How to Know When Your Shorts Don't Fit

“Try this on and see if it fits.”

This phrase once seemed like your mother’s version of giving homework while you were shopping. But now that you’re moving up in age, it’s easy to see what a good fit does to your look: it can mean the difference between looking good and looking frumpy, between looking stylish and looking like you couldn’t care any less about your clothes.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing: if it fits, chances are it will look much better. It’s the one style rule that’s universal--which means it applies to shorts just as well as it does to suits.

But what constitutes a well-fitting pair of shorts? Let’s answer that by looking at the most obvious signs that your shorts are ill-fitting:

Sign #1: Too Loose Without a Belt

If you wear a pair of shorts and they don’t stay up on your waist without assistance from a belt, then they don’t fit. It’s really that cut and dry. Some people will say “just wear a belt, they’re fine.” And, yes, a belt will fix the problem. But what happens if you don’t have a belt handy? And what about how much extra room you find in the rest of the fabric?

This is a rule that applies to shorts as well as trousers, so it’s best to get used to wearing articles that actually fit around your waist. Belts can be used to cinch the fit nicely, to accessorize, and to pull an outfit together; they shouldn’t be used to “fix” a bad fit.

Sign #2: No Room to Breathe

A phrase like “ill-fitting” doesn’t only apply to shorts that are too big. Shorts that are too small can look just as silly. If you think you may have a pair of shorts that are too tight, try this trick: if you can fit your index and middle finger between the skin and the shorts with ease, then they’re likely not too tight. But if it’s a struggle, then they’re definitely too tight. You’ll want to go a size higher in order to give yourself the extra room and mobility that come with a proper fit.

Sign #3: Too Long

Room isn’t the only issue when it comes to fit; the length also matters. The length of shorts these days is generally best at just above the knee. Some people will go even shorter, as that’s the current trend; going longer, however, gets a little treacherous. Why is this a fashion faux pas? Because longer shorts can seem to visibly “shorten” the length of your leg, which gives your silhouette some odd proportions. It’s better to pick a pair of shorts that don’t go past the knee.

Finding the Right Fit

You don’t always have to find a dressing room in order to get the shorts that fit. If you buy online, look for outlets like Vintage 1946 that offer complimentary hemming to ensure that you get the fit correct the first time. Or, better yet, just keep shopping and enter in the correct size (based on a pair of shorts that fit well) and you’ll have no trouble finding a pair of shorts that fits right.