Denim jackets are a great year-round casual jacket option, but really shine in Spring. Here’s how to make sure your denim jacket fits properly.  How a denim jacket should fit a man The shoulders You can instantly tell if a denim jacket fits by looking at the...

How a Camp Collar Shirt Should Fit a Man

How a Camp Collar Shirt Should Fit a Man

Camp collar shirts are like the short-sleeved shirt’s cooler older brother that’s back from his trip to South America. The camp collar is designed to lay flat and open, giving it a more relaxed vacation vibe. It’s the perfect summer shirt to wear while sipping...

How to Stay Stylish (and Shop) While Losing Weight

How to Stay Stylish (and Shop) While Losing Weight

This question comes from a reader, John. He asks: "I'm working out a lot and watching what I eat. How do I stay stylish while my body is fluctuating and losing weight?" Great question. Hitting fitness goals while trying to stay stylish can be tricky. You don't want to...