Welcome to SHORT WEEK SHORTS WEEK, GQ Recommends’ appropriately abridged ode to the summeriest and calf-baringest of bottoms. Whether you’re a big-and-baggy boy, an above-the-knee fella, or somewhere in between, we’ve got all the thoughts, takes, and, yes, recommendations to make this your greatest, leggiest, most stylish shorts season yet.
Every year around this time—as the mood shifts from “SUMMER’S HERE!” to “Good lord, when will this swampy hellscape of a season finally be over?” faster than a soft serve cone melts in the sun—the same question tends to dominate the menswear conversation: What is the correct length for shorts?
We here at GQ are as guilty of stoking the flames of thigh-baring agitation as much as anyone. We’ve crafted complex mathematical formulas, debated internally ad nauseam, and reported extensively on the preferred shorts length of the TikTok community at large. That last demographic believes a five-inch inseam to be the platonic ideal, and it’s hard for us to really disagree: five inches is the length of the GQ-loved Patagonia Baggies, which lands at a very respectable just-above-the-knee point on most people, regardless of height. Wearing five-inch shorts, you will look presentable, proper, and, yes, correct.
But here’s some food for thought: Who gives a flying shit about looking correct? Summer is a time for letting loose, taking risks, and begging your one friend with central air to let you come over and hang out for a little bit. If you ask me, a humble man who was recently called “Pretty Legs” by a stranger on the street, you should be far more concerned about your shorts looking wrong. If you’re going to go to the trouble of publicly exposing your lower extremities, you should want said extremities to leave a mark, to make everyone in the vicinity stop and stare, to declare something definitive about your taste and confidence. And you’re not going to do that by wearing some safe ass five-inch shorts.
Instead, if you’re going to follow a rule about shorts this summer, let it be this one:
The former will make your gams the absolute star of the show, and are best paired with other retro, athletic-tinged gems: fitted tennis shirts, striped socks, Adidas Sambas. The latter, meanwhile, will take you down a decidedly more capital-f fashion route, and will look killer with similarly baggy tees and hoodies or dressed up with a tie and blazer.
I’ve taken the liberty of gathering up a few choice options in either extreme. Whichever way you go, whatever length you settle on, the bottom line is this: Shorts season is fleeting, folks. Don’t ever waste it by dressing boring.