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Fashion Guidance for Short Pants

Handsome man in fashionable shorts

With warmer weather arriving, it’s time to transition your seasonal wardrobe. But while most men have a rather informed understanding of style and fashion rules for long pants, short pants can be a source of head-scratching. So that your outfits reflect confidence and good looks versus doubt and confusion, this is an ideal time to dust-off an expert playbook on short pants.

Length and Cut

Shorts should fall slightly above the knee, never longer or shorter. Two to three inches over the knee is your target. They should be neither baggy nor snug, and don’t wear short pants with zip, Velcro, or cargo-style pockets except for activities like working at home or camping out. When it comes to fashionable shorts, less is more. They are already pushing the envelope close to the edge of what’s acceptably casual. You don’t want to push it any farther, so err on the side of elegance.

Choose the Right Fabric

One helpful guideline is to buy shorts that are made of similar fabric and in a similar style to what you wear in long pants. Think chinos, khakis, business casual slacks, or the kinds of trousers you’d pair with a sports coat. Seersucker is a gorgeous and comfortable fabric for shorts. Linen is exquisite, but wrinkles so easily that it is usually more trouble than it’s worth. Definitely avoid denim. Although a handsome pair of designer jeans is a very versatile wardrobe item, denim doesn’t translate well into short pants─just as it doesn’t work well for sport coats.

Colors and Patterns

Also avoid loud colors and wild patterns. Save those for your swim trunks, where they’ll look fantastic. Dark, light, or muted tones in solids or subtle patterns are the best choice.. You can, however, look quite stylish in classic Indian Madras shorts, which have irregular quilt-like patterns. Just tone down the colors and beware of washing them with other clothes or in hot water. Authentic Madras cloth is made with dyes that tend to bleed, and can stain other fabrics in the wash.

Short Pants for Business?

Generally for hot weather and business casual, lightweight summery long pants in lighter colors are your go-to choice. But if you are in a tropical location where your clients typically conduct business while wearing shorts you can consider it, to make them feel more at ease and establish rapport. Just make sure your shorts are stylish, understated, and nicely ironed. The other time when they may be acceptable for business is when attending a casual business retreat, picnic, poolside party, or similar outing. But always check beforehand that your colleagues will be wearing shorts or swimwear.

Belts, Shoes, and Socks

Shorts can be worn with cloth or leather belts, or belts that combine leather and fabric. Stick to narrow widths of approximately one to one and a half inches, max. An easy formula is to wear leather belts with leather shoes and cloth belts with canvas shoes. One of the most fashionable options is to wear a colorful belt made of exotic leather.

Sneakers, boating shoes, loafers, driving shoes, and sandals all work well with short pants. You can wear all of those styles without socks. Just make sure you invest in footwear that is soft and supple inside.

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