Monday, March 29, 2010

Blogger Survey: Ideal Shorts Length

Lands End Plain Front 6" Legacy Chino Shorts--my shorts of choice

The Concept

It seems like whenever the weather starts to warm and people start pulling their shorts out of winter hibernation, debates inevitably ensue regarding the "correct" length for shorts. Some men prefer a 9" inseam while others wouldn't think of going longer than 6" while still others will insist that anything under 7" is simply scandalous.

It occurred to me that these debates are essentially moot since everyone's legs are different lengths, but I wondered if most of these men imagined them hitting around the same place on the leg. Essentially, I wondered if there was a common ratio for the "ideal" length for shorts. So, I conducted a survey of a number of bloggers whose opinions I respect and whose blogs I enjoy, and tried to figure out what that ratio is.

The Survey
I figured the easiest way to figure out the ratio was to compare the inseam of everyones' go-to shorts to the typical inseam of their pants. I asked each of the bloggers: 1. Their preferred length of shorts; 2. The inseam of a typical pair of pants; and 3. Their go-to brand/style of shorts. I will note that many of the bloggers elucidated on their choices, and it often wasn't an easy "Shorts length is X inches; Pants length is Y inches," so I did my best to interpret what each person sent in and have tried to simply it for the sake of the calculations. Below for each blogger you will see the lengths I have interpreted for each person based on their response, and have included, verbatim, their favorite type of shorts. Without further ado, here are their responses (in no particular order):

The Data
Greg of Manifold Destiny
Shorts Inseam- 8"
Pants Inseam- 32"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "Vineyard Vines Twill Club Shorts. Sortof expensive, but I bought a pair at Dick Ferguson's in Athens my junior year of college (5 years ago) and they are still going strong."

Max of all plaidout
Shorts Inseam- 7"
Pants Inseam- 33"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "Honestly don't have one. I have favorite pairs from Tommy Hilfiger, J Crew, Polo, and Murray's Toggery. I still wear a pair of Gap shorts that I bought when I was a freshman in high school. Khaki, Navy Twill, Nantucket Red, and OD Green."

Skip of Alex Grant
Shorts Inseam- 9"
Pants Inseam- 30"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "My go-to shorts are a pair of Polo plain front blue Gingham Shorts and a pair of Eddie Bauer plain front shorts in British Khaki. Both are probably over 5 years old."

Paul of Components of Enthusiasm
Shorts Inseam- 8"
Pants Inseam- 30"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "i'm in a bit of an transition with shorts, typically it's jcrew khaki shorts though."

Angelo of Class Act
Shorts Inseam- 7.5"
Pants Inseam- 32"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "my favorite shorts by far are a pair of cutoff Gap khaki trousers."

Fred of Unabashedly Prep
Shorts Inseam- 5"
Pants Inseam- 30"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "My go-to-shorts are plain front chinos by Rugby."

Daryl of Southern Gent
Shorts Inseam- 7"
Pants Inseam- 30"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "J. Crew Essential Chino, 7" shorts."

Conor of Young Man, Old Man
Shorts Inseam- 9"
Pants Inseam- 31"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "I don't have a ton of shorts but the ones I do are a mixed brand bag. I have bill's and bb's and some mossimo from target (really good actually). They are almost universally gth. Madras, and seersucker. In most cases when I would wear khaki shorts I think I'll do rolled khakis."

Lawrence of Sartorially Inclined
Shorts Inseam- 7.5"
Pants Inseam- 32"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "Honestly, I don't wear shorts all that much, but when I do J. Crew usually fits the bill with styling and price...their shirts suck, but I always got down with their bottoms."

Jay of Red Clay Soul
Shorts Inseam- 7"
Pants Inseam- 32"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "Khaki shorts: J. Crew Essentials 7" (flat front, of course)
Seersucker/Madras: Anything flat front...not too picky.
Weekend: Patagonia Stand Ups, Columbia Half Moons"

Foster of A Restless Transplant
Shorts Inseam- 9.5"
Pants Inseam- 32"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "Right now i am wearing some Save Khaki cut off khaki shorts. They are great. I also have a few pairs of draw string Rogues Gallery seersucker shorts that i wear when lounging or broing out."

Tucker of Tucker
Shorts Inseam- 9"
Pants Inseam- 32"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "Brooks Brothers Advantage shorts (Polo a close second, don't know the style, but they're both about 9")."

Justin of A Duck Gets Dressed
Shorts Inseam- 7"
Pants Inseam- 30"
Go-To Shorts Preference- "For shorts I usually wear a seven inch inseam, years ago I was a five inch inseam and would wear the hell out of a pair of Patagonia stand ups. They are still my go to shorts, but I throw in the occasional madras pants."

Trip of A Trip Down South
Shorts Inseam- 6"
Pants Inseam- 27" (yes, this is what happens when you are 5'6")
Go-To Shorts Preference- Lands End 6" Plain Front Legacy Chino Shorts

The Results
Average shorts inseam= 7.68"
Median shorts inseam= 7.5"
Average pants inseam= 31.27"
Median pants inseam= 31.5"

Ratio of pants inseam to shorts inseam:
Range= 2.91:1 to 6.00:1
Average= 4.17:1
Median= 4.27:1

Shorts inseam divided by pants inseam, as a percentage:
Range= 16.67% to 34.38%
Average= 24.57%
Median= 23.44%

(Can you tell that I do this kind of crap for my job?)

Conclusion/How to Use This Guide
First I have to say that I was somewhat surprised about the range of results from the survey. While there did appear to be a general trend, in the end personal preferences did win out. I was surprised to note, however, that while I prefer shorter shorts, there were three others who, as a percentage of their pants inseam, wear shorter shorts than me.

I would also like to point out that many of the guys survey indicated that they wear their pants with little to no break. While I tried to compensate for this where I could based on the information provided to me, this could have possibly skewed some of the results, resulting in lower ratios/higher percentages. It should also be noted that general body types/shapes were not accounted for in this survey, and that could certainly play a role in a person's length of preference.

So you might be asking yourself "What's the point of this? How does this apply to me and the length of shorts I should be wearing?" I would suggest that its most practical application is to take your pants inseam length and multiply it by 24.91%--the average shorts length as a percentage of pants inseam length. This would give you your "ideal" (according to the survey) length of shorts to wear. For example, I would multiply 27" by 24.57% and come up with 6.63, or 6-5/8 inches, rounded. Maybe slightly longer shorts would look better on me; I don't think I'm going to be giving up my 6" shorts anytime soon, though.

Thank You
I'm not sure if this is going to be any use to you, dear reader, but I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did putting it together. I want to extend a special "Thank You" to all of the bloggers who participated, and if you haven't checked out all of their blogs yet, I suggest you pay them a visit.


Dutch Uncle said...

A proper gentleman's short should be just above the knee in length.

That's the long-and-short of it.

East of Oxford said...

5in stand-ups please.

David M. said...

I think you have the pants and shorts inseams mixed up. 30" shorts inseam? That's a very long pair of shorts.

The Uppity Puppy said...

I have to agree with MAY - take it from a lady's perspective, if it's worth anything to you - the 5 or 6 inch short is correct for every-day wear.

Paul said...

My shorts lineup:
5" J. Crew Essential Chino shorts (I own 3 different colors)

5" Patagonia Stand-Ups

6" Navy blue pair of Polo Andrew Shorts-- when I want to get my pleat on

Unknown said...

Great job Trip!

lkjlkj said...

8-9" hits right above the knee for me (perfect short length).
I prefer as little breakage as possible for pant inseam, so I go with 27-29".
(I'm 5'8")

DAM said...

Fascinating - Interesting that all Stand-Up references were for 5".

Additionally, and should have added this, but I'm a big fan of taking my old khaki's - be it the blues, green, yellow or plan ole chinos' and having them hemmed to shorts when the original cuff gets too beat up/dirty to wear as pants.

James said...

I think you should have a line for age. Us old guys should never were 5" or 6".

Anonymous said...

Age also comes into play here, generally the older the wearer the longer the inseam.

plaidout said...


Thanks for the inclusion. I'd be curious to learn how height and weight played into the survey. I'm 6'2", 180 lbs. Loathe to admit it, it's a factor.


Anonymous said...

7" stand-ups are perfect, especially for anyone over 6'

Loon said...

If you look at the relationship you notice that the r-squared is only 0.16. Comparing only these two stats the ideal length of shorts is 84% determined by personal preference. Given that, it's tough to say that there are any "rules."

Ed Forbes said...

Nice post. My standard is 9".

Anonymous said...

I think this really depends on how tall you are. I'm 6'1" so my standard is 9" and hits above my knee.