When it comes to shopping for clothing, one confusing decision men face is the proper length for shorts. How much leg is too much? How much is too little? Unlike pants, where the right length is determined by the actual length of your legs, shorts length is based more around what kind of look you’re aiming for, with a little bit of your height factored in.
As you might expect, taller guys should go for slightly longer shorts while shorter guys should lean toward the shorter side. But what if you want a little more insight? How do you know which length is right for your situation? Here’s what you need to know when wearing shorts.
Understanding Shorts Length
Like pants, shorts length is determined by in the inseam (the length from the crotch to the hem of the shorts). But unlike pants, shorts come in much smaller lengths!
Generally, the most popular length for shorts are 5 inches, 7 inches, 9 inches, and 11 inches. Some places may carry other sizes, such as 6 inches or 10 inches, but the four listed above are the standard shorts lengths that are available pretty much anywhere.
Choosing the Proper Shorts Length
There are two main things to think about when choosing a length for shorts.
The first thing to think about is your height. If you’re on the shorter side, you’re going to want to avoid the longer 11-inch inseam (in fact, most guys should avoid 11-inch shorts, which I’ll touch on later in the article). If you’re well over 6′ tall, you might want to pass on the 5-inch shorts unless you’re supremely confident in your legs.
The second thing to think about is your confidence level. If you feel confident showing off your thighs, then go ahead and rock some shorts with a 5-inch inseam. If you don’t have the confidence, then don’t. Nothing looks worse than a guy who isn’t comfortable in his own attire, and people will know if you’re feeling self-conscious about your shorts length. For those who are lacking in confidence, it’s best to avoid either extreme (too short and too long).
However, no matter how confident or lacking in confidence you are, shorts should never extend beyond the knee. The absolute longest you should go is right around the top the kneecap, with the ideal shorts length being around one inch above the kneecap.
These are the shortest shorts you’ll find for men. They are best worn by guys who under 5′ 7″, although men who are supremely confident in their legs can opt to wear 5-inch shorts regardless of height. An important note for tall guys who have thin legs: wearing short shorts will create a beanstalk effect, which will only make your legs look even thinner.
This is the sweet spot for most men, as this length falls just a few inches above the kneecap but still leaves more to the imagination than 5-inch shorts. Most men can comfortably wear a pair of 7-inch shorts of any type—chinos, athletic shorts, or swim trunks—without looking out of place.
While 7-inch is the sweet spot for most average-height men, if you’re close to 6′ tall or taller, they might be too short and you might be more comfortable in a pair of shorts with a 9-inch inseam. Average-height and shorter men should avoid wearing 9-inch shorts because they will create the illusion of having shorter legs than you really do. However, if you’re uncomfortable showing skin, a pair of 9-inch shorts can be a good gateway to building shorts confidence.
Longer 11-inch shorts are best reserved for really tall guys. Remember, you never want your shorts to fall below the kneecap no matter how casual the situation, so you should always keep that in mind when shopping for and trying on a pair of shorts. Most men should avoid 11-inch shorts altogether—even most taller guys will look better in 9-inch shorts.
Quick Shorts Length Summary
- The amount of thigh you choose to show comes down to confidence
- There is such a thing as “too short”
- Shorts should never fall below the kneecap
- 11-inch shorts are best avoided by all but the tallest men
- Avoid cargo pockets regardless of length