How Short Should My Shorts Be This Summer? Ask MR PORTER
How short should my shorts be this summer?
On the topic of short length in 2021, there are two schools of thought, and they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Or, indeed, thigh.
The first is the Bermuda short, which goes to great lengths in the name of practicality (more coverage, bigger pockets). Let’s call this style the “Robert” after Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement and poster boy for wide shorts that sit around the knee.
Taking the opposite approach are short shorts, which have readily presented themselves on celebrities of late. We could call this look the “Milo” or “Orlando” after some of its more famous proponents, but we like the ring of the “Lenny”, after Homer Simpson’s drinking buddy, who once asked, “Hey, who likes short shorts?” despite already knowing the answer.
Either way, it’s a lot to take in – shorts or leg. So, to help us understand the subject better, we turned to one of our most stylish friends.
“I absolutely love the idea of short shorts,” says Mr Teo van den Broeke, style and grooming director at British GQ. “It’s definitely my preferred cut over Bermudas. But the truth is that with my enormous straight-up, straight-down tree-trunk legs, I fear the latter style is probably more flattering. I might still give some short shorts a go, however, particularly if this summer is as hot as the last. The 5in rule decreed by TikTok’s autocratic tweens is a bit much, but Harry Styles and Milo Ventimiglia made a good go of it recently, so if they can, I’d like to think I can (lol).”
As Van den Broeke hints, key to this look is whether you have the legs for it. “I think you need to be aware of your body shape and personal style when it comes to the kind of shorts you wear,” he says. “If, like me, your legs are a little unshapely and/or they’ve not got a great colour to them, you might want to consider going longer and with a slightly flared-out shape to create structural interest. Shorter, more muscular men tend to find short shorts easier to wear, while taller willowier types may benefit more from something longer – a Prada Bermuda, say.
“It’s also an idea to play with proportion on top. If you’re going really short with your shorts, it might be worth wearing something roomier on top, a billowy silk shirt, for instance. Likewise, if your shorts are longer, opt for a sleeveless tee on top, just so you don’t look too prudish in the heat.”
Advice from the MR PORTER fashion team runs along similar lines. “A loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt will help to balance out the short-shorts look, and if you have long legs, adding a sock is a good way to break up all that skin,” says Fashion Editor Ms Otter Hatchett. “The shorter among us should avoid high-top sneakers or sandals that cut off at the ankle because these will only make your legs look shorter. Lastly, if you’re going to bare all, confidence is key.”
Short shorts aren’t for everyone. Indeed, the Goldilocks zone for most men will be a little longer. “For a good everyday short, I’d say just above the knee is the most flattering length,” says Hatchett. “If you can see last summer’s tan lines, then they’re too short. Anything below the knee is edging into culotte territory.
“If leg day is your thing, you could go for a tailored micro short, as seen at Dior, or some skimpy retro running shorts from Casablanca. If not, and you want to play it safe, stick with the more relaxed Bermuda shorts, as shown at AMI PARIS and Jacquemus.”
One final consideration with shorts is whether we can, at last, wear them to work. On this front, things start to look promising (although job interviews might be pushing it). “I think that in our current age of mass casualisation, it is absolutely permissible to wear shorts to the office,” says Van den Broeke. “We’re probably going to be visiting our traditional working environments far less regularly than we were pre-Covid, so why not take advantage of the new, more relaxed mood? Also, the planet is warming rapidly, so anyone who gets a bee in their bonnet about a set of bare legs on show under a desk is nothing short of a sadist.”
Illustration by Mr Slowboy