Smart-Casual Outfit Inspiration: Shorts


To this day, shorts continue to cause debate and divide opinion in menswear circles. The idea of baring calf in certain settings remains a concept still alien to some. Others consider them an unquestionable faux pas altogether; the inimitable Hardy Amies once branded shorts as “beachwear”, believing they should rarely be seen away from shore. Eyebrows were even raised when tailored variations first emerged as a credible alternative to trousers, with many questioning their wearability.

To most, much of the FashionBeans staff included, shorts are a key component of the male wardrobe, especially as we venture into warmer climes. They offer a break from the heat – as well as comfort during it – and signal that summer has truly arrived.

Suffice to say that the jury isn’t out on shorts in casual situations. They’re accepted and, like anything, certain varieties are perceived as more stylish than others. However, their credentials as a smarter piece are not so clear. The arrival of the short suit last year saw a new question raised: can shorts ever be formal? Or at the very least, smart/business-casual?

Can Shorts Be Considered Smart?

As a rule of sartorial thumb, it’s best to leave board shorts, bulky cargos and short shorts well alone – the latter being identified by Will as a common summer fashion mistake. Nonetheless, with short suits being pushed during both SS13 and SS12, is it now acceptable to swap out your trousers for a pair much shorter? Practicality says yes. Surely during the height of summer flesh fares better than fabric, although decorum may state otherwise.

When it comes to work/office wear, shorts (or a short suit) may still not be entirely appropriate. In this case it’s best to play it by ear. Those who work in a stiffer environment or are required to dress for the boardroom on a daily basis wouldn’t even contemplate wearing shorts to the office, whilst creative/casual workplaces are likely to be much more accepting, especially those in the fashion industry.

What & Where To Wear?

Of course, for shorts to even be remotely considered a genuine smart-casual option, you need to get the style right. We’ve already ruled out three types – three that in reality shouldn’t even grace your wardrobe, let alone your legs.

The aforementioned tailored short is the perfect cut for almost any scenario or setting, and somewhere between the knee and upper thigh lies the ideal length (check out the lookbook below for a better idea). A chino short is of course a credible option, although the tailored short should be preferred, simply for the smartness it brings as opposed to the more casual nature of the chino cloth.

If you are not permitted to wear shorts to work, consider where they would be a more acceptable option. A summer wedding is certainly one, especially if the ceremony isn’t the most formal – think a barn, garden or beach location. However, if the invitation states full attire, arrive accordingly.

A smart-casual party is another event where the short suit, used as separates, would provide a great stand-out option.

Smart-Casual Shorts Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Smart-Casual Shorts Outfits

reiss 1971 ss13h&m summer 2013h&m Spring 2013zara man spring 2013cos ss13h&m conscious collection 2013next high summer 2013paul & joe ss13selected ss13comodo square ss13matalan ss13allsaints ss13
Outfit Inspiration
Look One: Smart-Casual Office Wear

Keep the color timeless and neutral for your office wear short suit attempt. Navy is both of these and, if nothing else, evidence that you still take your job seriously. A clean white Oxford shirt is perfect for the office (and everywhere else for that matter) and ensures the outfit remains classic, despite the twist of half the suit being a pair of shorts.

Accessorise with a white handkerchief and orange patterned tie. The citrus hue makes a great complementary foil to the navy suit. Finish off with a pair of tan brogues; sockless (or the appearance of) is the only real option with shorts – a visible sock line is not becoming at all:

  • Uniqlo Men Super Non Iron Long Sleeve Shirt AUniqlo Men Super Non Iron Long Sleeve Shirt A
  • Asos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In CottonAsos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In Cotton
  • Asos Cotton ShortsAsos Cotton Shorts
  • Reiss Cylon Check Chain Print Tie OrangeReiss Cylon Check Chain Print Tie Orange
  • Brooks Brothers Set-of-six Hand-rolled Cotton HandkerchiefsBrooks Brothers Set-of-six Hand-rolled Cotton Handkerchiefs
  • Topman Fabio Tan Brogue ShoesTopman Fabio Tan Brogue Shoes
Look Two: Summer Wedding Shorts

For a summer wedding – especially one on a beach – a short suit is a stylish statement choice. Keep the colors light and in pastel hues for a suitably seasonal approach. In this case I’ve opted for a Gatsby-esque white and pink combination.

A light blue shirt plays the middleman, whilst a low-key pocket square and considered knitted tie provide the finishing touches. Tasseled loafers deliver a touch of panache and finish the outfit with aplomb:

  • Reiss Pluto Super Slim Shirt Pale BlueReiss Pluto Super Slim Shirt Pale Blue
  • Asos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In CottonAsos Slim Fit Suit Jacket In Cotton
  • Alfred Dunhill Striped Knitted Mulberry Silk TieAlfred Dunhill Striped Knitted Mulberry Silk Tie
  • Reiss Jupiter Stripe Casual Short RoseReiss Jupiter Stripe Casual Short Rose
  • Allsaints Ravine Pocket Square SetAllsaints Ravine Pocket Square Set
  • Grenson Marcel Slipper Shoes 147378Grenson Marcel Slipper Shoes 147378
Look Three: Simple Smart-Casual Shorts

Keep your tailored shorts somewhat smart, but ultimately on the more casual side of the spectrum. A blue shirt and orange/red cardigan make up a simple yet effective top half.

Blue/white shorts alongside brown leather Oxfords finish off the bottom half. Elevate the look with a tie or bow tie when necessary, but otherwise this outfit is perfect for any smart-casual summer invite:

  • Allsaints Solano Ls ShirtAllsaints Solano Ls Shirt
  • Ami Open-knit Linen CardiganAmi Open-knit Linen Cardigan
  • Topman Blue Flecked Suit ShortsTopman Blue Flecked Suit Shorts
  • Florsheim Doon Oxford Leather Shoes In BrownFlorsheim Doon Oxford Leather Shoes In Brown
Current Smart Shorts
  • Topman Navy Fleck Suit ShortsTopman Navy Fleck Suit Shorts
  • Allsaints Preston ShortsAllsaints Preston Shorts
  • Reiss Gold S Formal Pinstripe Tailored Shorts NavyReiss Gold S Formal Pinstripe Tailored Shorts Navy
  • Jeff Banks 24:7 Chino ShortsJeff Banks 24:7 Chino Shorts
  • Asos Shorts In StripeAsos Shorts In Stripe
  • Asos Cotton ShortsAsos Cotton Shorts
  • Reiss Tracker S Formal Cotton Tailored Fit Short Dove GreyReiss Tracker S Formal Cotton Tailored Fit Short Dove Grey
  • Ben Sherman Tailored ShortsBen Sherman Tailored Shorts
  • Topman Grey Slub Suit ShortsTopman Grey Slub Suit Shorts
  • Reiss Nelson Linen Herringbone Tailored Shorts Soft GreyReiss Nelson Linen Herringbone Tailored Shorts Soft Grey
  • Ben Sherman Plectrum ShortsBen Sherman Plectrum Shorts
  • Uniqlo Men Belted ShortscordlaneUniqlo Men Belted Shortscordlane
  • Brooks Brothers Seersucker Stripe Shorts 155398Brooks Brothers Seersucker Stripe Shorts 155398
  • Kenzo Knee-length Shorts 147632Kenzo Knee-length Shorts 147632
  • Ps By Paul Smith Straight-leg Cotton ShortsPs By Paul Smith Straight-leg Cotton Shorts

With the short suit continuing to gain momentum at high street level, there seems to be the potential for shorts to evolve into a legitimate smart (or at least smart-casual) option. The current popularity of going sockless can only encourage this trend further.

Tailored shorts have also successfully made the transition from stylistically questionable to wardrobe essential – the perfect high summer piece that, if you get the style right, can effortlessly pair with go-to smart-casual options such as lightweight blazers, Oxford shirts and structured shoes.

Let us know your thoughts on the short suit and the formality of shorts in the comments section below…

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