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How Long Should Shorts Be?

The official beginning of summer is less than two weeks away. It’s well past time to talk about shorts and one of their most crucial visual aspects: how long should they be? Although they’re casual wear, it’s still important to be mindful of how they look on us. We say it all the time: casual does not mean sloppy.

Proper Shorts Length

black man wearing blue shorts and hatThere is no single “correct” length for a pair of shorts, but rather a range. As is the case with any article of clothing, their length is best determined by the wearer’s frame and personal preference.

Generally speaking, the longer a pair of shorts’ inseam, the more conservative the look. A good rule of thumb is that shorts should always hit above the knee. The question then becomes, how far above the knee should the inseam end?

Shorts that terminate at, say, the top of the kneecap will give off a very conservative vibe. Much longer than that, and you start getting into a look that’s better geared towards teenagers. Furthermore, the key reason for wearing them – staying cool – is compromised by a too-long inseam.

On the other end of the spectrum are shorts that expose more than the entire bottom half of your thighs. Reminiscent of the 80’s and early 90’s looks espoused by the likes of Tom Selleck and Bill Clinton, these are for guys who insist on being noticed.

Shorts Length & Body Type

grey mid length shorts on young manA good rule of thumb is that shorts should end approximately two inches above the top of the kneecap. This tends to be a sweet spot for men who want true shorts, but not short shorts.

This placement is also a good place to start when considering a client’s body type in a conversation about shorts. Generally speaking, taller men can wear longer ones to greater effect than shorter men, and vice-versa.

From an image and appearance standpoint, short inseam relative to a leg transmits a similar visual cue to jacket sleeve length relative to an arm. Tall men can get away with longer shorts because they don’t create the illusion of a longer leg. Conversely, shorter shorts make the legs look longer, so short guys will look a bit taller with shorter inseams.

What They Shouldn’t Look Like

man wearing shorts that are too long
These shorts are too long.

Like Goldilocks’ porridge being too hot, too cold, or just right, shorts can be too long, too short, or just right.

As we mentioned above, shorts longer than the kneecap are less functional in that they don’t keep you as cool. They also tend to be a style worn by very young men – think teenagers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them from that perspective, but an adult man should consider how this might impact his image when he’s buying shorts.

knee length yellow shorts
Shorts shouldn’t be any longer than pictured here.

Shorter shorts – ones that expose at least half of your thigh – straddle a line. On one side of that line is stylish and sexy (Tom Selleck), on the other side is dated, potentially inappropriate caricature. Google “Bill Clinton running shorts” to remind yourself of how that’s been a joke in American culture since his presidency.

Custom Shorts

We do indeed make made-to-measure shorts for our clients. In addition to a massive array of fabric and styling options, we dictate details such as length down to the eighth of an inch. Making your own shorts instead of buying off-the-rack isn’t just more fun than buying off-the-rack; it ensures that the fit is exactly as it should be.


If you’d like to talk more about making shorts with us, contact us anytime. We hope this post was helpful to you. While you’re here, enjoy some of our other clothing-related content:

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