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Jeans and trousers

Four ways to wear tailored shorts

Four ways to wear tailored shorts

Menswear has grown increasingly casual in the last few years. In our eyes, that’s a wonderful thing. Though there’ll always be a place for suits in any wardrobe, downtime clothes have become not just acceptable, but stylish, where once they were sniffed at. Which means it’s now possible to be both comfortable and well-dressed, even in a heatwave.

Shorts, once considered suitable only for beaches and sports pitches, are now regularly spotted in offices. But freedom can bring challenges. How casual is too casual? And more to the point, how short is too short? As with everything in summer – when fewer clothes means less room for error – getting shorts right is all about nailing the basics.

“Tailored shorts are the style that works with everything,” says Thread stylist Alexander McCalla. They’ve got enough dressed-up details to feel smart – formal fabrics, foldover waistbands, belt loops – but because your knees are on show, they dress down, too. “They’re like suit trousers that have been snipped off. Which means they go with everything from a blazer to a t-shirt.”

The big shorts pitfalls are colour and cut. Tailored versions make it easier to dodge both because, when in doubt, you just take your cues from traditional tailoring. “They should fit slim, but not skinny, so there’s an inch or two of fabric around your thighs,” says Alexander. “That gives you space to move.” Length-wise, the sweet-spot sits a couple of centimetres above the knee, which is best for both your body temperature and dignity. Save the short-shorts for your summer holiday.

The best shorts slot into a variety of outfits without standing out. “Go for neutral colours that fit easily into a wardrobe of tailored separates,” says Alexander. “They’ll work with a blazer, but because they’re shorts, you can wear them super-casual too, with a tee and white trainers. They go both ways.” Although not all the way. “If you’re expected to wear a suit, do not wear a short suit.” It’s the quickest way to ruin an entire set of wedding photos.

For the no-plans weekend

Photographed: Paul Smith shorts (£175)Fred Perry short-sleeved shirt (£70)Casio watch (£30)

Camp collar shirts have been unavoidable this summer, and with good reason; they’re comfortable, distinctive and keep your look light but still smart. All things echoed by the right pair of tailored shorts. “This look is casual enough that you can wear it anywhere,” says Alexander, “but it’s sharp enough it that if you end up somewhere smarter, you won’t feel underdressed.”

For a day on your feet

Photographed: Paul Smith shorts (£175)H&M Editions denim jacket (£69.99)Sunspel striped t-shirt (£65); adidas Trainers (£85)

The denim jacket is the statement here, so let it stand out. Tailored shorts keep the look grounded, which means you can experiment with colour or pattern in the tee. “This is a good mooching round town look,” says Alexander. “It’s got casual elements but the feel of each individual piece is clean and crisp. The jacket is not distressed and is a smart, great fit, which elevates the whole thing and makes it feel contemporary.”

For work into the weekend

Photographed: Paul Smith shorts (£175)MVP pink shirt (£24)

If your work is the kind of place that lets you wear shorts in the summer, this is how to do it. “The Oxford shirt makes this outfit less casual and turns it into something you could wear throughout the week,” says Alexander. “But it’s also perfect for drinks with friends. Thanks to the boat shoes it would also work for a summer holiday city break too.”

For an event with an invitation

Photographed: Paul Smith shorts (£175)MVP linen blazer (£60)H&M Editions grandad-collar shirt (£49.99)Pier One loafers (£53.05)

A blazer and shorts might feel like an unusual combination, but it shouldn’t. It’s a great way to look smart, but still be summery. Just make sure you wear a jacket in a contrasting colour, to make sure no one thinks you’re wearing a short suit. “Finish it off with a grandad-collar shirt,” says Alexander. “It means there’s no space for a tie, so you avoid the schoolboy look.”


Words: Nadia Balame-Price