These versatile shorts will hold you down all spring and summer

Far from formal, but not ratted basketball shorts either.

Ralph Lauren

Despite years of refusing to wear shorts, even in the humid hell of New York City summers, I've subsequently become a scrupulous buyer of the form.

When I finally decided to give in and give up pants during the warmer months, I needed to find the sweet spot of shorts — not too WASPy like the pastels I was surrounded by while a member of a fraternity, but something more elevated than a gym short.

To my delight, I've discovered a wonderful middle ground, where comfort is secure and the designs are engaging enough to wear with pride, whether it's to a BBQ or a night out at the bars. A big part of that has been because of the rise of athleisure and proper members of the fashion world working with fabrics and cuts that were previously left to the sportswear brands. Also key is the emergence of more grown-up streetwear, with brands like Noah maintaining its roots in skateboard culture and its adjacencies while offering clothing that moves the needle just close enough to full-on maturity.

Now that I've become a shorts convert, I'm here to share some of the pairs that I can endorse for whatever situation you may find yourself in this spring and summer. Given the lingering uncertainty around COVID-19, the months ahead may not involve as much socializing as you'd like, but you'll still find yourself needing shorts for whatever brings you outside, or even when you're loafing about inside your home. Consider these suggestions both a solution to and a preventative measure from you living in the old Nike shorts you've had since high school.

Noah Madras Short ($188)


I know I just ragged on pastels, but in the right hand they're a family of colors you shouldn't give up on. This pair from Noah is made from an Italian blend of linen and cotton madras that keeps them lightweight and breezy. The single pleat gives it a little bit more character, making for a piece that would look just as good with a white T-shirt as it would with a camp collar. Pairing it with an Aperol spritz is optional but highly recommended.

Ralph Lauren Tie-Dye French Terry Short ($110)

Ralph Lauren

Here from the brand where every frat bro gets his shorts is something unexpected: a sweat short with a bangin' tie-dye treatment. Terry cloth shorts are as comfortable as they get, but the groovy pattern and Polo logo keep these from looking too slouchy. Call them couch attire with horsepower.

Stüssy Jacquard Nylon Short ($80)


The classic black nylon short gets more stylish thanks to a jacquard pattern from Stüssy. Sure, you could still wear them in a pick-up game, but these deserve better. Whatever you're looking for, Stüssy is usually the cheat code.

Dries Van Noten Floral Drawstring Shorts ($565)


Ready to get wilder? Dries Van Noten has been playing with prints on a baggy athletic short for the last couple of seasons, including a Vernor Panton pair that's one of my favorite possessions. For SS20, Dries is focused on the floral and has put the lively print on a wide range of pieces. Of all such shorts, these are the most easily adoptable without giving up any of the flair. They're loud, but not overly so.

Needles Jacquard Basketball Short ($380)

In a similar category are these Needles shorts available from the long-awaited Nepenthes web store. The Japanese brand is known for its rapper-approved track pants, but go with the shorts for something just as dynamic but not as obvious. You don't need the butterfly logo for it to be a flex.

Rowing Blazers Cotton Shorts ($148)

Rowing Blazers

The familiar Northeast staple gets more playful (and comfortable) with an elastic waistband that erases the need for a belt. These cotton shorts are available in a range of colors, but go with purple if you're looking to mix things up.

Paperbacks Bridgeport Triple-Dye (on sale for $39.99)


Paperback is a Los Angeles brand that's doing some really cool things with hand dying. I wouldn't have discovered the brand, whose imagery isn't all that stylish, had I not discovered a striking pair of corduroy shorts with an orange tie-dye treatment in a thrift store in Tokyo. I'm grateful that I did — and while the pair of enlightenment is no longer available, these chinos strike a similar cord.

Casablanca Shell-Print Silk Shorts ($543)


Silk tennis shorts? Hell yes. Indulge yourself with this pair from the LVMH Prize-winning brand and transport yourself to a lavish resort. Casablanca invokes a life of leisure with hints of athletics, which you should absolutely buy into.