As temperatures slowly start to heat up, naturally your thoughts turn to what you’ll be wearing once Mercury starts soaring. Shorts, of course! No longer simply a casual warm-weather staple, shorts now come in nearly as many varieties as pants. Think cuffed, fringed, pocketed, printed, high waisted, tailored, and paperbag styles.
If you thought trending shorts had to be denim, or itty bitty, or strictly for downtime, know that these bottoms have changed for the better. There are more lengths, materials, colors, and patterns than ever before. That means there’s a style for you this season, guaranteed.
A brief history
Why are shorts having a moment? What were they like before? As early as the 1930s, a few risk-taking, trendsetting celebs like Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn—influencers of the era, so to speak—occasionally appeared in shorts, knowing full well they’d receive pushback.
Shorts regularly began appearing in the press—including the pages of American Vogue—by the late 1940s. Knee-length Bermuda shorts, which had become trendy for women, were advertised in its pages. Meanwhile, revolutionary designer Claire McCardell, who came to prominence in tandem with the rise of functional women’s sportswear, included shorts in her collections.
Still, they weren’t seen on the average woman in the U.S. until the 1950s—and even then, they were often relegated to the beach or home. However, by the following decade, shorts were part of mainstream women’s attire—again, worn casually or as an alternative to the ultra-popular miniskirt. Movements for civil and women’s rights in the late ‘60s begat more freedom of expression and general openness. Taking cues from counterculture and Hollywood, women felt increasingly comfortable baring more skin in different settings and in different kinds of company.
Types of shorts
As time went on, new trending shorts styles emerged—everything from hot pants and Daisy Dukes to culottes, cutoffs, bikers, and board shorts. While some of these styles are firm summer staples, others are cyclically trendy. What makes 2022 different is that just about all of the aforementioned styles are hot. Why? In the last two years, casualwear has officially become everyday-wear, as joggers have replaced jeans and sweatshirts have beaten out blazers. Items that we might have saved strictly for the weekend or lounging at home have become our go-tos.
Designers responded to the rise in comfort dressing not only with more and better iterations of said joggers and sweatshirts, but also with increasingly fun and stylish variations. With more people traveling, attending parties and events, or simply looking to mingle, shorts offer a distinctly carefree, summer-ready means of dressing right now.
Athletic shorts redux
Athletic shorts—think riffs on the biker—will once again be popular this season. An outgrowth of our collective leggings obsession, the yen for biker shorts—quite literally an abbreviated legging—felt fresh and decidedly cool once warmer weather started setting in.
And regardless of whether you’re ready to hop on two wheels, there are an abundance of chic options, from classic spandex styles to textured versions, plus bikers in bold colors, vibrant patterns, and logo or graphic prints. Similar trending shorts can be paired with everything from cropped tops and tees to dressier blouses, button downs, and tunics. Swap the sneakers for a block heel sandal, and you’re ready for a night out.
Dressier shorts get their due
We’ve all worn and/or or even made denim cutoffs that we won’t be parting ways with anytime soon. And while denim might be lowkey and perfect for lounging, it’s also important to consider what to wear for weddings, dates, parties, and vacations.
Shorts can be worn for all of the above provided they’re properly styled. As a shorts-wearing wedding guest, you’ll want to stick to longer styles in fabrics like linen or silk and pair them with a matching blazer or jacket for extra polish. Add heels and statement jewelry to complete the look. The same goes for smart-casual party outings, which may or may not require a more pared-back aesthetic.
Bridesmaids can even opt for shorts. Depending upon the bride calling the shots, you might try something embellished, printed, or ruffled to underscore the celebratory vibes. When it comes to resortwear and destination dressing, crochet or brightly colored trending shorts are naturals.
What the best shorts are made of
When the heat is on, you want to maintain chill at all times. Wearing shorts made from specific materials will guarantee your cool. Cotton and ultra-lightweight cotton poplin are classic, warm weather-friendly options. The same goes for linen, which can be worn in tropical temperatures and makes a great pick for vacations. If you want a slightly more casual look, opt for shorts in cotton-linen or rayon-linen blends that can pair with easy-breezy tanks and tees.
Stretch denim and stretch cargo styles, meanwhile, allow for the most freedom and ease of movement. These are great options for when you’re on the go. And while something sequined shouts party-worthy, leather and leather-like shorts are also perfect picks for dressier occasions.
How to wear prints and bold colors
One of the most eye-opening aspects of the shorts trend this season is the sheer number of vibrant prints and candy-coated hues available. What’s more, you don’t need to save print and color for destination dressing. Trending shorts in bright prints and lightweight materials are an ideal summer match when paired with solid tops. Make your shorts the focal point by keeping your tank, blouse, or tee to a neutral shade.
Or, feel free to get matchy-matchy by complementing a color-saturated pair of shorts with a coordinating button up or tunic. The same combo also works for printed separates. If you like to keep your style more laidback, try a patterned short that whispers rather than shouts. Think slim stripes or a delicate floral pattern. Tops can be black, white, or any other go-to neutral.
How to wear shorts all day long
The question has been knocking around in the back of your mind: Can one pair of shorts be worn all day long?
The answer is yes! But, while you can get away with a single pair, you will need to mix up your tops, jewelry, and shoes. (You’ll also need a blazer or jacket for the evening.) From vacations to weddings to simply going from work to dinner or a date, it’s key to adapt your trending shorts ensemble for the occasion and the time of day.
As a general rule, for work or smart-casual events, day or night, match your shorts with a blazer or jacket for a streamlined professional look. Add jewelry come evening and switch from a lace-up shoe or bootie to a strappy sandal. Outside of work, you’re more free to do as you see fit. But, it still makes sense to layer as appropriate, including dressing for the weather. Swap out a tee for a silky tank and add a heel in lieu of sneakers.
Bottom line: In 2022, don’t be afraid to go bold with color and print, try shorts in a new material, or simply stock up on tried-and-true faves.