I tried the whole short shorts for men thing—and it was awkward
Turns out I'm more modest than I thought.
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I don’t wear short shorts and it physically shows—not by my demeanor, but in the tan lines that end just above my knees. Any darkness on my thighs is likely attributed to driving around in Florida sunshine, not due to physical activity. I’m an indoorsman, if you will, forever plagued by a farmer’s tan.
Still, a few weeks ago, when a photo of Milo Ventimiglia showing off his thick thighs in 3-inch inseam shorts went viral, I thought to myself, Hey, I wonder how I’d look in those? I knew I wouldn’t quite be on Milo’s level, but why should heartthrob celebrities be the only men wearing short shorts and catching praise for it? Why not the averagely built Florida man, like me?
Having never worn a pair of shorts with less than a 5-inch inseam—my personal favorite short length—I decided to give the experience a try. Ventimiglia’s workout shorts were, according to his Instagram, made by ASRV. Unfortunately, those were sold out (likely due to aforementioned celebrity endorsement). So, instead, I opted to let my legs fly in a pair of Lululemon’s 3-Inch Fast and Free Shorts.
What’s with the short shorts trend for men?
The inseam length of men’s shorts has been a heavily debated topic over the last year. In late 2020, some TikTokers argued that men should reach for 5-inch inseam shorts over 7- or 9-inch. Patagonia’s Baggies have since become a mascot for the shorter inseam movement. Elsewhere, Twitter is anticipating a Hot Boy Summer, and celebrities like The Rock and LeBron James continue to be catalysts for a broader short-shorts movement. Companies like Bear Bottom and Under Armour offer short inseam lengths that fit the growing trend.
Typically, 3-inch inseam shorts are reserved for running or working out, where freeing your thighs allows for some extra mobility. But Milo—and the increasing number of retailers releasing shorter and shorter shorts—is proof that they can be for everyday wear, as well.
Are the Lululemon 3-Inch Fast and Free Shorts comfortable?
In high school, I learned that shorts, with arms rested at your sides, should never rise above your fingertips. I think my principal would agree that if I'd worn these Lulus to class, I'd deserve a few days of in-school suspension for indecency. I'm 5-foot-11 and the Fast and Free shorts hit seven inches above my knee, or 12 inches if you measure from my knee to the short’s side slit. That’s about boxer-brief length for me, and prior to this fashion experiment, I don’t think anyone but my girlfriend knew what that looks like. So, the prospect of subjecting the general public to that image was, well, daunting.
It turns out I’m slightly prudish when it comes to showing some skin. When I wore Lululemon’s Fast and Free shorts out in the city, it didn’t matter where I went—I could not shake the feeling that every person was looking at me. I thought I was ready for Hot Boy Summer, but... nope. I was acutely aware of how short my shorts were, and I felt like everyone was silently judging my clothing choice for the day. It seemed to me that passersby kept glancing at my shoes, then my legs, and then my knees—and hardly ever my face afterward. It happened at Whole Foods when I walked down the aisles, again at the pizza joint as I was being seated, and once more at the pet store. I didn’t enjoy the feeling of being under a microscope.
It didn’t occur to me until later that while everyone's eyes may have been drawn to my distractingly pale thighs, no one had said a word about them, or my shorts. To quote my girlfriend: “No one cares what you’re wearing, dude.” No one but me, of course. And while at the park, I felt that I looked natural, given that I was wearing a short made for running. I was able to calm down about my short length, relax, and enjoy the freedom that Lululemon granted my thighs and legs.
Indeed, that liberation is what short shorts are all about. If you feel more ready to embrace shorter shorts than I apparently am, I’m here to report that the Fast and Free shorts are comfortable. With no pockets to hold my keys, cell phone, or wallet, I was able to walk without the bother of such items smacking against my legs, and sit in the grass as if I were lounging at home without any pants on. I didn’t sweat as much as usual during my walk around the park because the shorts offer so much breeze. No, I didn’t look as cool as Harrison Ford in the ‘80s, and I definitely didn’t look like Milo, but the Fast and Free shorts are easy to move in and lightweight so I almost didn't care how I looked. Almost.
Are the Lululemon 3-inch shorts worth buying?
Personally, I probably wouldn’t buy these again, unless I decide to join a gym or start running. I’m apparently more modest than I give myself credit for. Going out in public in these isn’t a huge deal, but being self-conscious about my legs was something I couldn’t shake.
I am team short shorts, though—just not on me. Like the TikTokers, I prefer 5-inch inseams and believe that the Patagonia Baggies are a more flattering option for my body type than the Lululemon Fast and Free shorts. But for those sold on the look, these 3-inch shorts are comfy and chafe-free and arguably a solid investment. They come in men's sizes XS to XXL and in two colors—grey or lime.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.