7 Different Types of Shorts

Shorts are a go-to garment for both men and women when the weather is warm. With the sun beating down, full-length pants can quickly become too hot. That’s when having your legs free while wearing shorts will be comfortable and convenient.

With that being said, not all shorts serve a purely functional purpose. Shorts can be highly fashionable, too. Trendy shorts designs can be included in cute, summery outfits or fun night-out looks – this garment is versatile and well-loved by people of all different types.

Types of Shorts

Shorts are worn by both men and women, though you’ll find that there’s more variety found in women’s shorts when compared to men’s shorts. Men’s shorts are usually about the same length (think Bermuda length) and have small variances in style. Women’s shorts come in an assortment of lengths (though they’re almost always shorter than men’s shorts) and differ greatly in visual details, like zippers, materials, tie closures, pockets, and more.

Below you’ll find a selection of the most popular varieties of shorts, both today and throughout history. Different types of shorts are appropriate for different occasions, body types, and style preferences, so consider each type’s specifications before settling on which one to add to your wardrobe.

Denim Shorts

Lily Parker Women's Juniors Classic Stretchy Mid Rise Cuffed Denim Shorts SH504 28 Mid Blue

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Denim shorts are an American classic – a shortened take on the typical pair of blue jeans. Acting as a neutral, versatile bottom for all types of outfits, denim shorts are a must-have in the men’s and women’s wardrobes alike.

Denim shorts burst onto the fashion scene in the 1960’s. At this time in history, styles that were considered “out there” or rebellious became more popular. This trend was a result of the controversial political conflict at the time in the United States. Denim shorts were a major component of this style trend, eventually becoming a staple of American fashion. In fact, denim as a fabric was viewed as a symbol of youth rebellion in this era.

Daisy Dukes is a specific variety of denim shorts. They’re extra-short, tight, and usually have a frayed hem, as this style is often made from cutoff jeans. Daisy Dukes came into fashion in the 1970s. They were made popular the TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard”. The character Daisy Duke, played by actress Catherin Bach, wore super short denim shorts throughout the series. Daisy Dukes are known for a sexy yet all-American style – Ms. Duke wore them both to withstand the southern heat and to catch the eyes of boys. The denim shorts worn by Daisy Dukes were incredibly short – so short, in fact, that the show’s network, CBS, required flesh-colored tights to be worn underneath them.

Thanks to Daisy Duke, denim shorts started out like a garment only worn by women. It wasn’t until the 1980s that men started to wear them, too. Nowadays, denim shorts are worn frequently by all different types of people. They’re a hot weather-friendly alternative to full-length jeans.

A later example of iconic denim shorts can be seen on the 1992 cover of Vogue. On this cover, model Cindy Crawford is wearing a pair of upper-thigh length denim cutoff shorts. Paired with a white button-down shirt that’s been tied in a knot at her ribs, this memorable look has a Summery, purely American vibe.

Main Features of Denim Shorts

  • Denim shorts are ideal to wear in the summertime when the weather makes wearing full-length jeans uncomfortable. This kind of shorts combines the durability of denim with the comfort of leaving your legs bare.
  • Denim shorts often have a grungy, cut-off style for a casual yet edgy look. This type of denim short can be paired with a T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up or a crop top for a look with a hint of rock ‘n roll.
  • Denim is a popular fabric for shorts because it’s so durable. Denim has even been advertised as resistant to tears. Denim shorts combine the coolness of a pair of shorts with the sturdiness of denim. This makes the garment a practical option for all-day wear.
  • Denim is a neutral fabric, so you can successfully pair it with bright colors and eye-catching prints. Denim shorts pair especially well with vibrantly colored tank tops in the summertime.
  • Cut-off denim shorts are a popular denim short variety that is made by cutting off the legs of a pair of jeans. Cut-offs have been popular among both men and women since the 1950s and 1960s. By making cut-off shorts from a pair of denim jeans at home, you can choose exactly how long you want them to be, which is a big perk for those with unusual body proportions.

Cargo Shorts

Match Men's Twill Comfort Cargo Short Without Belt #S3612 (Label Size 2XL/36 (US 34), Khaki)

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Cargo shorts, the shortened version of cargo pants, have a design that features cargo pockets. Cargo shorts have a utilitarian design that puts function over form, prioritizing the need for hands-free storage of small items when you’re out and about. Cargo shorts may have one or several pockets and are made from a khaki material.

Cargo pockets are distinct from the pockets that you’d see on other types of pants because they’re larger and can be closed. They’re usually in the shape of a square and have a closure that folds down. Cargo pockets are typically secured shut with either Velcro or snap closure.

Cargo pockets can carry more luggage than regular pockets because of their pleats. The pleat at the bottom of a regular cargo pocket allows the pocket to increase in size, making room for relatively large belongings.

The inception of the cargo pants concept dates back to 1938. These pants were worn in the British military beginning in this year but were then seen being worn by U.S. troops in the beginning of the 1940s. The size of the pockets on the cargo pants worn by soldiers grew as they were required to carry more gear along with them.

It wasn’t until around the 1980s that cargo shorts became a well-known garment. The highly functional design was mainly geared at people spending a lot of time outdoors, such as hikers, campers, fishers, and backpackers, as well as handymen. Golfers also often wore cargo shorts because they cut down on the amount of baggage they had to carry along with them on the course.

Main Features of Cargo Shorts

  • Cargo shorts may also be called “combat shorts”. This name comes from the initial reason for their design, which was to be worn by the military.
  • Cargo shorts may eliminate the need to carry a wallet, purse, or bag around with you. Instead of storing your important belongings in the wallet or bag, you would place them in the cargo pockets. This conveniently leaves your hands free to do other things, like making a phone call or carry a cup of coffee.
  • Cargo shorts were especially popular among men in the 1990s. These shorts have a comfortable, casual, and convenient-to-wear quality, making them a popular choice non-business wear.
  • Cargo shorts often have a baggy fit, further adding to their reputation as a piece of clothing that puts comfort over style.
  • Some cargo pants are made to be convertible, so that they may be made into shorts. These cargo pant styles will have the lower leg sections be removable either through the use of snaps or zippers.
  • Cargo shorts are most often made of khaki, a cotton material that’s commonly used in clothing for the military. International armies, not just that of the United States, use khaki to construct their uniforms. It’s highly practical because it will withstand long periods of wear outdoors in harsh conditions. The perks of khaki are that it’s super durable and will last for a long time. However, khaki also has a beige, yellowish tone that isn’t the most attractive color for clothing.

High-Waisted Shorts

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High-waisted shorts, which may also be called high-rise shorts, rise to above the wearer’s belly button. Usually, the waistband will hit approximately three inches above the belly button, specifically. High-waisted shorts have a reputation for being frumpy. But, in reality, the high rise creates the illusion of a longer leg line and may be quite flattering for many people.

High-waisted shorts can most commonly be seen worn in the 1950s. This era was the first in which shorts for women was a popular and accepted style. The main style features pinup shorts, a variety of high-waisted shorts that often included details such as sailor buttons and a side zipper. Pinup shorts are also very short with the hem hitting high on the upper thigh.

Although high-waisted shorts may seem like they’d be constricting, they actually provide a comfortable fit. This is because, with the higher waistline, you don’t have to worry about the shorts slipping down, as you would with low-rise shorts. If you’re still concerned about comfort, find a pair of high-waisted shorts made in a material that can stretch a bit, like a knit or even the fabric used to make jeggings.

Shorts have an inherently casual look about them, but high-waisted designs often have a more put-together effect. For example, if you pair high-waisted shorts with a belt and a tucked in a button-down, you’ll have a look that’s appropriate for summer dates or parties. So, a pair of high-waisted shorts can add variety to your summer wardrobe and give you greater versatility when it comes to wearing shorts for different occasions.

Main Features of High-Waisted Shorts

  • High-waisted shorts aren’t ideal for all body types. This shorts style may accentuate those with wider hips. Also, for those looking to conceal their lower bellies, high-waisted shorts are likely not the best option – this style is usually paired with a cropped or tucked in shirt to create balanced proportions, so the lower stomach area is in sight.
  • Believe it or not, high-waisted shorts don’t actually have a waistline that’s higher than your true waist. A few inches above your navel is your natural waist. So, high-waisted shorts may help to create a perfectly proportional silhouette.
  • Since high-waisted shorts have a practical look about them, you can pair them with a feminine blouse to create an attractive look. Think romantic floral tops or shirts with loose, flowing sleeves. Any top that balances out the borderline homely look of high-waisted shorts will make for a stylish outfit.
  • A currently popular high-waisted shorts style is made from a lightweight fabric, like linen, and features a tie at the waist to keep the garment secure.

Booty Shorts

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Booty shorts are a super-short garment generally worn by women. This type of shorts stands apart from the rest for its super short and tight design. They’re called booty shorts because they’re often so short that a small portion of the wearer’s buttocks is exposed.

“Booty shorts” is a modern term for “hotpants”, the name used to describe extremely short shorts from the 1950s to the 1990s. Hotpants were a part of the women’s fashion revolution in the 50s, when women began to break the accepted clothing norms and flaunt the curves of their bodies. A largely disputed trend in this era, hot pants were also simply called “short shorts”. While short shorts had been worn since the 1930s at the beach and for athletic purposes, it wasn’t until the 50s that this type of garment was worn as part of everyday fashion.

Famous actresses were a large reason behind the sudden popularity of short shorts. With photographs of these female icons wearing short shorts in public, the idea of women completely exposing their legs became more mainstream.

In the 50s, short shorts were made in all different types of materials, from knits to silk to yarn. Worn by women out in the streets, short shorts were in stark contrast to the typical women’s wear of previous generations, which often consisted of long dresses with tights.

Hot Pants came back into fashion in the 90s after being seen as trashy or scandalous by many people throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In this decade and early into the 2000s, pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera commonly wore hot pants onstage.

Main Features of Booty Shorts

  • Since booty shorts are form-fitting and stretchy, they’re commonly worn by people while exercising. Bikers, runners, gymnasts, and dancers are all types of athletes that may opt to wear booty shorts while practicing.
  • Booty shorts are revealing, so they’re not commonly worn by people while they’re out and about. This type of shorts is a more common option to wear while working out or relaxing at home.
  • Booty shorts show off the muscles of the legs, which is another big reason why they’re so popular among athletes.
  • Booty shorts are often included as a part of the uniform for cheerleaders and members of dance teams. This type of shorts is ideal for these purposes because they leave virtually the entire leg exposed for complete freedom of motion. They won’t constrict dancers and cheerleaders when they kick their legs high.

Boyfriend Shorts

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Boyfriend shorts are a popular garment for women. The “boyfriend” concept in fashion comes from the idea that a garment was borrowed from your boyfriend. This means that boyfriend clothing commonly has a masculine style with a loose-fitting design. Simply put, “boyfriend” clothing is menswear that’s specially designed to be worn by women. Boyfriend shorts are quite popular, but you may also find boyfriend jeans, jackets, and shirts.

The boyfriend style dates back to the 1960s when Marilyn Monroe was photographed rocking a pair at the set of the TV show The Misfits. Ms. Monroe was a major factor in the universalization of androgynous styles. As a strikingly beautiful woman, she showed that is was okay for women to embrace their bodies, as well as enjoy fashion that broke the standards of women’s wear at the time.

Boyfriend shorts are often made using distressed denim, as the distressed style is common in menswear. Distressed denim is made to have an aged, vintage look that’s both more casual and more visually interesting than typical denim. Distressing a pair of denim boyfriend shorts involves fading, fraying, and ripping the fabric. When denim is distressed, it doesn’t provide as close a fit to the body, which is why it’s mainly popular among men.

Main Features of Boyfriend Shorts

  • Boyfriend shorts aren’t all shapeless and slouchy. You can find boyfriend shorts styles that are more tailored to your physique while maintaining masculine details. There’s a spectrum of fits when it comes to boyfriend styles, with some having a true menswear design and others fitting more closely to a woman’s body. Many modern takes on the classic pair of boyfriend shorts have a figure-flattering fit for a streamlined look.
  • Boyfriend shorts are commonly paired with a feminine top for contrast and balance. For instance, pairing a pair of boyfriend shorts with a flowy, floral blouse is visually interesting and flattering.
  • Since boyfriend shorts have a loose, sometimes baggy fit, women may choose to pair them with a tight tank top or crop top to show off the upper body while the shape of the legs is obscured.
  • To offset the masculine look of boyfriend shorts, many women will pair them with a basic pair of pump heels. Heels are a classically feminine choice of footwear that will balance out the baggy, masculine look of boyfriend shorts.

Pleated Shorts

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Pleated shorts generally refer to men’s Bermuda-length shorts with pleats extended from the waistband. Some shorts for women also feature pleats. These are often loose shorts of upper-thigh length, constructed using a lightweight fabric like linen and including a tie at the waist.

Pleated shorts and pants can be seen in Western menswear all the way back to the 1930s. They stayed in fashion for the two successive decades, often included in two-piece suits for the office. Women at this time in history may also be seen wearing pleated shorts, but they were generally shorter and featured larger exaggerated pleats.

Pleated shorts hit their peak of trendiness in the 1990s. The pleats at that time were exaggerated in size, creating a pair of shorts that ballooned at the hip. In this decade, as well as the decades that preceded it, men usually wore a sturdy belt with pleated pants to keep them securely in place. A belt was important for this function, given that pleated pants have a loose fit around the waist.

Modern pleated shorts have a more subtle design with smaller pleats to minimize volume.

Main Features of Pleated Shorts

  • Pleated shorts have been seen as a poor fashion choice in menswear for decades, but the style is making a comeback thanks to the emerging “dad style” trend. Pleated shorts may contribute to the overall effect of a preppy look when paired with a sweater and oxfords. Clearly, pleated shorts shouldn’t be written off, as many modern fashion designers are pulling them back into mainstream menswear.
  • To create a pleat, you need more fabric than you would if you were to make a simple front panel. As a result of the extra fabric, pleated shorts have a looser, roomier fit than other types of shorts.
  • Pleated shorts are often worn by men for comfort reasons. The added volume at the waistband and at the seat of the pants will make sitting more comfortable than if you were wearing tight fitted trousers or jeans.
  • Pleated shorts may have either forward or reverse Forward pleats face the fly of the shorts and make for a more pulled-together look. This is often seen in English-made shorts. Reverse pleats face the pockets and are commonly seen in Italien-made shorts. A looser fit is achieved by reverse pleats.
  • The pleats on a pair of shorts may either extend only partway down the front panel or extend all the way down to the hem of the shorts.

Running Shorts

Starter Women's Stretch Running Short, Amazon Exclusive, Iron Grey/Black, Small

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Running shorts are made to be comfortable and breathable during exercise. They allow for complete freedom of movement in the legs and are ideal for warm weather (or when the gym heats up during your workout).

Some running shorts designs feature a slit on the side of each leg. This allows for greater leg movement so you don’t feel any constriction while moving or exercising. These slits, or split sides, come in different lengths depending on the length of the shorts. Usually, this means that it’s either a “1⁄2 split side” or a “3⁄4 split side”. A 1⁄2 split side has a slit measuring halfway up the full length of the shorts. A 3⁄4 split side has a slit measuring 75% of the way up the full length of the shorts.

V-notch shorts are a type of running short with a similar design to split side shorts. Whereas split side shorts are made with the front panel of the shorts layered over the back panel, v-notch shorts are made by creating a cutout in the shape of a V at the side of the shorts. V-notch shorts are made for both men and women and have a relatively loose fit to allow for a great range of motion.

Running shorts may be made from any one of many different materials. Many running shorts are made with synthetic materials like nylon or polyester. These materials are durable and will withstand intensive use. Also, they’re stretchy for comfort and are often moisture-resistant. On the other hand, some running shorts are made from natural fabrics like cotton. Cotton doesn’t wick away moisture in the same way that synthetic materials do, and it’s not as sturdy. But, it does allow for a comfortable fit.

Different running shorts options provide different fits. Compression running shorts are quite tight and are designed to stay in place. The range of motion provided by tight running shorts is ideal, and the fit may even support your muscles as you exercise. Compression shorts come in different lengths to satisfy varying comfort levels and weather conditions.

Main Features of Running Shorts

  • Running shorts come in an assortment of different lengths. As a basic rule of thumb, short running shorts measure about three inches at the inseam, medium running shorts measure five inches, and long-running shorts measure seven inches. Short running shorts offer the greatest range of motion and are the best in hot conditions. Runners may opt for a longer length, however, when trail running or moving through outdoor areas with shrubbery. The added fabric will provide some extra protection against scrapes or skin irritation.
  • Running shorts often have an inner lining to effectively manage moisture and provide comfort. With running shorts that have a lining, runners don’t wear underwear, and doing so could cause irritation and discomfort.
  • Tight compression running shorts can decrease chafing that may occur on a run. With a close-fitting design, compression shorts won’t shift as you move, which is a major perk for long distance runners.
  • Although running shorts are typically worn for exercise purposes, they may also be worn for casual day-to-day wear. Since this type of garment is so breathable and comfortable, many people opt to wear them while going on errands, doing chores, attending casual get-togethers, etc. during the summer months.