How short should you go with your shorts this summer?

·4-min read
Paul Mescal, Sean Connery and Harrison Ford - Click News and Media | Snap/Shutterstock | URLI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Paul Mescal, Sean Connery and Harrison Ford - Click News and Media | Snap/Shutterstock | URLI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

We’ve segued into summer weather proper, that first flush of balmy temperatures when the rosé is chilled and the legs – for the pallid British male – are out. Like the blooming of a certain rare orchid, it’s quite the phenomenon – knobbly knees and calves as translucently pale as a newborn fish.

The issue of men (and yes, largely British men) and shorts came to the fore last week on two occasions. One involved a young colleague who wore shorts to work; entirely natural for Gen-Z, whereas, as a man in his late 30s, you’re as likely to find me dressed in Benedictine robes as wearing shorts in the office. The second was being “short shamed” during casual weekend drinks in my own garden, in what was deemed “too short” shorts. Apparently my barely-there shorts were quasi-indecent over the Spritz and nibbles. Rude. Paul Mescal in his teensy Kildare shorts are fine, but this pale Scotsman was given short shrift. Sean Connery in 1964’s Woman of Straw I am not.

The issue of how low, or high, you should go is a particularly of-the-moment debate. The catwalks would have you believe that thigh-skimming proportions are the way forward; in fact the term “short shorts” has been termed just for that – tiny, tiny shorts on the catwalks of Prada, Miu Miu and Gucci. But unless you’re a willowy Soviet youth, such diminutive arrangements are hard to pull off. So what’s the ideal length?

The older generation might be more used to longer iterations, particularly if you remember Duke of Edinburgh yomps avoiding brambles in the gloamin’ and mosquitoes in Kenya, but long, saggy cargo shorts full of pockets are tricky. Handy, no doubt, but those proportions don’t do anyone any favours. The opposite number is high on the thigh, which I grant you comes with a certain Eighties-Euro-campsite aesthetic. Longer shorts can drag shorter frames downwards, while super-short varieties can make longer legs look gangly. So what’s the happy medium?

Unless you’re a gamekeeper at Longleat, it’s really above the knee or mid-thigh. Our PM might go for daily runs around St James’ in frankly mind-boggling swimming shorts, but it’s the neat proportions sported by the likes of David Beckham and Idris Elba that every man over 40 should go for..

In fact, certain brands such as Orlebar Brown offer graduating degrees of length – from the short “Bulldog” to more austere “Norwich”, alongside Spoke London who will fashion you a custom fit online based on your proportions. It’s telling that certain touches from tailoring now apply themselves to men’s shorts, such as pleats and side-fastenings, which are traditionally employed in suited trousers. It’s also telling just how many summer-centric brands there are now; from SMR Days to Frescobol Carioca, all of them are specifically designed with warmer climes in mind and raring to get out of the starting gate after two years of holiday inertia.

The only question remains; do you dare to bare?

When men get shorts right

Harrison Ford

One of the most stylish men of all time knows how to balance proportions; the shorts are small and ride high on the thigh, but Ford balances them out by wearing a sweater on top.

Robert Redford

Robert Redford - Snap/Shutterstock
Robert Redford - Snap/Shutterstock

He might be wearing them casually, but Redford – seen here in his golden-haired prime – knew the power of neat tailoring. Note the more formal fastening and the pleats.

Idris Elba

Idris Elba - Getty
Idris Elba - Getty

A masterclass in how to look smart yet evoking summer ease, the to-the-knee length is more appropriate in dressier settings, and the grandad collar shirt looks fresh and modern.

JFK

JFK - Hy Peskin/Getty Images
JFK - Hy Peskin/Getty Images

The icon of preppy style, JFK defines a certain Ivy League elan. The shorts are casual, but he wears them with a proper collared shirt to elevate the look.

Tinie Tempah

Tinie Tempah - Getty
Tinie Tempah - Getty

Short suits can look gimmicky, but rapper Tinie Tempah pulls it off in a summery blazer with matching cream shorts. If you’ve got an informal Mediterranean wedding on the agenda this year, a short suit in classic non-shades of cream, white or neutral (colours can look too try hard) is worth considering.

Get the look

Shorts
Shorts

Clockwise, from top left:

What is your preferred length of shorts? Let us know in the comments section below

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