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So You Want to Wear Shorts This Summer

Fret not my friends! I heard your cries*, the clamoring of voices that rose to a din, and I was able to make out one plea above all others, a cry that said: “Christina! Shorts! What of shorts, what do we do about shorts this summer?”

I listened, I meditated**, I did some prayerful reflection***, and now I am here to provide you with an Official Summer 2021 Summer Shorts Guide!

We covered the return of the 90s and the 70s in our last edition, and you can expect to see that trend continuing here! The 90s influence is especially strong in the athletic short space — think Princess Diana and her iconic bike shorts. The 70s vibes are coming in hot with prints and patterns, which I personally am digging!

To the shorts!!

*Comments
**Shopped
***Shopped some more

Classic Denim

Imagine my delight when I started perusing shorts for this installment and found that not only are we still leaning into a higher waist, but we are also creating space for a longer inseam! Old Navy is doing some really incredible work, this black high waisted pair is honestly my platonic ideal for a short. For those who want to go a little shorter, I love this cuffed pair, because let’s be honest, cuffs are a crucial queer signifier. Along that vein, we have a classic cut off, which for me is inextricably linked to memories of the public pool when I was a teen? Regardless, I love this pair from ABLE. We are seeing a resurgence of the Bermuda short in a way that I didn’t expect, and… look, I’m not sold on that style for me, but I am not the boss of you! I trust that one of you can pull them off!

Dad Vibes

A collage of four pairs of 'dad' shorts, from L to R: plain black denim shorts that hit mid-thigh; dark blue shorts with a palm tree print; khaki cargo shorts, and loose flowy black shorts with a white geometric pattern

Left to Right:  
Levi’s Youth 501 93 regular denim shorts:
ASOS ($64) //  Palm Tree Print Jacquard Shorts: Nordstrom Rack ($69.97) //  Cargo Jogger Shorts: Old Navy ($27) // Run 7″ Printed Shorts: Nordstrom Rack ($24.97)

Ahhh, no time better than the summer months to really lean into that Dad Energy! A classic black denim is the perfect starter short for anyone who wants to rock that Dad vibe. If you want to level up and go for the crew + sock sneaker combo, trust me when I say Dads and Dad types everywhere will approve. You know what else Dads love? A printed short, and tbquieth, this Palm Tree print fairly screams “Yeah, I’m grilling right now, what of it?” This next pair might feel controversial, as there has certainly been a lot of voices urging folks to step away from anything even tangentially cargo. But I think the issue with the cargo pants and shorts of yore was always that they were too bulky and long! Try this more fitted pair and rest easy knowing you can absolutely fit a ring of keys in those pockets. Finally, I encourage you to go all the way off with this black and white geometric pair of shorts, they are cool in the best kind of breezy and effortless way.

Mommi Energy

Where my fellow Mommis at?! Let’s get started with the classic summer time Mommi fabric, linen! Frankly, I could have found four pairs of just linen shorts for this section and called it a day, but you deserve my best! I love the tie waist of this pair from Old Navy, it’s very “hopping off your whimsical bike to grab a drink at the beach bar,” which I love. Also brilliant? A bike short with lace detailing! Let’s be honest, Princess Diana was an iconic Mommi, and you should wear these summer shorts in her honor. I love a paper bag short, they are breezy and cool and almost universally flattering. Both of these pairs have a high waist and belt, which I love, and the black and white ones are bringing some 70s energy with that pattern!

Teen on TikTok

A collage, from L to R, of a pair of floral tie-dye shorts, a pair of white tennis inspired shorts with green and blue stripes, a pair of paint plattered board shorts, and a pair of blue velour shorts

Left to Right: High-Waisted O.G. Tie-Dye Button-Fly Jean Shorts: Old Navy ($39.99) // Striped Mesh Shorts: Anthropologie ($84) // Pilcro The Wanderer Shorts: Anthropologie ($88) // Curve matching velour shorts in blue: asos ($23)

Every single item above does make me feel old as hell, I should stipulate that. But look, there are all kinds of vibes and styles, and while I am always The Mom friend, that means someone has to be the friend with the energy of a very online teen! The big thing you’ll notice here is that the youth are very into textures and bright, bold patterns. These tie-dye summer shorts are honestly cute as hell, bright and summery! For the daring among us—what about mesh! Lean into those 90s aesthetics! Plus, you will simply never be hot in these! I love the studied casualness of this paint splattered pair, maybe you have a pair you really painted in? Finally, this velour pair is just one option of many trendy fabrics, do not discount a knit!

Okay, how are are we feeling? A little better? Maybe slightly less overwhelmed? There are, of course, a ton more looks that fit this brief, so please drop more suggestions in the comments if you got em!

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Christina Tucker is writer and podcaster living in Philadelphia. Find her on Twitter or Instagram!

Christina has written 110 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. Though I’m not a personal fan of the bikeshorts-as-shorts look, those things are great under skirts if your legs rub together and it’s uncomfortable.

    I absolutely love linen for summer, it is extremely comfortable and those are cute shorts. Denim shorts are my go to for hikes and I always think they look hot combined with hiking boots. Especially the cut off ones and I think I have an ripped pair of jeans that I can take the legs off.

    Do think the (probably polyester) velours thing is going to be extremely sweaty. But I sweat like a fountain on the best of days and polyester and me are not friends.

  2. Thank you Christina!

    My summer shorts look is pretty always a mix of summer camp counselor and Baby in Dirty Dancing so I’m glad too see the longer shorts coming back in style.

    I’m sad about the high rise shorts though – I hate having fabric around my waist. Mid rise forever.

  3. Btw, if we’re doing this clothes column on a regular basis, I’d love to see one with sustainable and fair trade options!

    Personally I’m working on getting my wardrobe free of synthetic materials because of the microplastic pollution, and it’s quite hard to find fun clothes completely (down to the thread used) free of synthetics, and also being sustainable on other fronts.

  4. Old Navy really is *the* place for shorts. I was looking at my current closet and 3/3 of my shorts are from there and have lasted for years (well…mostly…) and I was JUST thinking about going back so BLESS YOU for giving me this. It means less anxiety inducing trying on and more direct pick up and purchase. :)

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