I ranked 5 popular short shorts for men—and one pair was a clear winner
The shorter the inseam, the better the outfit.
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Men’s short shorts is one of summer’s biggest trends, and I’m all for it. I, like many TikTok users before me, am a campaigner for the thigh-baring inseam movement. I believe shorts that rise a few inches above the knee are more flattering on my body and make me feel more confident and stylish. In my experience, 5-inch inseams are the perfect length on my 5-foot, 11-inch frame.
But many clothing companies don’t advertise their shorts’ inseam length, which makes shopping online for bottoms that hit above the knee a tricky task. Patagonia Baggies aside, there also aren’t many brands that are known solely for the inseam length of their shorts.
As a big proponent of men—myself included—wearing shorter shorts this summer, I scoured the internet for popular brands that offer 5-inch inseam shorts. I did this by filtering search results from retailers that did advertise their inseam lengths and hitting Ctrl + F to search the term "5"" on specific product pages. I then tested them all out to see how they compare to each other in terms of comfort, style, and quality. Below are my results, ranked from my favorite pair to my least favorite.
1. Todd Snyder
Men’s Sizes: S-XXL
Colors: True Navy, Black, Light Cactus
I’ve never worn clothes from Todd Snyder before and after testing these shorts, I regret not trying the brand sooner. The 5-inch Weekend shorts are supremely comfortable and my usual size 34 fit true to size. The fabric is made of 51% cotton, 46% Tencel (lyocell), and 3% spandex, which makes them feel buttery smooth, worn-in, and flexible.
Although these are minimalist in design, I prefer the fit and style of these monochromatic shorts to anything else on this list. They have the plainness of chino shorts, but their soft touch makes them feel luxurious, while their stretchiness reminds me of athletic apparel. I love the way the fabric feels to the touch, and putting my hands in the pockets of these shorts felt like wearing cool velvet gloves. They don’t wrinkle or need any adjustment. They’re relaxed and loose without being sloppy or frumpy, and they fit well on my waist. They are, in my mind, the perfect short short.
Men’s Sizes: XS-XXL
Colors: Azure Linen Texture, Black Camo, Black Linen Texture, Grey Camo, Kelp Micro Dot
Leave it to performance apparel brand Vuori to give me the most free-feeling shorts I’ve ever worn. These Banks shorts are breathable, loose, and pliable—a winning combination that’s built for running, but feels equally liberating for casual use. They’re easy to pull on, tie up, and wear out, and I love their simplicity.
These shorts are made of 44% recycled polyester (plastic bottles, according to Vuori), 44% polyester, and 12% spandex, which makes them quick-drying and great for sweating at the gym or partaking in water sports. They have two side pockets and two zippered pockets—one on the front and one on the back, both on the right side. I love the linen blue coloration of these shorts, which gives them a textured appearance despite being a smooth fabric. I also like the scalloped legs, which offer even more room to maneuver in.
The amount of stretch is something I’ve never felt before—a feeling of absolute freedom. They drape well, creating a relaxed fit I prefer for my own silhouette. If I knew martial arts, I’m confident that I’d be able to kick over my own head without restraint and have no worries about revealing my man parts to onlookers due to the shorts’ ability to sway with my body.
I got these in a men’s size L, up from my usual M, after reading that Vuori’s sizing skews small. I had no problems with sizing, fit, or comfort.
Men’s Sizes: S-XXL
These athletic shorts are the only 5-inch inseam ones that Columbia offers, which is a shame considering I find them to be the most accessible. What's more, they have 7-inch built-in compression briefs that poke out from underneath each leg of the shorts, which makes them appear longer in length, despite the outer shorts being five inches, making them a good starter pair of shorter shorts for anyone concerned about showing so much leg.
I appreciate the liner because 1) no underwear is required with these shorts, and 2) they’re forever beholden to an athletic look. I love the way running shorts make me feel sporty and signal to others in public that I’m just leaving the gym, despite being a person who never works out.
These shorts are terrific—the size M stays put at the waist and fits snug due to a combination of polyester and spandex. They also feature UPF 40 sun protection and quickly wick sweat away. But annoyingly, they only have a single pocket—a small 2-inch-deep zippered pouch that‘s located directly on the tailbone. That means I can’t hold my cellphone, wallet, or loose change anywhere else but in my hands while I wear these.
If you’re into the idea of wearing 5-inch inseam shorts, and you’re self-conscious about showing some skin, these are a solid choice. I highly recommend these for all-day errands and chores, like tackling lawn work or visiting the farmer’s market, to stay comfy and cool while out in the sun.
4. United By Blue
Men’s Sizes: 30-38
Colors: Midnight, Squash, Goldenrod
I’ve been dying to try United By Blue for a while now, as the company is dedicated to ridding our oceans of plastic and producing clothing with sustainable materials, like organic cotton and recycled plastic. While I appreciate the brand’s mission, unfortunately, this short leaves little more to be desired.
First, the positive: I love the shorts’ interesting stitching and retro design. The blue seams on the shorts’ yellow panels make for a subtle contrast, while the edges of the shorts are taped with blue fabric that enhances the two-tone effect. The shorts—which are sold as swim trunks—are made of organic cotton and treated with a water-repellant finish. The style is terrific, and wearing these without underwear (they have a built-in liner) made them fit more comfortably than I expected.
However, that water-resistant finish makes feel stiff when worn for dry-land activities. They feel more like starchy polyester—think a slightly softer pair of Dickies work pants—than pliable cotton. They’re also cut small. I ordered these in my usual 34 but feel like a 36 would’ve been better for me.
I have a bad habit of resting my hands inside of pockets whenever I’m standing still, and these shorts make that impossible. The pockets are so narrow I can hardly even fit my thumbs inside. Personal complaints aside, the manufacturing also looks a little sketchy. All that fashionable stitching doesn’t seem to be of great quality—everything is sewn loosely, and the inside of my shorts show random fray and pilling. I’m not sure how many washes these can withstand before completely unraveling.
Men’s Sizes: 28-42
Colors: Dusty Salmon, Spokane Grey, Ashen Red, Dusty Khaki, Stone, Aircraft Surplus, Obsidian, Maritime Blue
If I based my experience with 5-inch inseam bottoms on J.Crew’s stretch chino shorts, I’d probably turn into a 9-inch knee-knocker fanatic. While they look the part, these aren’t the most comfortable shorts on this list, nor are they the most interesting. They’re your typical flat-front short, made from a combination of cotton and spandex that's unfortunately prone to wrinkles.
I ordered the J.Crew shorts in a men’s size 34 and wished I’d gone up to a 35 or 36, because these fit way too snug around my waist. While walking around, I had to constantly adjust them, either to pull fabric away from my crotch, or to straighten out the leg holes that somehow flared outward. I’m also unsure if it was due to the ill fit, but the shorts wrinkled with every step I took. Sitting down made this problem much worse, as it caused the shorts to bunch up with horizontal folds that looked unflattering when I stood up again.
It’s a shame they were such a fail for me, considering J.Crew offers such an interesting variety of colors for these chinos, like ashy red and ocean blue. This style of short just isn’t for me.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.