Best shorts for men 2021: essential summer style items

From tailored shorts to sporty Adidas numbers, keep your legs cool in the hot weather

Best shorts for men

Getting the kneecaps out can be a daunting switch as winter transitions to spring, and spring to summer. But it will happen eventually, although it’s probably best to wait until May has passed before busting out a short-cut pair of shorts. 

You can always remove layers, but once you’re out and the skies thicken you’re not in for a good time. 

Whether you’re planning to head to the coast or just flip some steaks at a chill Sunday barbecue, a decent pair of shorts is a necessity. 

With an absolute sea of choice out there, we went through a variety of choices so you can make an informed decision about which are the best shorts to buy for the summer.

How to buy the best shorts

There are shorts and then there are well-above-the-knees shorts. With the trend in recent years leaning more towards above-knee rather than below you should expect, and be comfortable with, flashing your caps whether you’re taking a dip or sipping a latte. With that said, there are plenty or stylish shorts that are cut high but still comfortable.

It’s best to go for a more tapered cut to complement your body shape rather than a boxed-out loose fit. Baggy shorts will make your legs look smaller than they are, and this isn’t ideal unless you’re into the chicken leg look. Even proportions are essential when you’re dropping layers. 

The ideal length for shorts is somewhere along the lower half of the thigh. Fortunately there are plenty of choices that are cut to this length, so no sweat if you’re already looking for that. Anything shorter you’ll want to save for bathing; anything below the knee you should avoid unless absolutely necessary. 

When it comes to materials it’s best to go for maximum comfort. This will be cotton in the majority of cases. But there’s also a lot of all-nylon out there, particularly for shorts with some kind of water resistance. This is great for quick-dry qualities, but sweating into nylon for hours can irritate the skin. So a good game plan is to decide what to buy depending on how you’ll use it. 

These are the best shorts for men

1. J.Crew Cotton Oxford Shorts

Does just about everything shorts should

Reasons to buy
+Versatility+Classy cut
Reasons to avoid
-Limited to sharper looks

This pair of shorts from J.Crew is a solid all-rounder. While on the slightly smarter end of the scale, you’ll feel comfortable wearing these around the house just as you would for a chill cafe date. Versatility is a big selling point here.

These shorts are made from soft, breathable cotton Oxford in luscious sky blue. The perfect accompaniment to lazy summer days. Note that these are a slim cut, so better to avoid should you not be into a taught, mid-thigh fit. Throw on a simple collared shirt for easy styling.

2. Burberry Cotton-Twill Shorts

A classic pair every guy should own

Reasons to buy
+Neutral colour+Smart casual
Reasons to avoid
-There are cheaper options

These straight-leg shorts from Burberry are on the premium end of the scale. They’re not cheap, but the payoff for your investment is quality, comfort and more. The neutral dark beige lends itself well to earthy tonal colour matching, so this is one wardrobe item that will get plenty of wear if you want it to – and is a direct fit for practically any wardrobe.

Cut from comfy cotton-twill, you’ll be able to wear these shorts not only to the seaside, but to casual weekend events or work. If you’re going to wear any pair of shorts to the office, these will be it. It’s not cheap - but a worthy investment.

3. Ksubi Ripped Axel Denim Shorts

Reasons to buy
+Distressed design+Relaxed styling
Reasons to avoid
-Limited to casual events

These ripped denim shorts from Ksubi are an easy throw-on option for wearing this summer. Not only that, but they’re versatile and easy to match with. With a slim fit and a faded, distressed design, these shorts will be both comfortable to wear all day and are easy to pair with sneakers or flip flops for a cool casual look. 

Other details include a shadow patch on the back along with raw edges along the cuffs and copper-tone hardware. An easy item to integrate into your wardrobe and one that can be worn in myriad situations. While not the cheapest option in this list, it’s still comparatively affordable for the quality you’re getting. 

4. Adidas 4KRFT Climacool Training Shorts

Affordable comfort for the gym

Reasons to buy
+Very affordable+Understated design
Reasons to avoid
-Limited to training sessions

A list of best shorts to buy wouldn’t be complete without something you can train in. Here we’ve got 4KRFT Climacool training shorts from Adidas. They not only look great, with understated three-stripes detailing, but they’re also designed to keep you comfortable as the sweat begins to seep.

To make this happen, Adidas has constructed these shorts with Climalite, a soft, light fabric that keeps your skin dry as you sweat it out at the gym or on the court. Detailing includes an adjustable drawcord and zip pockets so you won’t lose small items as you’re doing cartwheels.

5. Linea Brompton Chino Shorts

You can wear these practically anywhere

Reasons to buy
+Perfect for casual styling+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks standout features

These chino shorts from Linea Brompton tick more boxes than most on the list. As you’ve probably got one, or several, pairs of chino trousers in your collection, why not invest in shorts as well? These are highly affordable and will look great with practically anything you’ll throw on.

While there aren’t any standout features, you do get reliable shorts that are great for hot days at the office or for long drives to the coastline. There really is no reason to not have one, or several, pairs of these shorts.

6. Champion Mesh Short

For when comfort is all that matters

Reasons to buy
+High on comfort+Simple and easy to match with
Reasons to avoid
-Limited to sport or casual 

When you want to feel relaxed then wear these mesh shorts from Champion. Very much on the casual end of the scale, if not worrying about presenting yourself is important, then there isn’t much else to beat them. In saying that, you can certainly look slick when pairing these with matching shoes, socks and a basic tee.

These shorts are made of pull-on poly mesh that will keep you feeling fresh even when it’s hot. While you won’t be wearing these to the office, you’ll be feeling insanely comfortable wherever else you rock them this summer. Wear with sneakers for maximum effect.

7. Y-3 Indigo James Harden Sateen Shorts

Up your street style game with these

Reasons to buy
+Quality construction+Great for streetwear heads
Reasons to avoid
-Less easy to match with

Y-3 is known for its fusion of sportswear with fashion and this pair of sateen shorts is no exception. Cut in a relaxed, loose-fitting knit trim, the off-white colour is a great base for matching in a lighter summer palette. 

Tonal and overlock stitching add to the quality detailing of these shorts, while the pink graphic on the front is a nice touch as well. These would go well with sneakers, whether from Y-3 or another brand – particularly those with a Boost sole.