The 9 best shorts for men — denim, cargo, formal and more

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If you ask someone what they think are the best shorts for men, you’re sure to get a complicated response. After all, it’s arguably an impossible question to answer, given the number of variables that come into play. From length and shape to material and leg opening size, it’s safe to say that it all depends on the man who’s wearing them.

With this in mind, we’ve rounded up nine of the best options we’ve found, owned and tested. As with any piece of clothing, particularly those in the legwear category, finding the right option that complements your shape and physique is key.

Also, for many, particularly those who sweat a lot, the lighter the material, the better — especially now that summer’s in full swing.

To help you decide on what option fits your style and purpose best, we’ve broken down each pair into nine categories from “Best Overall” to “Best Formal Option.” With brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Nike and retailers ranging from Mr. Porter to Amazon, you’re sure to find something here that perfectly fits your personal style and budget.

Best Overall: Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Stretch Waistband Shorts, $45.36 (Orig. $59.50)

Credit: Amazon

When I purchased these on Prime Day, I wasn’t expecting much, as I had never bought clothes on Amazon before. However, when they arrived, my reservations were quickly settled, and I couldn’t be more impressed.

Available in seven colors, these Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Stretch Waistband Shorts perfectly shape to your body without being tight or restricting. The conveniently placed elastic waistband on the back also makes them easy to move in. Trust me, from personal experience — if you’re considering buying any of the shorts on this list, this is the pair to get.

Best Casual Option: Nike Men’s Woven Shorts, $45

Credit: Nike

Here’s an option that’s a definite must-have for every man. There’s a reason the Nike Men’s Woven Shorts have been staples for years. They’re comfortable, versatile and go with just about everything. Plus, they’re the perfect shorts for running errands, working out or even lounging around the apartment.

I have these in five colors and can firmly say that they live up to the hype.

Best Amazon Pick: Dockers Men’s Perfect Short, $23.67 – $29.99

Credit: Amazon

The Dockers Men’s Perfect Short is a No. 1 best-seller on Amazon for a reason. With over 24,000 reviews, this is one of the most popular men’s fashion picks on the entire site.

They come in 10 colors, are 100% cotton and have that roomy fit through the seat and thigh that Dockers is known for.

Best Pleated Shorts: Haggar Men’s Cool 18 Pro Straight Fit Pleated Shorts, $24.99 – $60

Credit: Amazon

Pleated shorts are making a comeback, and I’m ecstatic! Pleats perfectly complement any physique or body type, thanks to that extra layer of fabric that’s pleated on the front. These, according to shoppers, are the best in this category.

The Haggar Men’s Cool 18 Pro Straight Fit Pleated Shorts are an Amazon No. 1 best-seller and come in 16 colors. They’re also available in sizes 32 to 60, making them extremely size-inclusive.

Best Denim Option: Levi’s 511 Slim Fit Medium 11 In. Men’s Shorts, $50

Credit: Levi’s

No one does denim quite like Levi’s, so it’s only right that the brand’s 511 Slim Fit Medium 11 In. Men’s Shorts be the go-to denim pick on this list.

These cult-classic shorts range from size 28 to 44 and come in two wash options: Halloumi Short Light Wash or Chorizo. They’re slim but not skinny, so there’s enough room to move around. Plus, they have just the right amount of stretch for mobility.

Best Distressed Denim: Levi’s 217 Slim Fit Denim Shorts, $79.50

Credit: Nordstrom

If distressed and ripped denim is more your style, the Levi’s 217 Slim Fit Denim Shorts are a no-brainer. Like the 511 Slim Fit Medium 11 In. Men’s Shorts, these are slim. However, they taper slightly above the knee for a narrower leg opening.

Best Cargo Shorts: Carhartt WIP Cotton-Rising Cargo Shorts, $120

Credit: Mr. Porter

Cargo shorts have been around for decades, and it’s highly unlikely that they’re ever going to go out of style. These timeless Carhartt WIP Cotton-Rising Cargo Shorts have a regular straight-leg and are made of lightweight, non-stretchy fabric. This army green color is a classic, so you’ll surely get tons of wear out of these.

Best Sweatshorts: Nike Sportswear Club Wide-Leg Logo-Print Fleece-Back Cotton-Blend Jersey Shorts, $35

Credit: Mr. Porter

It may be warmer outside, but fleece shorts are still a year-round staple. The Nike Sportswear Club Wide-Leg Jersey Shorts boast that classic silhouette that the sportswear brand has perfected over the years. And it seems to be working, as you likely know someone who wears these like a uniform, or you probably already own them yourself.

The signature Nike logo print is the touch that makes these extra special — not to mention how comfortable and versatile they are. Editor’s note: Snag these while you can because they sell out every time they’re restocked.

Best Formal Option: Canali Stretch-Cotton Twill Shorts, $320

Credit: Mr. Porter

Lastly, who said shorts can’t be worn formally? Whether you’re attending a beach wedding or heading to a summer evening event, this pair of luxe Canali Stretch-Cotton Twill Shorts will be your go-to.

The secret to rocking formal shorts is to stay away from slim or skinny cuts – straight-leg shorts in earth tones and cool colors boast that sleek, sophisticated look that gives you an effortless flair. Pair these with a simple white button-down and you’re good to go.

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