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Jeans and trousers

How shorts should fit

How shorts should fit

Shorts are one of those items which prove that, when it comes to getting dressed, less can often be a lot more. That applies literally, of course; lose the bottom half of your trousers and you end up with something cooler and more comfortable in summer. But it also refers to their style, since the simpler your shorts are, the better they look.

But that’s only true if you nail the fit. Because the flip-side of streamlining your lower-half is how much less leeway you have. You can just about get away with trousers that billow or bulge in the wrong places, but when you’re working with only half as much material, all those lumps and bumps draw the eye more readily. Fortunately, getting it right is simpler as you don’t have to worry about that tricky cuff-meets-shoe conundrum.

As ever, this fit guide is precisely that – a guide. If you know you look good in baggy basketball shorts, or prefer the kind of hem length favoured by 80s footballers, then go for it. But if you’re ever in doubt what works for you, this is the fit that looks good on any man.


“The obvious thing is that they need to stay up,” says Thread stylist Brooke Philips. “But they shouldn’t be compressing anything – they’re not Spanx. Ideally they’ll stay there by themselves, but if you’re between sizes, size up and wear a belt.”


“The ‘rise’ is the distance between the waistband and crotch. Basically, it’s how high they sit. Shorts are generally quite casual, so near your hips is better than on your waist, which can look quite dated. They should be in a similar position to your chinos.”


“A slight taper is best as it’s most flattering, but they shouldn’t be skin-tight. If you’ve got muscular legs, go for a straighter fit as it will look better and more comfortable. You should be able to pinch at least a couple of centimetres of fabric.”


“A couple of centimetres above the knee is best. Any longer and you get into German tourist territory; too much shorter and you have to start worrying about your modesty when you sit down.”