Best Shorts for Men

Updated May 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

35 Models Considered
24 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
180 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best shorts for men

As soon as there’s a bit of warmth in the air, a good pair of men’s shorts are the most comfortable thing to wear whether you’re working in the yard, having a family barbecue, or relaxing at the beach. Most of us have a favorite pair.

And maybe we hang onto them too long. When it comes to buying new shorts for men the market can be pretty bewildering. There’s a huge choice of styles, materials, fits, closures, and lengths.

Here at BestReviews, we believe that your style is your own. It’s not for us to tell you what to wear, but we can help you through the maze of alternatives, point out the strengths of particular materials, and give an opinion about which options might work better in different situations.

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Clip-on suspenders are widely available, but button-on versions are more secure, particularly if you’re working or exercising. Most shorts don’t have the necessary buttons, but they don’t take long to sew on. Alternatively you can use logger buttons, which are simply hammered in place.

Key considerations

Style

There are plenty of discussions about which style of men’s shorts is most suitable for particular events and places, but those mostly depend on the occasion and the people associated with it. A quick glance tells you which styles are smart and which are casual, so we don’t need to go into that in any great depth. Fashions change from one year to the next, so there really are no hard and fast rules. What we can look at is the suitability of particular types of men’s shorts for given activities.

Chino: Regular-fit chino shorts are great all-rounders and fine for casual strolls or other activities.

Baggy: Less restrictive baggies are fine for casual wear and if you’re cycling or hiking.

Cargo: These shorts give you good freedom of movement and have the capacity to hold numerous small items, but there is a lot of material that could potentially catch on things if you’re not careful.

Cut-off denim: These shorts never seem to go out of fashion, but they’re also tough enough to wear for outdoor work.

Sports: These shorts always go well with a T-shirt and sneakers and keep you cool and comfortable during serious exercise.

Recovery/sleepwear: Athletes might also want to consider these shorts which are said to reduce muscle fatigue and regenerate cells more quickly.

Zippers offer extra security for the contents of your pockets, but check the quality. Cheap zippers often end up snagging or jamming, which gets very frustrating.

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Features

Materials

Cotton is perhaps the most popular material used in men’s shorts. It’s durable, breathable, easy to color, and comes in a variety of weights from super-light seersucker to heavyweight denim. It’s machine washable and can go in the dryer without problems.

Synthetics are also widely used, not only in sports shorts but also blended with natural fibers in almost every style available. Synthetic materials offer tremendous variety, anything from very open weaves to dense, waterproof cloth. Synthetics often cost less than natural fibers, too.

However, there are a few drawbacks, particularly with cheap synthetic shorts. It’s important to take note of the washing instructions because they may not be as forgiving as some materials. Thin fabrics can tear easily, and synthetics tend to trap perspiration, which makes them clingy and uncomfortable. That said, the advanced synthetics used in some sport shorts can wick moisture away from the body. With so many fiber mixes available, each needs to be looked at in some detail before you make your decision.

Linen has long been a favorite clothing material in tropical climates. Very lightweight, linen is very breathable, too. Washing and drying don’t present any problems as long as you use low temperatures. You might want to check the thickness of the material because in some cases it can be semitransparent. Linen can crease easily, but many see that as part of its charm.

Wool is often overlooked but can produce very sleek, stylish shorts for men. It can also be surprisingly rugged. Unfortunately, it’s quite an expensive material and can be more difficult to clean. Get it wrong and you can end up with very long, loose shorts, or it can shrink into a dense mass like felt!

Closures

Waist and fly closures on shorts are very much a matter of personal preference, though not all combinations are available on all types of shorts.

Classic shorts for men usually feature a simple button closure at the waist with the addition of belt loops. Sometimes a matching belt is included, though it’s not a common option. On classic shorts for men, the fly is generally zippered or buttoned. Both seem equally popular. 

Sports shorts are generally elasticized, with a drawstring to keep them tight. Sports shorts don’t normally have a fly. 

Cargo shorts are found with either an elastic waist or button closure. Those with elastic and a drawstring tending to have a looser fit. Cargo shorts with an elastic waist sometimes have a zipper, but like sport shorts, they often don’t have a fly. Those with belt loops and a button tend to have a zippered fly. 

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DID YOU KNOW?
Shorts weren’t widely worn by men outside of sporting arenas until World War II. They became popular with the military partly for comfort in desert and jungle conditions but also because the surge in demand for military clothing meant material had to be rationed, and shorts used less cloth than pants!
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Pockets

The number and style of pockets on men’s shorts vary enormously. 

Classic shorts usually have two front and two rear pockets. The front ones often have an angled opening, though they may be horizontal on chinos. A discreet inside coin pocket might also be provided.

Sports shorts may not have a pocket at all, though a patch pocket on the rear is not uncommon, and some have a hidden pocket inside for a billfold or phone. 

Cargo shorts seem to be in a competition to see which maker can fit more pockets on them (the most we’ve seen is nine). It can be great if you’ve got lots of gear to carry around, especially if you’re working, but you need to be careful not to overdo it. If you end up with too much weight in the pockets, it can pull the shorts out of shape and drag at the waist, which soon becomes uncomfortable. It’s an appealing option for tradespeople, but sometimes a tool belt is a better option because you can take it off when it’s not in use.

When used, pocket closures are either button, zipper or hook and loop, all of which give more security to the contents. 

Buttons are simple and rarely break, but they can come off. 

Zippers give a more complete closure, but you need to check the quality. Durability can be an issue, and a zipper is a nuisance if it gets stuck. 

Hook-and-loop closures are quick and easy to use and seldom seem to fail even after multiple washes. In rare circumstances, the hooks and loops can get clogged with dirt or dust, though a stiff brush usually revives it.

There’s nothing wrong with wearing swim shorts out of the water. They can make great casual wear.

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Men’s shorts prices

Normally, we provide some guidance for what you can expect to pay at entry-level, mid-range, and top tiers. That’s difficult to do with men’s shorts. Top brands like Levi’s, Dockers, and Tommy Hilfiger always command a small premium, but you might find knock-off copies for just a few bucks.

In general, the cheapest shorts for men cost around $10 or $12, and there’s really nothing wrong with them if you want something casual for a single season. You’ll pay $25 to $35 for timeless classics that look equally good with a bit of wear on them. If authentic current fashion is important, you could pay $50 or more, or you could go nuts and buy an haute couture brand at several hundred bucks a pair!

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One long-standing style debate is whether one should wear socks with shorts. Unless you’re required to for military service, the answer is probably no. However, if your shoes rub your feet without them, you can buy no-show socks so you look right but are still comfortable.

FAQ

Q. What is the inseam?

A. The inseam is the length from the crotch to the hem of the leg, usually given in inches but sometimes in centimeters. Generally speaking, it’s between 5 and 11 inches and has a big impact on how your shorts look when you’re wearing them. It’s usually considered more flattering if the hem falls an inch or two above the knee. It can be higher on sports shorts, or if you’re confident about your thighs, but not below the knee (unless you’re going for that surfer dude or gangsta look).

Q. Is it okay to wear suspenders with men’s shorts?

A. Why not? Some people prefer not to wear a belt with their shorts, in which case suspenders are a great alternative. They are perennially fashionable, being both stylish and useful. Bear in mind that the rule is belt or suspenders. Nobody needs two ways to hold up their shorts.

Q. What’s the difference between chinos and denim shorts?

A. They’re both made from cotton (although some chinos include synthetic thread), but denim uses a much thicker fiber to produce a heavier and more durable material. Lightweight chinos were originally developed for British and French soldiers and were khaki colored, but now they come in a wide variety of colors.

 

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