We all have a friend who wears jeans year round, regardless of the weather. Indigo cotton to the ankle, always. Like guys who insist on wearing shorts through northeastern winters, he’s a contrarian. Maybe he has some old-fashioned ideas about the propriety of knees in public. Maybe he “runs cool.” Maybe he’s just been wearing the same pair of Sugarcane jeans since 2009 and, as the raw denim molded to his body, so too did he mold to the raw denim, and now they’re in effect symbiotic organisms that rely on each other for sustenance and sick fades.
Our friend is wrong. Sweaty denim is bad and, although we don’t love it when it’s too hot for real pants, shorts, it turns out, can be great. (Maybe not at work.) And in the rather wide open world of current menswear, you can wear them short or long, trim or baggy, wildly printed or never-clash khaki, according to your preference. I picked eight pairs I think are worth considering right now — it helps that since summer sales have started even though we’re only just entering summer, some of these are already available at a significant discount.
For the guy who just wants his khakis abbreviated
J. Crew garment-dyed cotton shorts in British khaki ($65, currently on sale for about $35). Khaki shorts may seem boring. OK, they’re boring. But when you’re building a casual summer outfit, you’re often going to choose your shirt first, and if it’s a bright or busy print, some sober shorts may keep the volume of the overall outfit at a reasonable mid level. With a cut that’s neither baggy nor tight and a 9-inch inseam, J. Crew shorts are straight down the middle of the road, in a good way. They also make them in shorter- and longer-inseam versions; handy for people who want to be a little braver, thighwise, and taller guys.
Alternative: Todd Snyder makes a similarly democratic cut in a cotton/linen blend oxford ($98).
For the guy who wants to salute his shorts
RRL Officer’s Chino short in new military khaki ($155). My default move when thinking about how to upgrade a basic piece is to see if there’s a military surplus or military-influenced version. I like RRL’s officer’s chinos, which are a wide-ish cut and have a little decorative trim around the pockets–the sort of detail that will go unnoticed by most people but will let me convince myself I’m wearing something interesting.
Alternative: Engineered Garments fatigue shorts are a perennial in their spring collection and always awesome in olive drab. Stan Ray’s sateen shorts are nice, as well (I find they run a bit trim in the waist), although I prefer the fabric on the Engineered Garments pairs (these I find to run a bit large).
For the guy who doesn’t carry stuff in his pockets
Relax Lacrosse mesh shorts ($65, 20% off with code ODOYLERULES). Non-gym gym shorts–synthetic, sometimes stretchy, but not necessarily intended for performance use–have the benefit of being very comfortable and relevant in a post-athleisure world. No pockets can be a bummer, though. I like these mesh shorts with knit seam tape from Relax, which offers them in sort of standard varsity colors broadly drawn from lacrosse powerhouse colleges of the past (and present). Jock Ivy?
Alternative: Todd Snyder weekender shorts in satin blend have a boxing short feel I like ($148).
For the guy who’s ready to get weird, but not too weird
Monitaly drawstring shorts (~$250, on sale at No Man Walks Alone for $185). Because summer shirts are often bold and bright, one way to counter plainer toned shorts is by modifying the shape. Monitaly’s drawstring shorts cinch relatively high but are full cut — less modern milsurp and more midcentury painter in his studio. With fabric cinched, you get something of a paper bag effect at the waist that’s pretty specific.
Alternative: 18 East’s ikat drawstring shorts are bolder but plenty wearable ($115). You could also try Engineered Garments shorts in their brighter fabrics, like the Post Imperial collaboration pictured above.