How to wear... shorts

It’s a perennial problem for the sallow skinned, unpredictably summered Englishman. The Chic Geek explains all.

THERE is always something a little “mad dogs and Englishmen” about wearing shorts in London. Often it’s a case of the mercury hitting a certain number and the bottom half of our trousers miraculously falling away, regardless of style. A literal knee-jerk reaction that further cements the British gentleman’s reputation for lacking warm weather style.

Shorts require more than an afterthought. They are a style dilemma: many guys find the whole dare-to-bare conundrum confusing and difficult. They divide people. Fashion dictators like Tom Ford advocate never wearing shorts in the city. According to Mr Ford, shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach.

He does have a point, but like all style decisions, there is some flexibility.

Shorts come in more shapes, patterns and lengths than ever before, so there is plenty of choice.

There are no concrete rules, but we do have “guidelines” – us fashion folk make up new ones every year – that differ depending on how we’re feeling and the current trends. Here are the things to bear in mind for 2013:

Never wear shorts to a formal event. It shows a lack of respect. If in doubt, always err on the side of not wearing them. Opt for a pair of lightweight chinos instead.

Short suits – matching jacket and shorts – are out. They were a fashion novelty for a couple of summers and now look immature and dated. Instead look for shorts with a formal centre crease or turn-ups. These will make the shorts look smarter; like you’ve made more effort. On sober days wear navy, taupe or dark green, for fun go for colour. Match colour with colour; bright shorts, bright top.

Choose where you want to show skin. Women have been doing this for years. If you choose bottom half (ie shorts) opt for a long sleeve knit or top. If top half (T-shirt or vest), you should go with trousers. You can’t do both.

The idea is to look cool in shorts, not for the shorts to cool you. If you’re feeling the heat, removing half of your trousers isn’t really going to make much difference.

It’s all about balance, proportion and understatement. Choose a short in proportion to your body. If you’re shorter, then you can wear a slightly shorter short, and if you’re a larger guy, then go for a longer pair. It should be a few inches above the knee. Nothing below the knee: this will make you look shorter and stumpy. Shorts should be fitted, but not tight; this will make you look bigger than you really are.

No synthetic materials. Not unless you’re playing sport or swimming.

Go for smaller and more delicate patterns. If you are pear shaped, avoid pattern on your bottom half and go for darker colours to try and balance out your top half.

Beware the short-short. The return of the short-short is only for stringy young things with limbs like Bambi’s and legs the colour of illegal veal. This also goes for denim cut-offs of any description.

I hope that clears that up. If it hasn’t put you off, good luck!

Marcus Jaye is author of The Chic Geek’s Fashion, Grooming and Style Guide for Men and editor of

Marcus Jaye