Summer arrives with its own set of rules. Nearly everything seems a bit more relaxed, and life moves at a slower pace. In other words, it's officially shorts season. But with so many styles and the absolute takeover of athleisure, it's tricky to know which shorts are best for what. Here are our thoughts on when to wear your favorite shorts—and what to wear them with—so you'll always look great.
With the advent of the athleisure movement a few years back, this whole category got a little murky. Gone are the days when there was a single style of elastic-waisted shorts to slip into for your workouts. Now they're often decked out with performance features, and come in so many modern colors and prints you might be tempted to wear them almost anywhere.
How to wear them: Classic gym shorts are best for the gym, especially when worn with a tank top or a performance tee. But if they're lightweight and feature quick-dry features, they could also work for the pool or the beach. We like dressing up a pair of colorful shorts with a classic camp shirt or a polo for such occasions.
Many modern shorts are made from performance fabrics—offering comfortable stretch, cooling fibers, and wicking properties—but are constructed more like classic shorts with a real waistband, a zipper-fly, and pockets. These are the shorts we can live in. They look clean and modern when worn with a minimalistic pima cotton or graphic T-shirt, but can also be dressed up with a short-sleeved button down.
How to wear them: These can get you through a few holes on the golf course, taking the kids to the beach, a quick run through the grocery store; even dinner at a casual restaurant. You can also pair them with a casual sweater or relaxed jacket for a cooler evening or to dress things up a bit.
Retro Running Shorts
One of this season's most interesting offerings are split-hem shorts that hearken back to the 1970s, featuring contrast piping and bold branded logos. Fair warning: these styles tend to be a little on the shorter side, so try them on to make sure you're comfortable with showing a bit more leg.
How to wear them: We love 'em for a fun fashion look. They're great for casual parties, backyard barbecues, and, depending on the fabric, a good workout. Feel free to throw on a loose tank top or your favorite T-shirt and slides with these throwbacks. We won't suggest them for your favorite fine-dining experience, but they'll probably go over nicely at the local clam shack.
If jeans are the official uniform of America, then denim shorts must be the official "Gone Fishing" version of the classic. Find a pair in the right fit and you'll want to wear them all season long. Of course the appeal is that they can span from the über-casual cut-off style to super dark-wash denim in trendier cuts.
How to wear them: We like to see the insouciant style dressed up a bit to keep them looking polished. Pair them with a tribal print shirt for summer afternoon outings, or bold red knits for a patriotic look. Style with crisp, clean black or white short-sleeved shirts for a night out on the town.
Worn a bit lower on the thigh, even to the knee; walking shorts are our go-to for when-in-doubt situations. They're comfortable enough for walking, natch, and easy to slip into when running errands. If you're working from home this summer, this style is also sharp enough for a video conference.
How to wear them: What we really like is the versatility that walking shorts offer. Wear them with your favorite T-shirts or polos then layer on a crewneck sweater for cool evenings or air-conditioned spaces. You can even pair them with a long-sleeved button-down and an unstructured blazer for a dignified, nonchalant effect. More fashion-forward versions are also appearing for summer featuring deep pleats and rolled hems.