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What goes with what

Four ways to wear shirts with shorts

Four ways to wear shirts with shorts

There’s something about the combination of shorts and shirts that makes guys wary. Maybe it’s because it can feel a little like being back in the school playground, or just that your top half feels meeting-ready while your lower half has its out-of-office on. And, yes, if you wear your smartest cutaway collar with a pair of basketball shorts, you’re going to get some looks. But get the balance right and you can achieve summer’s grail – being well-dressed without risking heat stroke.

And there are plenty of combinations that are easy to wear, great for warmer weather and – most importantly – won’t make you look like you’re waiting for double maths to start. “There’s this idea that shorts are only for holidays,” says Izzy Harvey, one of our expert stylists, “but they’re really versatile. It’s just about looking at them in a different way and finding a combination you’re happy with.” This quartet of shirts-and-shorts pairings is the perfect starting point.

Linen shirt + linen shorts

Linen is the ultimate summer fabric: it’s breathable, easy to wear and though it looks relaxed, it has an air of easy elegance. It’s the go-to fabric if you want to wear shorts to work, which is absolutely appropriate (as long as your office dress code agrees).

“I love mixing similar fabrics together,” says Izzy. “Shorts that are a linen-cotton blend, like these Reiss ones, are smart and durable enough for work but still feel like part of the entire look. If you don’t need to wear a tie – which you should never do with shorts, unless you’re a pageboy – then go for a granddad collar. It’s a nice update on an Oxford collar and sits really nicely under a blazer.”

Camp collar shirt + athletic shorts

The camp collar shirt is ubiquitous this summer, and a big part of its charm is that it is so adaptable. If you’re looking for a shirt you can wear to a wedding but also the beach, a camp collar is it. “Most people think they have to be a bold, busy print, but this subtle stripe is really lovely because it goes with anything,” says Izzy. “The lightweight cotton makes it especially versatile because you can wear it buttoned up or more casually over a t-shirt.”

Camp collar shirts are tailored enough to wear with chino shorts, but if you go for a boxier fit, then they’ll work with something sportier, too. “The ones we've photographed are activity shorts, by climbing brand Gramicci. There’s a loop to clip your carabiner to when you're rock climbing – or your keys, when you're not – and they’re nylon, so you can swim in them too. But they’re sleek enough to masquerade as everyday shorts. The colour and the cut mean that you can wear them with a shirt and no one would think they’re out of place. I love to pair them with Teva sandals, which are having a real style renaissance right now, because it ties in with their active feel but still feels smart.”


Overshirt + shorts

Shorts + t-shirt? Simple. But also a bit boring. Add an overshirt and suddenly you’ve got extra layers, extra texture, extra interesting. It takes a regular outfit and transforms it into something a little more special and – even better – adds versatility. The look that works in the park, now work in a restaurant, too.

“It’s a style that works at any age,” says Izzy. “You need a shirt that’s slightly looser, so when it’s worn open it looks relaxed but still refined. It’s also a great way to experiment with colour – you can wear a bright t-shirt and the shirt highlights it but also balances it, especially if you work with similarl tones.” That colour connection should include the shorts, too. Especially when they’re patterned. “Checks in navy are easy to pair with other colours. The drawstring waist and light cotton of these shorts mean that the cut can be a little less formal – you can show a bit more leg – but keep these to the beach or the park, not the office.”

Rugby shirt + chino shorts

A rugby is one of our favourite yes-it-counts-as-a-shirt shirts. “Rugby shirts have a bit of a preppy reputation – think men in red trousers or Yale Club WASPs – but that doesn’t mean you should discount them,” says Izzy. “They can be a great way to add colour, particularly with a more neutral pair of shorts.”

Rugby shirts are, obviously, sporty at heart. But with the right shorts, they nail the smart-casual balance. Chinos go with anything, and the same versatility applies when you cut the legs off. All the things that make them great – durable cotton, flattering fit – work with shorts too, so long as you keep them about an inch above the knee. “Wearing a pair of minimal trainers will tone down the preppy vibe and instant pull everything together for a fuss-free but comfortable look.”

Words: Nadia Balame-Price
Photography: Lola & Pani
Styling: Millie Rich
Styling assistant: Izzy Harvey