Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers
Shorts are (still) having a moment. Over the past few years, TikTok has gone multiple rounds debating the perfect inseam length — five inches to show more leg versus seven inches to cover more but still hit an above-the-knee sweet spot. But after last year’s “thigh guy” summer, anything goes in 2022. Look around and you’ll find an abundance of options from nylon to denim to chinos to suit shorts (hello, Thom Browne!). I’ve even seen double-knee shorts, adding still more chaos to the shorts realm. To try to find some direction amid the free for all, we spoke with 21 stylish guys about the shorts they want to wear this year.
Patagonia Baggies have been a Strategist favorite for a while now. I wrote about them in a Strategist Haul almost two years ago, and former senior editor Anthony Rotunno also recommended them. While at a glance, the Baggies may seem like a straightforward pair of shorts, they’re made from quick-drying nylon and have a mesh liner and “drain-and-dry mesh corners” inside the pockets — Patagonia says they’re “designed for use in and out of the water.” They are also one of the top picks in our guide to the very best swim trunks. And they actually have more fashion cred than you might expect. Baggies “have become something of a summer staple,” says image consultant Patrick Kenger. “They’re the perfect length, come in multiple color options, and it’s an attractive price point.” Former Strategist contributor Chris Black is another fan. Baggies come in several colors and patterns,as well as five- and seven-inch inseams.
If you prefer a relaxed fit with an ever-so-slightly longer inseam than the five-inch Baggies, fashion photographer Christopher Fenimore recommends these Stone Island Compass Patch shorts, which have a 5.5-inch inseam and an elastic waist. Fenimore says he owns multiple pairs: “I live in these from May through September,” he says. “They have a retro feel that I love.” They have two slip pockets in the front, a back pocket, and they drying quickly, so you can feel comfortable after a swim or lounge around the pool.
“I am a devout Baggies wearer myself,” says Jared Johnson, a co-creator of the footwear brand Season Three. But he also really likes Noah’s Core swim trunks, noting, “I’m really into what Noah did here to update” the Baggies model. Johnson says the Noah trunks have a slimmer, more refined cut than the Baggies’ looser leg opening. Rather than offering a standard-length inseam, the Noah trunks come in different lengths that are proportionate to the size you select (from XS to XXL). For example, size medium has a five-inch inseam and size extra large has a six-inch inseam. Johnson says that because of the elastic drawstring waist, you can size up or down depending on the overall fit you prefer and how much thigh you’re trying to show. He also has high praise for the color options, especially the orangeish Coral.
Billy Reid, a designer and the founder of the namesake brand, knows the importance of having a good pair of shorts for the summer, especially in the sweltering heat of the South (he’s based in Florence, Alabama). He’s a fan of these cargolike fishing shorts from Aftco, which dry quickly and contain lots of pockets. They are made of lightweight and durable nylon with two layers of fabric in the seat for added durability. If you want something that can carry your stuff and easily handle some splashes on a beach, on a boat, or poolside, they’re a solid multipurpose short.
These Teatora wallet shorts are made from Solotex fabric that is light without sacrificing durability. The smooth surface has an elegant effect, one that fits many different scenarios. You can wear them to the office or post-workout, says menswear buyer Kevin Kafesu. They also have a packable design (they compress into an attached pouch) that makes them easy to store during trips — Kafesu wore them on a two-week vacation around Tuscany and says he found that the ample secure storage allowed him to transport sunglasses, a wallet, and sometimes a water bottle without the need of a bag.
“If you mixed John Cena with a vintage clothing enthusiast, you may end up with a design a little like the Stay Ray Painter shorts in Stonewash denim,” says Matthew Spade, a menswear writer and creator of the blog Buckets and Spades. Spade landed on these looser-fit denim shorts (or “jorts”) as a response to the Patagonia Baggies becoming a pillar in menswear. He says you’ll be seeing and hearing about them a lot more this summer.
These terry shorts from CDLP have a relaxed straight fit and are made of a strong recycled- and organic-cotton blend, says menswear writer Jordan Bunker. They’re heavyweight sweat shorts, but Bunker says they’re perfect for days when it’s cooler in the morning. They have a straight fit and a 4.2-inch inseam. They come in three classic colors: red, gray, and black.
The Todd Snyder x Champion collaboration has been a fashion mainstay for years now, and multiple guys we spoke to, including stylist Donnell Baldwin and Wooden Sleepers owner Brian Davis, recommended these seven-inch-inseam warm-up shorts. “They’re comfy enough to lounge around at home but considered enough for an emergency ice-cream run,” Davis says of the shorts, which he owns in navy. They come in eight other colors including black as well as more vibrant colors such as purple and orange.
French terry is very similar in feel to a classic bath towel, but it’s smoother and softer and doesn’t absorb as much water. Nikko Lencek-Inagaki, the head designer for Freemans Sporting Club, recommends French-terry shorts from the brand Dandy Demlar, calling them “extremely comfortable” and his favorite pool and beach shorts. They come in a couple of styles and colors including emerald green, navy, ivory, and burnt sienna.
“I bought these shorts for my partner in black last summer and constantly steal them from him,” says Bloomingdale’s men’s fashion director Justin Berkowitz. He loves the drawstring elastic waist, which is comfortable and perfect for lounging around the house. “They are also polished enough to wear out, whether that’s running around town on the weekends or while on vacation,” he says. The shorts have a wonderful navy-blue vertical stripe and are made from a cotton-polyester blend with a small amount of elastane for an added bit of stretch, so you feel even more cozy.
Multiple stylish guys recommended these mid-length shorts from Orlebar Brown despite the high price tag. Famously worn in a shorter cut by Daniel Craig in Skyfall, they’re technically swim trunks but are designed with a hidden snap, zipper fly, and side-tab adjusters like a tailored short. Nico Lazaro, community specialist at menswear-resale site Grailed, notes their “robust, quick-drying polyamide,” mesh lining, and split hem for ease of movement. “When I go on vacation, these are often the only shorts I’ll bring,” he says of his black pair, “since they work for any situation that regular shorts do with the added benefit of being able to jump in the water at a moment’s notice.”
“These shorts have been my go-to for years,” says Ralph Lauren creative producer Yale Breslin of Lululemon’s Pace Breaker style, because “the brand has mastered fit, simplicity, and technology” to create “the ultimate gym shorts.” He praises their just-right length, which he says makes them ideal for his at-home HIIT, yoga, and boot-camp workouts. Another detail he appreciates is the minimal branding as Breslin is “not a guy who loves blatant labels.” The shorts are unlined and available in five-, seven-, and nine-inch inseams to help you find the best fit.
This more affordable, unlined pair of five-inch gym shorts comes recommended by personal trainer Andrew Flores, who says they’ve been his “go-to for the last six months when I practice muay Thai or boxing.” Flores says they have great stretch, allowing you to exercise without obstruction, and enough versatility to “go well with a long-sleeved tee for that post-workout run to the store.” Target offers these shorts in a lined version.
In our story about gym shorts, a seven-inch inseam was one of the most popular lengths among the guys we spoke to. Former Strategist associate editor Daniel Varghese, personal trainer Ariel Brill, and multisport athlete Nik Karbelnikoff recommended this lined pair from Ten Thousand. Brill loves the “lightweight stretch fabric,” which he says would be great for any sort of “heavy lifting at the gym.” Karbelnikoff likes that the shorts are tough enough for CrossFit and gym workouts but also have the mobility and comfort needed for a six-mile run. “The liners never ride up, and I love having pockets for everyday use,” he says. The shorts are available without a liner, if you prefer.
The great thing about these shorts from Buck Mason, which I’ve worn multiple times, is their classic chino look combined with more modern embellishments. There’s a snap and zip closure as well as a drawcord and elastic at the waist for comfort and a semi-adjustable fit. They’re made of a cotton, polyester, and spandex blend that has noticeable stretch, and they’re quicker drying, so you can wear them while hanging out poolside or at the beach. They come in two colors and either a six- or eight-inch inseam.
This one is dedicated to all those guys out there who embrace longer inseams with open arms, dads or otherwise. (And for anyone who’s hesitant, just look to Giorgio Armani for a bit of inspiration.) Reid recommended these shorts from his own brand for men who want a more classically inspired chino short. They have belt loops, a button closure, side pockets, and a dramatic eight-inch inseam, which is complimented by a classic straight cut throughout. They are made of lightweight cotton and elastane, come in four colors, and are all prewashed and garment-dyed for a more lived-in and vintage look.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.