A Guide to Finding the Perfect Summer Shorts

Murray Clark
·3-min read
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

When last Tuesday scorched, and we poured warm IPAs upon our fret of even warmer sea levels, summer felt in reach. Because here was a legally permitted chance for real, olde worlde fraternity! In a park with about as much square footage as a small static caravan (the imaginatively named Lambeth Walk Open Space will not appear on any Time Out listicle), a small, safe, alert, socially distanced group of friends met for a few tins and a few barbs. It was nice. It was comfortable. It was half-cut.

Less so the realisation that summer dressing was, and remains to be, a double-edged sword. Quite a sharp one. Because while all those ad campaigns have handsome, perfectly proportioned men frown and laze and thirst trap by deserted hotel pools, they don't show a big thighed, pool noodle armed 30-year-old resisting the urge to pull at shorts that just aren't built for extended hours cross legged. That's me by the way. I am the big thighed, pool noodled armed 30-year-old in this municipal wasteland.

It's not that my go-to shorts are bad. On the contrary: they're from a workwear brand still revered by both tradesman and the graphic designers that cosplay as them. They look good! But stiff cotton canvas isn't comfortable. And, after a year of being so utterly comfortable that it's come at the detriment of our wardrobe's pride, like Zoom quizzes, and catch-up drinks with people you never really liked in the first place, there's no turning back once lockdown ends.

So what's the sweet spot? Well, it's not gym shorts. While it's deeply, deeply tempting to waltz around like you're in-between a juice cleanse and a table read in LA, this is the UK and CrossFit is a fitness class, not a personality trait. But there is something in sporty fabrics. Some swim shorts can double-up on dry land, and nylon Seventies-ish shorts are both cropped enough to provide some ventilation and are a little bit more fun than moisture wicking Under Armours that are purpose-built for treadmills and big lifts.

Then there's length. The five inch inseam debate rages on. The likes of Milo Ventimiglia and Normal People's Paul Mescal have got people very hot and bothered with shorts much, much shorter than TikTok's preferred ratio, but if you're unsure, the five inch sweet spot was decided upon for a reason. It's short enough to expose some thigh, but long enough for fabric to cut across and give a more flattering appearance. Plus, it's a bit less weird PE teacher to be honest.

Airy, sporty (but not gym-my!) shorts don't give structure, though. And if that's something you need – and good for you if it is, because you're obviously a bit polished and smart and that's a good thing – then consider canvas cotton, but longer, baggier but still streamlined. Jacquemus cargos are a long way away from Fred Durst, while Gurkha shorts are smart, roomy and approved by Joanna Lumley. Think less stiff workwear, and more billowy fabrics that abet comfort when laid in pretty uncomfortable barren parks.

Of course, the best men's underwear factors into this and, again, they should be cotton, compact but by no means strangulating. Like your shorts then. And though April is to be marred by snow and rain and other episodes of climatic misery (fantastic), the summer preview was enough of a reminder of how the quest for utter heat wave comfort is a trying one. Don't get caught short.

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